Dorothy Cannell: I had a marvelous time at the Saint Hilda’s conference in Oxford. Met some interesting and likeable people, including an aspiring writer I hope will keep in touch. Exceptionally helpful staff at the Porter’s Lodge, comfortable accommodation in the dorm and great meals starting with a full English breakfast. My husband, Julian, and I met up with Cathy Pickens and her husband Bob Finley at Boston Airport. On arriving at Heathrow we decided against taking a train or coach and hired a driver to get us to our destination. In twenty minutes we were on our way. We had a day to rest up before the conference began.
Energy restored, Cathy and I spent every spare minute pursuing our shared passion, hunting down bookstores wherever they sought to hide. The standout was Blackwells, which I’d been told I mustn’t miss by one of the of owners of Left Bank books in Belfast. Cathy already knew of it. We made three visits there. We also went a couple of times to Waterstones, again great, though lacking the extended history.
We had immediately adopted a routine. Agreeing to meet in an hour at the coffee shop, if either ran late the other was more than glad to wait. Despite the ‘full English’ I would have a cappuccino and buttered scone. It was fun showing each other what books we had bought and discussing our range of reading interests. On one occasion we found we had each purchased an Anthony Trollope, in my case The Warden. On another both had, unknown to the other, bought The World in Thirty-Eight Chaptersor Dr. Johnson’s Guide to Life, by Henry Hitchens
Maigret and the Killer
Maigret Defends Himself
Maigret Sets a Trap
By the way Rowan Atkinson is playing Maigret in a new series which is available on Britbox.
This year at Left Bank books I found a couple of reprints of E.C.R. Lorac, a writer I’d never heard of. What intrigued me was that they came with introductions by Martin Edwards, which included a mini-biography of her life work and how she was viewed during the golden age, that had come to symbolize, to many, Christie, Sayers and Tey. At Blackwells and Waterstones, whole rows of reprints from other forgotten writers with introductions, by Martin Edwards, were prominently displayed. Of this abundance I restrained myself to seven:
The Poisoned Chocolates Case, Anthony Berkeley
The Murder Of My Aunt, Richard Hull
Portrait Of A Murderer, Anne Meredith
The Cornish Coast Murder, John Bude
Fell Murder, E.C.R.Lorac
Verdict O Twelve, Raymond Postgate
Excellent Intentions, Richard Hull
What bliss discoveries of ‘my kind of book” are, even in the cause of forgotten or long neglected writers. I was unwilling to ignore Christie and bought:
The Life and Times Of Miss Jane Marple, by Anne Hart
The bonus of our repeated visits to our desired destinations was that we walked enough to work off the ‘full English’ and got to see a good deal of the city. Back home, I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with Cathy about what we are currently reading. We’ve agreed we’d love to put up beds and live at Blackwells for a month, but did bring back part of it with us. Final thought – Martin Edwards is a treasure for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm of ‘lost’ books with us.