Wednesday 31 August 2016

Mystery and Crime in Oxford

The weekend before last I crossed something off one of my bucket lists. If you are a list maker you will understand that one list is never enough. If you're not, just trust me on this.

I finally got myself organised to attend the annual crime fiction weekend held at St Hilda's College, Oxford every August for the last 23 years. And I had a wonderful time. Good company, good food and fascinating speakers, including Lee Child and Martin Edwards, along with excellent organisation and a well stocked bookshop, provided by Blackwells. I cheated a bit and stayed in an hotel rather than the full student experience. I don't do shared bathrooms if I can help it, so I had the best of both worlds. 

Despite having the conference on my radar, and that list, for quite a while, I didn't know what to expect. The format was different from that of all the other crime conferences I've attended, on both sides of the Atlantic. No author panels, but instead individual speakers each giving a paper on a chosen topic - the theme of the weekend was genre and crime, so there was everything from clerical crime to historical crime to crime and humour. No romantic suspense, but you can't have everything, and what there was was enthralling. This being Oxford (which seems to be a catchphrase of the conference) the style leaned towards the academic with comprehensive research. Love of the subject came thorough from everyone in a totally accessible way, that gave food for thought and increased the 'To be read' pile on a grand scale. All the speakers were fabulous, but I have to admit that Chris Ewan sharing his burglarising research (He writes the 'Good Thief' books as well as stand alone thrillers.) was a highlight for me. And I bet I'm not the only one looking up 'shims' on the Internet. I shall also treasure Lee Child's revelations about his writing methods - basically the story unfolds to him as a story and his response to any queries from his editor about possible changes is to insist that how it is written is how it happened. All the authors in the audience were storing that one away for future use. Sadly, I suspect that you may have to be Lee Child for it to work.     

The audience was international, readers and writers. I saw old friends and I made a few new friends whom I hope I will meet again. And I sandwiched in a whistle stop tour of the Pitt Rivers Museum, which is research for a very future book. And also a fascinating Shakespeare exhibition - but more of that next week. All in all a lovely weekend - I think you can tell, from all the superlatives.

Now I really want to go again next year.

Lee Child's talk was live streamed and you may still be able to catch it HERE


  1. It was a great weekend and lovely to meet you, Evonne. I hope we can meet up there again next year.

    1. Good to meet you too. Hope we can do it again. I'm looking forward to finding out what the theme will be for next year.

  2. Good to see you're getting out and about again, Evonne.

    So sorry not to have caught up with you in person yet. I don't know where this year has gone!

    1. Hi Chris. This year does seem to have wooshed by - I'm still taking things slowly - we will catch up!