Friday, October 03, 2014

Reading matters, by Jove!

In the course of the past year of work on "Chance of Reign" my researches have included not only non-fiction sources but also novels, almost all in the thriller genre, set in the late 1930s. Often these were enjoyable to read although my conculsion was that many of the present-day writers had consulted exactly the same sources as I had.

Quite recently it seemed to me logical to take a look at writing which dates from the period, as close to my year 1936 as possible, the work of authors who breathed the same air as the builders of the real Engländer Denkmal which first set me off on this storytelling adventure.

And so it was that I downloaded "Gaudy Night", written in 1935 by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Had I read Sayers before? I do remember that my mother was a fan... Ma constantly borrowed detective stories from the Public Libraries wherever we lived in Scotland... it was surely her influence which introduced me to the genre in the first place. But I think that the foppish  sophistication of Lord Peter Wimsey and the bold feminism of Harriet Vane would have overtaxed the fifteen-year-old schoolboy that I was then. I probably preferred John Buchan.

But after reading a few pages of "Gaudy Night" all thoughts of conscientious research vanished. I had simply discovered an author whose work I find spellbinding. My next Kindle purchases of Sayers's titles will be for the pure pleasure of reading.

“Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?" the writer was asked. "So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober,” Sayers admitted.

Hah, I feel exonerated! Yes, I share that intoxication and have always felt guilty about my sesquipedalian indulgences... but no more!

As for my tendency to include in my manuscript generous swathes of atmospheric scene-setting, accounts of how life was lived,how things looked, how they worked in 1936, I shall not abbreviate them in the course of my editing as much as I thought I might, as radically as all the experts counsel. Does every paragraph of "Chance of Reign" move the plot forward? No! There are many passages which simply are part of weaving a panoramic tapestry of the time. It is not a smooth tapestry; there are slipped stitches, rough edges, jarring discords between warp and weft. 

 Have I derived further inspiration from reading Miss Sayers? Well, by Jove, there were expressions current at the time which I feel must find their echo in my writing. People did things which were 'potty', things which seemed unusual could be called 'queer'... 'mayn't' I find pleasure in a judicious resuscitation of some of these dated turns of phrase?

And then, finally, there was the realization that in "Gaudy Night" there is scant spilling of blood and in the final pages the hint of future matrimony. 

"Oh, damn!" said Lord Peter Wimsey..


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