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The Creation of Shedunnit
Caroline Crampton is a familiar name to many in the podcasting world. As well as a freelance writer, podcast editor and consultant, she is also the UK correspondent for the popular podcasting industry newsletter, Hot Pod. More recently, however, she has launched Shedunnit, a podcast that unravels the mysteries behind classic detective stories: murder mysteries, locked room puzzles, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and more.
The show is unfailingly well researched and produced, with Crampton’s calm yet authoritative narrative interwoven among an array of guest experts. Topics range from the more familiar (such as the mysterious, real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie) to overlooked and forgotten authors; from contemporary social issues to common misconceptions about the genre. One episode, for example, looks at the queer subtext of so much classic detective fiction. The podcast is very much, as it claims, a show not only about fiction but about a whole world of fascinating stories behind this fiction.
Shedunnit has been going from strength to strength, garnering excellent reviews along the way. So, after a little over 6 months and 15 episodes, I chatted to Crampton about why she started the show, who’s listening, and how things have been going.
You’ve been making and writing about podcasts for quite a while now. Why did you decide to start your own show?
“I realised after many, many years of making podcasts I’d never actually made one for myself. I’d always being doing it in the service of another organisation – I’d been doing it for a magazine or been contributing to a BBC thing or something like that. I was just a bit frustrated, maybe a bit burnt out, at constantly having to do what other people told me, even though that sounds really childish! I think in the same way as people get decision fatigue, you can get lack of decision fatigue.
I thought, I have the power to do something on my own, outside of my employment, so I‘ll do it. It is as refreshing and as delightful as I thought! It definitely scratches an itch for me in that regard, I’ve really enjoyed having complete control and freedom with it”
Classic Detective Fiction
And was classic detective fiction always going to be the topic?
“I constantly have ideas for podcasts, some more viable than others! Sometimes I use them in professional work I’m doing, sometimes I never do anything with them. Occasionally years later I’ll see someone else do the same thing and say, yeah, so it was a thing that could have happened!
When it came to doing something on my own, I was in a midst of reading all my detective novels again. I had also just read The Golden Age of Murder, a history of The Detection Club by Martin Edwards, and he’d done so much great research around the writing. I just thought this was a really amazing approach and I thought it would work really well in audio.
I tested the idea on a few people I know in podcasting and got some positive reactions, so I thought, let’s not make it any more complicated than that, just go for it.”
And are you happy with how things have turned out?
“I knew that I liked the topic, of course, and that I would enjoy having a proper reason to get more deeply into reading about it, but I’d completely underestimated how lovely it would be to talk to other people about it.
Until Shedunnit I had experienced podcasting in a broadcast sense, in that I would make things for organisations, they would put them out, and that was it. I’d never worked on a show that had a strong sense of engagement or audience response. Now I do. Shedunnit listeners are constantly emailing me and messaging me and tweeting me and talking to me about the books they’re reading. It’s so nice to get involved in people’s lives that way.”
That’s great, it seems like your listeners are very supportive?
“It seems like it, I’ve been incredibly lucky how responsive and nice everyone is. I was really blown away the first time I did the thing that every podcaster does where I said, ‘could you go and leave a review on Apple Podcasts, thanks, that would be nice’, thinking it might be in line with a podcast I used to host for the New Statesman, where a half dozen people might go and do it. The next time I checked I said, wait, hang on, why do we have fifty more reviews than last time?! Oh, wow, people really did do, in numbers, what I asked!”
And what do you know about these great listeners?
“I just did an audience survey so I can tell you that 75% of listeners are women, they’re mostly aged between 25 and 50, which is typical for podcasts generally. Half of them live in the UK and, of the rest of the world, the biggest is the US, followed by Ireland, then Australia, then Canada.
Incidentally, I would attribute the fact that the podcast has a disproportionately large listenership in Ireland to the writer Anna Carey, who was an early and vocal fan, and to the fact that it was featured on RTÉ’s Arena radio programme. Also, 46% of people said they have a graduate degree or an equivalent professional education. So my listeners are very highly educated!”
The Business Side
The show is clearly a labour of love for Crampton but, as she readily admits, it’s hard to separate the business from the pleasure, and having a huge existing fan base for classic detective fiction was a factor in picking a topic for her show.
“I can’t entirely pretend that Shedunnit is 100% a personal project. I can never turn off side of my brain that says, ‘what is the audience viability of this?’. So that lined up quite nicely with what I wanted to do.”
And, speaking of viability, Crampton recently launched the Shedunnit book club as a way of creating a community around the show and, crucially for a mid-sized but very labour-intensive podcast of this type, monetizing it. As a side note for all you podcasters out there, Crampton wrote about how she came to create the book club, as an alternative to other monetization options, in an excellent article for Hot Pod here.
Crampton has achieved a huge amount in a very short space of time, a credit to her skills as a podcaster and a real passion for the subject. So go discover the mysteries of classic detective fiction wherever you get your podcasts or at the Shedunnit site.
For more on Shedunnit and Golden Age Detective Fiction check out the latest episode of Words To That Effect, where Caroline Crampton appears as a guest and goes into a lot more detail about all things classic detective fiction.
Need more historical detectives? Check out this fascinating article, from the Terrible People in History series, on a criminal turned detective.