For me, the Crimefest convention kicked off with a panel that I moderated on Thursday afternoon. The topic was ‘Forgotten Authors’, and the panel comprised Barry Forshaw, Declan Hughes, Sarah Rayne and Mary Andrea Clarke. It was good to have the benefit of Barry’s expertise (he wrote The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction and edited the massive, two volume encyclopaedia about the genre in Britain, published by Harcourt at the turn of the year) and Declan, Sarah and Mary displayed real passion for their chosen writers – factors which contributed to a lively and, I think, hugely entertaining debate.
Declan focused on that great husband and wife team, Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar, while Mary’s choices were two writers of a very different type, Georgette Heyer and Ethel Lina White. White’s name is not widely known these days, but she wrote the books on which three very successful films were based – The Lady Vanishes, The Spiral Staircase and Wax – and was a specialist in the ‘Had I But Known’ school of crime fiction.
Sarah spoke with much enthusiasm about Francis Iles and that mistress of ingenuity, Christianna Brand, two writers I’m very fond of myself. Barry ranged over writers such as Eric Ambler, the neglected Alan Williams, the thriller writer Francis Clifford, and Peter O’Donnell, who created Modesty Blaise. My own choices were Michael Gilbert and Julian Symons.
The audience became very enthusiastic and involved, and I’m sure it wasn’t simply because there was a goody bag of books to be awarded to whoever asked the best question (Jennifer Palmer got the vote.) All in all, it really was one of the most enjoyable panels I’ve ever been involved with.