Back to the classics and the days before Tartan Noir (can anyone remember them?) for this month’s crime scene. We’re off to Galloway for Dorothy L. Sayers’ Five Red Herrings, set in a community of artists in the south west corner of Scotland. The book was written in 1931, and set around Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright which are still today places with a bookish (more bookish than painterly now, perhaps) air – nearby Wigtown styles itself Scotland’s National Book Town.
Five Red Herrings was damned at the time it was published by one critic for ‘taxing the intelligence’ and being pared down to a puzzle book rather than a novel, but I found it very entertaining, and the characters of the different unco-operative artists more memorable than mere puzzle pieces. Anyway, what’s wrong with taxing the intelligence? It needs to be taken out and taxed regularly to keep it ticking over, I think. I’ve been a big fan of Sayers for many years (in fact, it was the only specialist subject on Mastermind where I’ve ever scored full marks!), so many that it was she who introduced me to T.S. Eliot and Dante, and I think Webster, too. She has always for me had a hint of Scottish flavour to her, though I’m blowed if I can put my finger on it as she is a very English writer.
The competition for my favourite Wimsey book is hard-fought between Murder Must Advertise and Nine Tailors, with Gaudy Night harrying them at the winning tape. But Five Red Herrings has an authentic setting, an entertaining cast and a tightly-worked plot, so don’t be put off by lazy critics – it’s an excellent read.
Quick update on my own rather less accomplished oeuvre!
Tomb for an Eagle is due out on 18th. October, the first in a new series. It's written and everything! Reminders will undoubtedly follow with what will seem eventually like tedious regularity.
The sequel, whose working title is now A Wolf at the Gate, is nearly 1/3 finished. Who knows, the rest might follow.
The next Hippolyta, no working title as yet, should, if I stay relatively sane, be out by Christmas, and the next Murray by Easter. Neither has much in the way of a trace on paper yet, but both are festering nicely in my little head.
The occasional short story to keep you entertained in the mean time is issued with the newsletters, which are (currently) quarterly and may extend to being issued every two months when the new series is under way (though as some people might like the old series and not the new one, or the new one and not the old ones, it may be that when it is under way people can sign up for whichever ones they want ... and make my life even more complicated than it already is!). Anyway, if you want to sign up for any or all of them then do email email@example.com and ask. There!