At the recent CWA conference at Abegavenny, there were, as usual, a number of excellent talks. Over the twenty-odd years that I’ve been attending the conference, there have been some marvellous speakers, and some memorable events, and this year was no exception. I was fascinated to listen, for instance, to the legendary pathologist Bernard Knight (a notable crime novelist himself) talking about the Cromwell Street murders.
One talk by an author whose name was previously unknown to me also struck me as impressive. This was a talk (very well delivered) by Linda Stratmann on the subject of chloroform. It turns out that Linda has written a book on the subject – Chloroform: The Quest for Oblivion – and I was so interested in what she had to say that I bought a copy from her on the spot.
Although I wasn’t previously aware of the book, it turns out that it was originally published in 2003, by Sutton Publishing. Sutton produced a wide range of very good books, but unfortunately ran into difficulties of some description, and they are no more. This may explain why the book hasn’t quite achieved the profile it probably deserves.
Chloroform is a substance often used by crime writers as a handy way of stifling characters while crimes are committed. In fact, the fictional scenes are usually highly implausible. There is plenty of factual detail in the book, but it’s conveyed well, and I was especially interested by the chapter about Adelaide Bartlett, whose story I shall talk about in a future blog post.