Last weekend I was away for one of the main events of the year, the CWA annual conference, which was held in Darlington, a town I've never visited before. As usual, it was a real delight to see old friends, as well as to meet a number of pleasant people for the first time.
There were a number of excellent talks, including one from a very entertaining detective who led the hunt for John Darwin, better known as "the canoe man", as well as interesting insights into the government proposed reforms of the police, and a talk about forensic anthropology. Inevitably, though, the absolute highlight was a trip to the Forensic Services Department at Teeside University. One of the speakers was Ian Pepper, whom I have mentioned before on this blog; he and his wife Helen have given me a good deal of help with my research over the years, most recently for The Hanging Wood.
At the gala dinner on Saturday evening, I was invited onto the top table with last year's Chair, Tom Harper, who has worked very effectively to strengthen the CWA's profile, and the newly appointed Chair, the bestselling writer Peter James. What I was not expecting was the moment when Tom announced the giving of an award to someone – let alone that the recipient would turn out to be me…
In fact, this is the Red Herring award for services to the CWA. When I got back home, I did a bit of research and discovered that previous recipients over the past 50-odd years have included the likes of Julian Symons, Gladys Mitchell and Fredrick Dannay (better known as one half of Ellery Queen). Suffice to say that I was both honoured and touched by this recognition. I have made many wonderful friends through the CWA over the past 20 years or so, and I certainly owe them a great deal.