Birthday Club: Murder in the Library

Saturday was the Birthday Club 2013 outing. This is a collection of us who have birthdays in May (and some honorary members, too). We started at the British Library, which was exhibiting an A-Z of crime fiction.  A very lovely little exhibition, although some of the letters were a bit random and there was disappointingly little merchandise (I did buy The Notting Hill Mystery and Revelations of a Lady Detective to go with my Female Detective, to increase the 19th century section of my detective library!) I really wish I’d turned my VoiceMemos on for this – what the Birthday Clubbers said was very interesting!

The introductory panel was Ronald Knox’s decalogue of rules for detective fiction. We particularly liked no.5, as, it seems, did the curators (see X, below).

The alphabet was as follows (and I’m indebted to Anna and to the Past Offences blog for this):

A: Agatha Christie.  I shall take this opportunity to recommend one of her lesser-known books (not mentioned in the exhibition), Parker Pyne Investigates.

B: Better Known For.  A nice window of books by celebs, e.g. Pelé and Terry Venables, and a stripper.

C: Clues: two ‘crime dossiers’ of folders with clues in for you to solve the mystery.  Why didn’t they sell these in the shop?!

D: Dave Robicheaux.  This was a bit random.  I think they were using him as shorthand for police procedural or psychological or something.

E: Ecclesiastical.  Fraser’s MS of Quite as a Nun.

F: Forensic, with my beloved Dr Thorndyke.

G: Golden Age, illustrated by Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case.

H: Hardboiled.  I’ve never been able to stomach hard-boiled stuff.

I: Is this the first? Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue.

J: Jigsaw. I never knew these existed – I wants one. Again, none for sale in the shop…

K: Kidnap. Tey’s The Franchise Affair was put next to its inspiration, the 18th-century Canning affair. The Franchise Affair should be a set text for modern times, I think.

L: Locked Rooms. Le Roux, Dickson Carr, and (new to me) Clayton Rawson.

M: Mayhem Parva, or Midsomer Murders. (Quite specific; I suppose they wanted to avoid the obvious!)

N: Nordic Noir – too noir for me; I’ve never read any.

O: Oxford.  Shame it wasn’t Oxbridge so they could have had Jack Troutbeck, too. Ah well.

P: Police. It would be, really, wouldn’t it?

Q: Queens of Crime.  We’d already had Agatha, of course, but it’s a reminder that most of the tip-top crime writers are female. Is this because we are more criminal, law-abiding or because there are few such satisfactory outlets for creative logic?

R: Railways.  Gielgud’s bored doodles on his script of Murder on the Orient Express. A copy of a Bradshaw would have been nice – it was so useful to Holmes, Thorndyke etc.

S: Sherlock.  (It had to be, though I wish they’d found room for Sayers. They could have had her under D instead of some random American.)  Conan Dolye’s writing was lovely – easy to read the Inspector’s comment of ‘Pooh! What an awful smell of paint!’. Actually, perhaps D should have been Doyle, and then they could have had S for Shakespeare, who provided so many titles for ‘tec stories. I think I’ll blog about that (procrastinatory day today).

T: True Crime, mainly the Road Hill Murder.

U: Unsuitable Job [for a Woman]: women ‘tecs.  I wish the Beeb would do more adaptations of Loveday Brooke – they did one with Honeysuckle Weekes as LB. It was great. In fact, I see they’ve done a whole lot of adaptations that I’ve missed.  Pooh! (as the Inspector might say.)

V: Villains – Raffles and Ripley.

W:  Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone has been hailed by various (including DLS) as the first great ‘tec novel. It’s a shame Collins didn’t do more with Sergeant Cuff.

X: Xenophobia. Taking up Ronald Knox’s rule number 5 (no Chinamen), the focus was Fu Manchu.

Y: Young Detectives. Emil, but also Siobhan Dowd’s London Eye Mystery, which looks good.

Z: Zodiac. A bit random, but Z’s a hard one.

Congratulations to the curators.


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