|Andrew Taylor - St Hilda's 2015|
|The River Cherwell - St Hilda's 2015|
St Hilda's actually starts when we all congregate @ 6:45pm for early evening drinks before dinner. It is a chance to dress up, catch up and generally look forward to the conference. This year the Conference dinner speaker was Simon Brett. If you have ever heard Simon speak then you will understand that he can have you in fits of laughter in minutes. However, as much as Simon made us laugh and smile he also shared with us all some of his treasured memories of P D James as well. It was a wonderful after dinner speech. As per usual most of us made our way into the Senior Common Room or SCR as most of us know it by to relax, drink and talk before slowly meandering our way off to our various rooms.
|Ayo Onatade - St Hilda's 2015|
|Natasha Cooper & Len Tyler (L-R) St Hilda's 2015|
After a coffee break it was the turn of Natasha Cooper and Len Tyler. Natasha Cooper talked about The Dark Side of Love using Scott Turow's first novel Presumed Innocent as a reference point. One of the points that she made was the fact that murder always had its roots in failed relationships. The title of Len Tyler's paper was Revenge: When it all Turns Sour and as an example of the ultimate revenge Len Tyler discussed the case of John Wayne Bobbitt and Lorena Bobbitt.
After lunch, the next two papers were presented. The title of the first paper was Reader, I Murdered Him and was given by Ann Granger. She spoke about how she became a crime writer after initially starting out as a romance writer. She kept on putting murder etc in her romance novels and she kept on being asked to take them out. She explained that she realised that she would prefer to write crime novels instead. The second speaker was Nicola Upson and the title of her paper was Devices and Desires: The Tangent of Love in English Crime Fiction. Of course the eagle-eyed amongst you will recognise the P D James connection. Nicola Upson spoke not only about her friendship with PD James but also the encouragement that she received from her. She also talked about deciding to use Josephine Tey as a character and the doubts that she had about doing so. She explained that she received a lot of access to Tey's friends especially with the first book. She believed that Tey would have hated to have anything written about her and that she would have not have liked the biography that has been done and is due out soon. Ann Granger on being asked which author (if she were to make them a character) would she choose? She said that she would choose Charles Dickens but that she would be frightened to use an author as a character and would not do so.
Alison Joseph indicated that she is writing a series of novels with Agatha Christie as a protagonist and wondered where one drew the line. The issue of the legal ramifications of using a real person were also mentioned. Ann Granger pointed out that using a real person would hamper her. It was however pointed out that one cannot slander the dead. Natasha Cooper pointed out that we all write novels that we think we completely understand. Te question was raised as to whether anybody could write a fictional book with PD James as a character? Nicola Upson revealed that a character in her next book had been named after Pd James and that the character would (like PD James) be working in a theatre in Cambridge. One of the last points mentioned by Ann Granger was the fact that Georgette Heyer was not appreciated enough and it was thought that the reason for this is because she wrote too many books.
|Val McDermid St Hilda's 2015|
The last two speakers on Saturday were Frances Fyfield and Val McDermid. The title of the paper being given by Frances Fyfield was The Usefulness of Hatred whilst Val McDermid's was Love: The Perfect Motive for Murder. in her she pointed out that 45% of women are killed by their partners. Questions are always asked after the papers are given or comments made. In answer to one of the questions, Frances pointed out that hatred in crime fiction is useful and that is was sometimes more useful than others. Val McDermid in response to a question was interested in knowing which was harder, to forgive the unrepentant or to hate the repentant? It was felt that hatred is a complete negative option. Val McDermid pointed out that revenge can sometimes take things out of your system.
Always after the final two speakers on the Saturday afternoon then there is always time for attendees to get their books signed. This year as a result of the anthology that I did with Len Tyler which was published last year I found myself in the rather strange position of being asked to sign copies!
The after dinner speaker on Saturday was Canadian author Alan Bradley who is best known for his books featuring Flavia de Luce. He gave a very humorous after dinner speech about book reviews and reviewing.
The common practice on Sunday morning is for there to be free time for punting, going to church, reading the newspaper, relaxing and so forth until mid-morning when the conference lecture is given. Yes I did sneak off to relax and no I am not telling you were I snuck off to.
This year the Conference Lecturer was given by Ann Cleeves who was the Guest of Honour.
|Ann Cleeves - St Hilda's 2015|
It was also considered whether the war had been good for Nicolas Freeling's novels? It was also pointed out that because crime fiction was now so broad that we could now go back and read the early work such as those from the "Golden Age" period. Natasha Cooper said that she would rescue the early Gavin Lyall novels.
|Kate Charles - St Hilda's 2015|
The dates for St Hilda's next year is from 19th August to 21st August 2016 and the theme is "The Question of Genre - What is Crime Fiction?". The Conference speaker and Guest of Honour is Lee Child! What a coup!!!.
Watch this space for more information about next year's Conference!
|Ayo Onatade & Val McDermid - St Hilda's 2015|
all pictures copyright Ayo Onatade @2015