Sunday, 25 March 2012

The future is unwritten

One of the joys of being a re-located reporter is getting to know the new patch. And one of the first things I've learned about the Torbay area of South Devon is that it is the place to be for all things concerning Agathie Christie.

The doyenne of crime writers and murder mysteries is celebrated everywhere. There's an Agatha walk which includes an exhibition at the Torquay museum; the Agatha Christie bronze bust in Cary Gardens near the harbour; Princess Gardens; the 12th century Torre Abbey opposite Torquay's main beach; and, finally, the Grand Hotel, where the crimewriter spent her honeymoon.

Devon boasts a large number of authors whose works graced my bookshelves when I was a child: Henry Williamson (Tarka the Otter), RD Blackmore (Lorna Doone) and (temporarily) Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes adventure involving The Hound of the Baskervilles involved research at Princetown on Dartmoor.

Perhaps when I was young I simply read the wrong books, but I'm struggling to think of ways in which Cornwall promotes a similarly rich literary heritage: there's Daphne du Maurier, of course, and the festival now held in her name has become an annual cultural highlight. Winston Graham (Poldark.) And David Cornwell (John le Carre, chronicler of Cold War espionage) surely deserves his place on any bookshelf.

I was disappointed, on a recent trip to the Tinner's Arms at Zennor, to discover that no-one there could tell me anything about D.H. Lawrence's stay there during the first world war. Lawrence lived at the pub, working on Women In Love, before later renting a local cottage. Locals thought that Lawrence and his German wife, Frieda, were spies and police advised them to leave Cornwall.

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