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Richard Reynolds – The Golden Age of Detective Fiction: Publishing Stories Then and Now



If there is one man who knows detective fiction it is Richard Reynolds. The self-proclaimed techno-phobe gave a classic yet riveting talk at none other than Cambridge’s glorious Heffers in which he managed to carry the initial awe from the bookstore to the Golden Age of detective fiction. For those of you who have not yet been to Heffers picture this: floor to ceiling bookshelves just brimming with all kinds of magnificent content you can only imagine and there is a section dedicated to detective fiction. But the bookstore does not only promote visual wonderment for the soul but come to one of their talks and you can immerse yourself into a whole world of publishers, genre, and in this case, murder (which I should mention is entirely fictional). Equipped with enough books to sink a literary ship, Richard presented the eager crowd with not only hard copies of the texts he spoke of rather than just an electronic visual aid, but also divulged numerous quotes, facts and titbits from his own research and classic authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The deconstruction and reconstruction of detective fiction was academically yet humorously done whilst the hard copies gave a beautifully rustic and traditional feel.

     Richard not only educated the crowd but also emphasised the importance of local detective fiction such as the Cambridge Murder series, as well as highlighting the lack of new editions of old classics which seem to have become criminally unsolved by the publishers of now. But as Richard paraphrased, if things are getting a little dull, add blood, and following in that line of thought (not literally, I should again add) he is relentlessly working with publishers to get these much loved yet increasingly lost novels back in to print.

     However, in every literary evening comes the most feared moment for any academic: the question and answer session. Luckily, Reynold’s detective alter-ego Cuthbert came to our aid with his fictional side-kick Miss Clinch in order to investigate and solve even our darkest queries. Whilst we found that the perfect crime is portrayed in Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (you’ll have to read it to find out) and Richard’s favourite author is A. A Milne for his detective fiction (although we all know that if Winnie the Pooh turned into a “who dun it” all fingers would obviously point to Tigger…), everyone left happy knowing it was another success for Cambridge Publishing Society and detective fiction all round.

     Overall, the talk was old-school and brilliant; almost like detective fiction itself. It was endearing yet factual and I for one was glad I had my wallet prepared in order to fund my re-inspired love of this classic genre! Richard displays unmistakable passion and knowledge of publishers and the fiction itself but more than anything he proved that you don’t need the latest technology to just enjoy a good book.


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