The wonderful Kate Charles, mover and shaker with Eileen Roberts at St. Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Conference each year, brings readers a view inside the glorified Detection Club. Here is her report on their latest meeting:
I was immensely privileged, in mid-November, to be present for an historic moment in the annals of crime fiction, when the eighth President of the prestigious Detection Club took over the capacious red robe of office – a robe which has been worn by G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie in their time, and most recently by Simon Brett.
The new President is Martin Edwards, a writer who is passionately interested in the history of the Detection Club, serving as its archivist for the past few years and recently publishing a non-fiction book on the subject, The Golden Age of Murder.Martin Edwards with Simon Brett: the torch and the red robe is passed.
As Martin would tell us, the Detection Club was founded in 1930 (or perhaps 1932!) as a dining club for the prominent crime writers of the Golden Age. Its rituals, including an arcane initiation rite, date from those early days, and were once cloaked in secrecy.
Now, though, in this age of openness (and Wikipedia!), anyone with a bit of curiosity can delve into its mysteries. I don’t think I’ll be struck off as a member for revealing that, in a solemn candle-lit ceremony, new initiates promise that their detectives will not resort to ‘Divine Revelation, Excessive Sanguinity, Lucky Guesses, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery Pokery, Coincidence or Act of God’, and that they swear their loyalty to the club on Eric the Skull, with ‘terrible penalties’ threatened for breaking their oath.Kate at her initiation with Eric the Skull.
Members of the Detection Club gather three times a year for congenial dinners in London, as the club continues to fulfil its original function of providing a social outlet for solitary crime writers. These days, though, the writers are far more diverse than those of the Golden Age, as the genre has expanded beyond its cosy beginnings.
This diversity presented a challenge recently, when the club embarked on a project of creating a serial novel in the grand tradition of the original Detection Club’s The Floating Admiral. As in the original project, fourteen writers contributed, and a good time was had by all. Having read (and loved) The Floating Admiral in my youth, I felt it a huge privilege to be involved in this. The Sinking Admiral (inevitably!) will be published in 2016 – another milestone in the ongoing history of a fascinating institution.
Kate Charles is best known for her ecclesiastical mysteries. These include the Book of Psalms series and the Callie Anson series. Her latest book is False Tongues.
She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Barbara Pym Society.