Murder in the Metcalfe – A Readers Advisor Seminar at the State Library

Recently my colleagues and I joined a bevy of Readers Advisors from all over New South Wales at the State library of New South Wales for a very interesting seminar on Crime Fiction and its cross over genres.  The seminar was entitled Murder in the Metcalfe, which I thought was a great title. It was held in the Metcalfe Auditorium at the Library.

  There was a very interesting group of speakers covering every facet of crime writing and the current trend of blending genres into the crime novel. It was apt that this seminar was on crime fiction because the very first novel published in Australia was a crime story. Quintas Servinton was originally published in 3 volumes in 1830-1831.  For those who are interested you can download a copy of this book.

 Our first speaker came to us via Skype from her office in the USA.  Diana Tixier Herald spoke of some of the authors she thought was worthy of mention in the Crime/Supernatural crossover genre.  The supernatural is well represented in such crossover fiction with authors like Charlaine Harris, who writes about vampires and werewolves and Jim Butcher whose main investigator, Harry Dresden, is also a wizard.  Other authors that Diana liked were Mark Del Franco’s Connor Grey series, Patricia Briggs, Madelyn Art,  and Linda Lael Miller. When asked to name her favourite author, Diana chose Kit Whitfiled who writes about werewolves and whose book Bareback (entitled Benighted in the UK) was well worth reading.

Peter Milne from Abbey’s Bookshop gave us a very interesting history of Crime Fiction and Rachel Franks spoke about genres in crime.  Arguably the first crime novel ever published was Caleb William by William Godwin published in 1794.  The first acknowledged crime novel is Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone (although the American’s like to claim Edgar Allan Poe as the first crime writer.)  I would suggest that the Woman in White, which was published in 1859-1860 was also a crime novel so prefer to say Wilkie Collins was the first published crime novelist and Edgar Poe was the first published crime short story writer. There were some wonderful crime novels published before the First World War with Sherlock Holmes making his appearance in the 1880’s, along with G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, R. Austin Freeman’s Dr Thorndike, Edgar Wallace to name but a few.  Between the wars arguably the best crime writer ever, Agatha Christie, tantalised us all with intriguing plots while Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, Ngaio Marsh, Edmund Crispin, Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler provided further entertainment.  After the war new writers joined those well established authors.  These included Ross McDonald, Rex Stout and Ed McBain.  The sixties saw the advent of animals in crime, particularly Lilian Jackson Braun’s "The cat who…" series.  There was the Chief Inspector and his trusty side kick such as Caroline Graham’s Midsomer murder series, W.J. Burley’s Wycliffe series, Reginald Hill and James Lee Burke.  P.D. James introduced the first woman detective.  Forensic crime is represented in the works of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs.  For those who like a little history mixed in with their crime, Ellis Peters, Anne Perry, Margaret Fraser, Susan Gregory, Lindsay Davis, Paul Doherty, Elizabeth Peters, Van Gulik and a host of others will have you soaking up the atmosphere of Ancient Rome, Mediaeval England, China, Egypt and a host of other exotic locations.  Conspiracy theories have always been popular and none more popular than those told by Dan Brown.  Australia has some great crime writers as well.  Arthur Upfield, Jon Cleary, Peter Corris, Jennifer Roe, Katherine Fox – the list goes on and on.  I am sure everyone has a favourite author that has not been named.  Space prevents me from doing so.

Matthew Reilly was one of the most entertaining speakers I have ever listened to.  He was amusing, lively and not at all boring.  He  spoke about writing and getting published and how he published his own first book because no one else would do so.  Fortunately a publisher saw that first book and the rest is history.  He read some passages from his books and read some of the reviews critics have written about his books.  Those reviews were dreadful and only go to prove that what appeals to critics and what appeals to the general public are often two totally different things.

Sherry Quinn spoke to us about resources available to those searching for crime.  This very entertaining seminar finished with a Discussion Panel and question time.  All in all it was a great day – and lunch was excellent, too.