I was lucky in that my paper for the St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery weekend conference was scheduled for presentation at 11.30 on the Saturday morning – an excellent time. Not too early, but soon enough that, having given the presentation, one can then chill out without agonising further about last minute edits to the paper.
The opening paper was presented by Jill Paton Walsh, who talked fascinatingly about The Attenbury Emeralds (Lord Peter Wimsey’s first case) and retribution. She was paired with the Conference’s guiding light, Kate Charles, whose main focus was on that classic by Margery Allingham, The Tiger in the Smoke. I’m not an Allingham expert, but I agree with Kate that it’s one of the most notable books in the genre.
The theme of the weekend was The Wages of Sin, and I focused on the topic of sinful victims in crime fiction. I’m planning to publish the paper on my website in due course. My aim was to highlight, amongst the famous titles, a few books that are undeservedly obscure. The set-up is that two linked papers are presented, and then the two presenters answer questions from the (formidably well-informed) audience. I was partnered with my friend Christine Poulson, a very good writer about whom I’ll have more to say in a future blog post. We were both very pleased with the reaction to our session.
When I last visited St Hilda’s College for the conference some years back, it was the last remaining women-only college in Oxford. Now it has bowed to the inevitable and become mixed, but if traditionalists feared that the atmosphere around the place would be adversely affected, their anxiety was misplaced. St Hilda’s benefits from a gorgeous setting by the River Cherwell, close to Magdalen and the Botanic Garden, and to sit in the grounds on a sunny day and watch people drifting by on punts is extremely relaxing and agreeable. I can recommend this conference unreservedly.