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Alibis in the Archive 2018

June 20, 2018

In June last year, I attended a most amazing and enjoyable weekend event at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire. This was ‘Alibis in the Archive’, organised and hosted by Martin Edwards, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and President of the Detection Club, to mark the opening of the British Crime Writing Archives at the library.

Martin had a terrific line-up of speakers. And, as noted in my review of the event (Grandy’s Landing, 18/06/17), I seemed to spend the whole weekend back in the inter-war Golden Age of crime fiction with the shades of Christie, Sayers and Berkeley for company.

It was all fascinating stuff for a crime buff like me. So when, at 2:15pm on Tuesday 23rd February, tickets went on sale at Gladstone’s Library for the second ‘Alibis in the Archive’ weekend (8th – 10th June 2018), again organised and hosted by Martin Edwards, with a galaxy of top flight crime writers on the programme, you can be sure I rang on the dot to book my place!

We had a spot of Friday evening fun for starters, in the form of a murder mystery, ‘Bannocks and Blood’, written by Ann Cleeves, which had me scratching my head to no avail.

On Saturday morning, Simon Brett entertained us with his one-man show, ‘A Crime in Rhyme’, a Golden Age murder mystery in stanzas of side-splitting wit. This was followed by a riveting talk from Andrew Taylor on three real-life murder cases and how they contributed to the upsurge of interest in crime fiction between the wars.  Andrew then interviewed Martin Edwards about collecting crime fiction and we were able to examine a number of rare books from Martin’s own collection.  I was particularly interested in a copy of Freeman Wills Crofts’ short story collection ‘Many a Slip’ with a revealing inscription by the author.

The mid-day session was a fascinating talk by Sarah Ward on crime fiction in Derbyshire. After lunch, we had Ruth Dudley Edwards on how she enjoys writing satirical crime fiction as light relief from her serious work as an historian followed by Michael Jecks on writing medieval mysteries and getting the period details right!  Professor James Grieve, the eminent Scottish forensic pathologist (who appears as himself in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland novels) then reviewed some famous cases before the day’s proceedings were brought to a close in a panel discussion with questions from the audience.

Asked which crime novel would panel members recommend that we probably hadn’t read, Peter Lovesey’s answer was ‘The Monster of Dagenham Hall’ by James Corbett. He then gave us a taste of Corbett’s prose style…and boy, did we laugh!

Sunday began with Jessica Mann talking about the prominence attained by female crime writers in the Golden Age. Martin Edwards, accompanied by Peter Lovesey and Sheila Mitchell (widow of H.R.F. Keating), discussed the development of the British Crime Writing Archives.  Then Peter Lovesey, on the “genius” of crime writer James Corbett, rounded things off in hilarious fashion.

‘Alibis in the Archive’ 2018 was altogether a most interesting, inspiring and enjoyable event. And how amazing it was for delegates like me, being able to mingle and chat with so many top authors of the genre.  I was delighted to sip coffee or wine with several of my personal favourites.

I shall look forward to ‘Alibis’ 2019 now. I’ve noted the dates in my diary: 22-24 June.  And of course I have a stack of signed books to keep me going in the meantime.

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018




From → Events, General, Reviews

  1. Wow. I would love to have been there.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      You would indeed have loved it, I’m sure of that! It really was a most fabulous event.

      The talks took place in the Theology Room beneath a statue of William Gladstone himself (four-times Prime Minister) in oratorial mode. And of course it was great being able to chat with so many brilliant crime writers over coffee, lunch and dinner in the ‘Food for Thought’ dining room. They were lovely people, all.

      Great chatting with my fellow crime fan deligates too. Such friendly, knowledgeable, interesting folk.

      I’m looking forward to next year’s ‘Alibis’ now.

      My very best,


  2. Hi Paul – found your blog and lovely to meet you again yesterday evening. Best wishes, Sarah

    • Thanks, Sarah.

      I much enjoyed your talk at ‘Alibis’ on the history of crime fiction in Derbyshire from Sheridan Le Fanu to Stephen Booth. And it was great to see you again at Lymm Festival on Thursday evening.

      What a lovely summer’s eve with the village festooned in bunting. And what a terrific crime writing event at the Lymm Hotel with yourself, Martin Edwards and Kate Ellis talking about how you each got started in the genre, your writing methods and so on. I’m sure the whole audience was fascinated – my partner Maureen and I certainly were!

      And of course I was delighted to take the opportunity I’d missed at ‘Alibis’ of buying one of your Peak District mysteries featuring DC Childs. Thanks for signing my copy of ‘In Bitter Chill’ – it looks right up my street, a great read in prospect.

      My very best,


  3. Hi Paul.

    The event sounded fabulous and you have written up a great memory.

    The writers that you met are fabuloys, how amazing to have met them.

    Do you have any more events lined up? Will this be an annual one. The Buckingham event that I attend is annual, and it is always sad when it is over, having to wait another year.

    Best Wishes, and great writing!


    • Thanks, Donna!

      If I’d been around in the 1930s, the Golden Age of detective fiction, how I’d love to have chatted over coffee or dined with Agatha Christe and Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley and John Dickson Carr – as well as listening to brilliant talks from them on aspects of crime writing.

      It would have been just a dream, sadly. But at ‘Alibis in the Archive 2018,’ I was able to do just this with several modern day masters of the genre, including Martin Edwards and Peter Lovesey, Michael Jecks, Sarah Ward and Andrew Taylor. Besides chatting with many of my charming and knowledgeable fellow crime-fan delegates, of course.

      It was with a deep sigh that I took my name badge off for the last time when it was all over. But the sun was shining, doves cooing, and I knew I’d be back at this most beautiful residential library for ‘Alibis’ next year (22-24 June 2019). A heartening thought indeed!

      By the way, Donna, if you’re thinking of coming along, be sure to check when tickets go on sale as they’re sold on a “first come, first served” basis and, given the popularity of the event, will probably sell out quickly.

      Take care – and enjoy your writing!


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