CrimeFest Day I: It's in the bag
My question to Mosby about serial killers who act in the name of civilized virtues won me a bag of books for the cleverest question.
A panel on historical mysteries offered a practical answer to a question I'd only been able to formulate in theoretical terms: How does one remain faithful to one's historical setting while writing for an audience of one's own time? The panelists were Roger Hudson, who sets his work in fifth-century B.C. Athens; Ruth Downie and Jane Finnis, each of whom sets her work in Roman Britain; and Roz Southey, whose protagonist is an eighteenth-century musician. Moderator was Edward Marston, whose sets work in several historical periods.
Finnis spoke of a character scarred by war, and of the difficulties writing about such a character without the psychological vocabulary that would be anachronistic to the first-century Roman world. The character suffered from what we would call post-traumatic stress syndrome, Finnis noted, but she could of course not use that term. Nor could she offer the insight that this is what happens to people exposed for a long period to war: "It just had to be left to the reader to make that deduction."
My question to Southey won me another bag of books, or would have had not a fellow attendee pointed out that I'd already won one. I was thus deprived of the opportunity to make a magnanimous gesture and voluntarily surrender the second bag.
The panel on "The Lost Weekend: Eric Ambler and Who? — Forgotten Authors" could keep me talking and reading for months, and I'll likely read and post about some of these authors. Superbly moderated by Martin Edwards, the discussion also included Mary Andrea Clarke, Barry Forshaw, Declan Hughes and Sarah Rayne.
The current authors praised their predecessors for streaks of humor and for gorgeous prose style, two elements I love that are rare these days. Hughes said of Margaret Millar that "She's also, sentence-by-sentence, I think, one of the crime writers who can write. ... She's a great plotter without smacking the least of the Golden Age."
My question about why forgotten books are such a popular topic these days sparked a lively discussion among the panelists about nostalgia. Alas, I won no bag.
Next: The pub quiz. As my teammate Ali Karim would say, "Mental!!!"
© Peter Rozovsky 2009