A curtain-raiser before the Ludlow Castle mystery evening, in which I participated recently, was a welcome party at the home of the organiser of the event, Kate Charles. Kate lives a short walk away from the Castle, and as the weather was excellent, we were able to enjoy not only her hospitality but also her secluded and pretty garden.
Kate is American by birth, but a real Anglophile, and she has become a significant figure in the British crime writing world. At a relatively early stage of her writing career, she became Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association. That was the year in which, for the first time, I edited the CWA anthology. The book in question was called Perfectly Criminal, and Kate was kind enough not only to contribute a foreword, in which she argued eloquently for more recognition of the quality of contemporary crime writing, but also a short story called ‘Sheep’s Clothing'. She does not write many short stories, but that was one I certainly enjoyed.
Over the years, Kate has also chaired the Barbara Pym Society and, with Eileen Roberts, organised a good many crime and mystery conferences at St Hilda’s College as well as the Ludlow Castle events. She was telling me that she and her husband decided to move to Ludlow three years ago because they were not tied to any particular location in England, and could choose the place they thought most appealing. I have to say that many other people in their position would also be sure to pick Ludlow. It is a fascinating place, full of history and very attractive. And there are, famously, a good many decent restaurants there as well!
One of the great things about the crime fiction community is that you develop friendships over a period of years, meeting up from time to time at gigs and conferences. It’s a happy coincidence that nowadays Kate and I have the same publishers both in the UK and the US. And, given that the theme of the St Hilda’s conference this year was The Wages of Sin, it seemed entirely appropriate to take along my copy of Kate’s 2007 novel Secret Sins and ask her to inscribe it to me on a sunlit day in that most gorgeous of settings.