An Evening of Crime with J C Briggs and Matthew Booth

As part of the Heron Theatre's Literature Festival, we were really pleased to spot an evening of crime writing. 

Neither crime writer was known to us, so I was hoping for a couple of new "finds". It's always good to listen to authors talking about their craft, what inspires them and how they create their characters and sense of place. Both authors were really good speakers, and they certainly held our attention. 

J C Briggs spoke about her novels featuring Charles Dickens as a detective. I really enjoyed the talk, but I'm never sure about "repurposing" a famous literary character in this way. There are quite a few around including the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and many more. I never find this style very credible. So whilst I was fascinated to hear about the amount of research that goes into her novels, I don't think I'm drawn to try any of Briggs' novels. 

However, I was impressed by the level of detail that informs these novels. J C Briggs told the audience that the idea of Dickens as a detective came about when she read Dickens’s articles about the London police in his periodical Household Words. Dickens was fascinated by police investigation and by murder, in particular – there are plenty of murderers in his writing, and Dickens is credited with the creation of the first literary detective in Inspector Bucket who solves the murder of Mr Tulkinghorn in Bleak House.

The second talk was by Matthew Booth and he posed the question: How Cosy Was The Golden Age Of Detective Fiction? ....Or is there something more sinister at its heart…?

This was a very interesting talk, with many references to the books of this period, to support Booth's thesis. Matthew Booth exposes the dark heart of many of the so called "cosy" novels. In Agatha Christie he exposes child murder and extortion; exploitation of children and cold blooded murder. I must say that listening to this talk made me re-evaluate some to the so-called cosy crime novels that I enjoy. Because the crimes mostly happen "off stage" and are therefore bloodless, it's easy to forget that they are murders, none the less.

Matthew Booth is the author of the Everett Carr Mysteries, a series of Golden Age-style 1930s whodunits, as well as the Alex Priest crime novels, featuring a private eye based in post-WW2 London. Both of these series interest me, so I think I will be seeking them out. 

Another really interesting evening. We love the Heron Theatre, it's perfect for small events such as the Beetham Literature Festival.