Private libraries – the older the better – enthral me. There’s something very special about these places, which are usually oases of calm in the middle of a bustling city. For about fifteen years, I have been a proprietor (that is, member) of the Athenaeum in Liverpool, which has a truly fabulous library, full of antiquarian curiosities. And last year, I did a Victorian mystery event at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle, a place I found deeply impressive (especially because of its wealth of obscure crime novels.)
This last week, I added an excellent new private library to my list. This is the Portico Library in Manchester. I’ve walked past it many times, but never been inside before. This changed when Jennifer Palmer, of Mystery Women, invited me to take part in a panel discussion.
My fellow panellists were two long-time friends, Cath Stainclife and Kate Ellis, and another local crime writer, Dolores Gordon-Smith, whom I first met at Crimefest last year. I’ve never done an event with Dolores before, but she proved to be a lively and entertaining speaker, and I felt the combination of the four of us worked well (even if I am a rather unlikely Mystery Woman...)
The Portico organised a first-rate buffet, and the ambience was fantastic. You really had the sense of history, in a room where people have read and studied for a couple of centuries. There was a thought-provoking exhibition about myth and legend in literature, very well illustrated, that I enjoyed reading. And I loved the heading above one set of bookshelves: ‘Polite Literature’. Couldn't help wondering how many have searched in vain for the Rude Literature….