nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
It's the Nineveh inquisition (with apologies to Eddie Izzard and the Church of England). Though cake is one of those things that is oft on my To Do lists, but doesn't get done, so mostly it would just be recs. But not today, because I managed to make this yoghurt, fig, pine nut and rosewater cake from the Guardian because it looked nice and I had all the ingredients, though I didn't actually use them because I decided to eat the figs as figs and use greengages instead. It is very quick and very nice and I shall make it again.

As for recs, I have a few, but then again too few... Ahem.

A couple of short Strong Poison fics:

After the End 2 by [profile] sonetka focusing on a couple of minor characters.

The Unnatural Case of the 1925 Property Act , in which people die in a different order, was a gift to me and I ought to have recced long before. I can only hope that Peter and Harriet meet over a charitable cause.

A rare toe in the water of Tolkien fic, Mechlin-Lace, an angsty Arwen and mortality vignette. I have a considerable quantity of angsty Arwen thoughts, and regret that there isn't more fic on the subject (or if there is I haven't read it, possibly because I worry about reading bad angsty Arwen and mortality fic).

Neither cake nor a rec, well, unless you're in London soon, I took myself to a cinema broadcast of the ROH's Le Nozze di Figaro on Monday. I've actually seen the production live some years ago, but this was a very enjoyable way to spend a work night without having to go to London or spend more money, and it was great fun (if long, even with the usual fourth act cuts thank God). There's a DVD of the cast I saw, but I can't buy it because it has a Wrong Cherubino, because the singer is short. Whereas Monday's involved a Perfect Cherubino, by which, I realise, I mean someone who is tall, dark, and slender and reminds me of Frederica von Stade in person, voice, and interpretation. Though I was slightly distracted at times by the extent to which baritone Erwin Schrott physically resembles Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani.

Also, I still really, really want an OTT brocade smoking jacket. I'm just going to have to make one.
nineveh_uk: Screenshot of Wimsey and Bunter from the 1987 television production. (wimsey and bunter)
Today I am supposed to be tidying my office and listening to the cricket. I am not listening to the cricket. Not because it is raining, but because the Test match is next weekend…

Tomorrow I have the joy of a 200 mile drive to north Wales for an extended family celebration on Sunday. It really ought not to be 200 miles, which involves going almost as far north as Warrington*, but there is no decent alternative. I have been warned off considering a short cut via Wrexham by several people. As my only memory of Wrexham is of sitting in the back of the car while my parents got lost in it, I shall heed this advice. But it will be fun when I get there. I was also planning to listen to the cricket in the car, so I will need to dig out some CDs.

On the subject of motoring, finally I am approaching the end of the Wimsey bodyswap fic (it is not that long, it has just taken forever). In tribute to this, I present Lord Peter Wimsey’s gearbox, the Wilson pre-selector (as used on all Daimlers in the 1930s). And because the internet is full of enthusiasts, I present the man to tell you what it is like to drive it. To which the answer turns out to be “surprisingly easy”.

I had always assumed that an enormous car like a racing-style Daimler would be a nightmare of double-clutching to drive, and that Peter’s taste for fast driving went with someone who was a genuinely good driver. But not so! It’s the 1930s equivalent of a semi-automatic that cannot stall, involves little finesse with the clutch pedal, and sounds like it is actually easier to drive than my Ford Fiesta** - and also enormous fun. Exhibit 427 in “the rich are better at things because they have better tools to do them with.” I do recommend the article - it makes a subject I would not normally find interesting rather fascinating, and presents a potential method for murder that I like to think Harriet later used in a short story.

*But sadly not close enough to want to swing by Ikea.

**Except for the lack of power steering, because it must weigh an awful lot.
nineveh_uk: Screenshot of Wimsey and Bunter from the 1987 television production. (wimsey and bunter)
Asked Dian de Momerie, in one of her more alert moments. To be specific, like this:

(Picture on LJ because the picture process for DW is a faff.)

I saw some linked photos of this recently, which spurred me to actually looking up properly what Lord Peter Wimsey’s car looks like. To which the answer is “the car of a man who is over-compensating”. Massively over-compensating. According to this swooning article*, the bonnet of a 1931 Daimler Double Six is ten feet long**. It knocks the socks off a red Ferrari in the mid-life crisis stakes. For more photographs of this deeply Freudian vehicle, see here.

I have to admit that I attempted a small vignette on the subject of what on earth Harriet thought when she first saw it, but failed.

*Over the car, not Wimsey.

**That is so enormous I am prepared for it to be an error. Still, even 6 – 8 feet would be a bloody big bonnet.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
In the course of looking up references to guns in the Wimsey canon, I came across this line in Dragon’s Head,

‘Now run into my bedroom, and in the bottom of my wardrobe you will find a bundle of stout cord.’

Tell us, Lord Peter, are midnight burglars a regular occurrence in Piccadilly, or do you keep the rope for other purposes?

Since Wimsey’s nephew knows about this, and has a tendency to be indiscrete, I’m now imagining what he might have said to Harriet when he bumped into her in Gaudy Night...

***

‘Why should anybody object to Uncle Peter? He’s no beauty and he’d talk the hind leg off a donkey; but he’s dashed well-off and he’s got good manners and he’s in the stud-book.’ Lord Saint-George balanced himself on the edge of Mercury and peered into its tranquil waters. ‘Where’ve the carp taken themselves off to? They never resist meringues. Perhaps the fountain’s got hidden depths. So’s Uncle Peter, come to think of it. I stayed with him once when I was a kid – measles at school, parents away, uncle steps in – and we had an attack of burglars and Uncle Peter tied them up with this rope in the bottom of his wardrobe. The rope, that is, not the burglars – they were in the library. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but a chap grows up and the French novels get passed around and all that, and obviously one gets to wondering.’

‘Obviously,’ said Harriet, fascinated by this new light on the subject.

***
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
Plan for the day: get up, pick hawthorns, boil for jelly (to be finished tomorrow). That shouldn't take too long. Except that I spent ages picking, because I thought that I needed lots. Then I spent ages picking them off the twigs etc, which took ages because I had lots. Then I boiled them in two enormous pans. Then I discovered that they massively o'erflowed the jelly bag. Then I manufactured a second jelly bag from random close-weave cotton/old sheet and hung it from a cupboard door. Now it's nearly seven o'clock. Roast duck for dinner will be happening tomorrow.

On the plus side, though I still have to do Jelly Pt. II tomorrow, at least a larger quantity shouldn't take longer at that point (except of course it will). It had better taste nice.

I passed the time while picking berries from twigs in listening to Cabin Pressure and, courtesy of [personal profile] antisoppist, Death Bredon, a Radio 4 Saturday play about Dorothy L. Sayers early years as a copywriter and relationships with John Cournos and Bill White. It's quite fun, extremely fanficcy, very Radio 4 playish, and unabashedly portrays John Cournos as a complete git. Since by all accounts he was a complete git, this seems fair enough. I felt Sayers came across as a bit wet, though. There's no denying that she seems to have had terrible taste when it came to men, but she was also a person who - even when completely wrong - knew what she wanted and stuck to it, and there was no significant sense of this forthright side of her character. After all, surely an important part of the Cournos story is that Sayers doesn't sleep with him, because she disagrees over the terms and sticks to her guns. That's the same person who was a nightmare for the BBC producers because she insisted things happen her way or not at all, or who in 2013 would be at the centre of notorious internet flamewars.

Also, I always get annoyed by mysteriously queasy = unwittingly pregnant.
nineveh_uk: Screenshot of Wimsey and Bunter from the 1987 television production. (wimsey and bunter)
Following on from my last post, it strikes me that one advantage for Paton Walsh of an Oxford-set book is that it would allow her to leave Bunter at home in London*, which might be a good thing for all concerned given that she clearly regards him as an embarrassing anachronism who gets in the way of Peter’s embracing her particular take on modernity.

The novel is set in 1952, by which point Bunter and Peter have known one another for a possible 38 years**. Raising the question of what do you get your manservant for your fortieth anniversary? A question happily answered for us by Mitchell and Webb...



*As long as the question of who picks up Peter’s socks isn’t raised

**Bunter is a bit older than Harriet, but she and Peter are both going to have to live a long time beyond him for her to beat him.
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
I await the publication of a fourth Jill Paton-Walsh Wimsey novel later this year. It has the less-than-inspiring title The Late Scholar; I don’t know whether the ‘Lord Peter Wimsey investigates’ bit on the cover reflects the fact that there are going to be more of these, or the fact that the cover was put together hastily to get it out in time for the Christmas market. Or possibly – and I’m almost certainly being generous here – it’s a more sophisticated reference to the contents of the book and Golden Age titles. Like The Attenbury Emeralds it’s being published in hardback, so they are evidently expecting reasonable sales, or gluttons for punishment like me to buy it regardless.

The publisher’s blurb is as follows:

A new murder mystery featuring Lord Peter Wimsey - now a Duke - and his wife Harriet Vane, set in an Oxford college in the 1950s.

Peter Wimsey is pleased to discover that along with a Dukedom he has inherited the duties of 'visitor' at an Oxford college. When the fellows appeal to him to resolve a dispute, he and Harriet set off happily to spend some time in Oxford.

But the dispute turns out to be embittered. The voting is evenly balanced between two passionate parties - evenly balanced, that is, until several of the fellows unexpectedly die. The Warden has a casting vote, but the Warden has disappeared.

And the causes of death of the deceased fellows bear an uncanny resemblance to the murder methods in Peter's past cases - methods that Harriet has used in her published novels.


Cue the Chords of Doom.

I tell myself that at least unlike TAE it won’t be hampered by attempting to shoehorn in every possible bit of related DLS apocrypha. On the other hand, it means the author’s on her own… We will see. Oxford is hardly an original setting and invites comparison. I fear it may also invite re-using characters from Gaudy Night. I can’t imagine why on earth any Oxford college would want a random duke as a Visitor* - perhaps to ensure they were as ineffective as possible. I can’t help feeling that instead of Peter coming to sort things out, it would have been a lot more entertaining had the college had to appeal to Gerald (or the erstwhile Viscount Saint-George). And why** would any murderer with half a brain decide to murder according to methods that have already been solved and lead the perpetrator to the gallows? Unless these were Peter's duds and Harriet has consoled him by pioneering a murder mystery sub-genre in which the reader never finds out whodunit, so no nervous breakdowns are required.

It comes out in December. Consider my reading and reviewing it an early Christmas present.

*Not a concept easy to Google.

**oh why
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
Following on from [personal profile] antisoppist’s recent post on whether Peter Wimsey enjoyed his job in advertising in part because it gave additional opportunities for stalking running into Harriet leads me to a further question:

when Peter rings up Harriet’s flat for the first time in Gaudy Night, how did he get her phone number?

Harriet has just been abroad for 18 months. Peter knows she is back because she’s been mentioned in the Times*. She has recently returned to a new flat, and a new telephone number. I think we can assume that the new number is not in the phone book on the grounds that even if she weren’t ex-directory**, which I’d expect her to be given that if she can’t avoid nasty letters from strangers she doesn’t want nasty phone calls as well, there hasn’t been time for the number to enter a new book in the few weeks in which she’s been in London again.

A quick search of the internet has not been especially fruitful, but the Daily Mail tells me that directory enquiries started with the first telephone service, so that would have been an option, except that Peter doesn’t know Harriet’s new address (she tells him that she has moved flat in answer to his comment that she has a new phone number), and if the books were being used we’re back to the original problem of her not being in them.

So how did he get the number so quickly? Would the operator have sufficient local knowledge to put him through to Miss Vane, newly living in a Bloomsbury flat at an unknown address? Has he phoned the host of the literary party, or got Sally Hardy to do so? Has he phoned Harriet's agent with an excuse, or is that too embarrassing? As Parker lives round the corner, has he got him to make an official enquiry?

I am assuming that he didn’t in fact see her at Ascot, have her trailed home, and only waited for the paper to give him an excuse for knowing she was back, or got whatever border agency there was at the time to report...

*As Bunter’s duties including reading the paper and picking out notable articles, one can only imagine what he was thinking as he marked that particular column in black ink.

**Assuming that to be an option at the time.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
‘You can sit down, you know,’ said Miss Vane, gesturing to the other armchair. Boyes sat.

‘How about some coffee, old girl?’

Miss Vane looked at him coldly. ‘I said you could come round. If you want someone to serve you food and drink, I suggest you employ a maid.’

*

‘Mr Boyes!’ exclaimed Hannah Westlock, opening the door to find that gentleman on the top step, supported by the strong arm of the driver. ‘Now you sit down here, and I’ll ring for the doctor.’

‘Never mind the doctor, get me a brandy. That b- wouldn’t even give me a cup of coffee.’

***

Forget buying poison while giving the name of famous murderers, or living with your boyfriend. Ironically, what ultimately lands Harriet Vane in the dock isn’t a social transgression, but adherence to social rules of politeness, first that Harriet actually agree to Boyes' demand that they meet, second that having done so she is required to play the hostess. Rules so strict that the murderer can rely on them in setting up his alibi: spoilers )
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
Let me quote a short passage from the start of chapter VII of Murder Must Advertise (shortly before Charles gets slugged on the staircase):

“[Chief-Inspector Parker] had had a long day at the Yard — no thrills, no interesting disclosures, no exciting visitors, not so much as a dis-diamonded rajah or a sinister Chinaman — only the reading and summarizing of twenty-one reports of interviews with police narks, five hundred and thirteen letters from the public in response to a broadcast S O S about a wanted man, and a score or so of anonymous letters, all probably written by lunatics.”

My copy of The Attenbury Emeralds has arrived, and I am reading it. That a dis-emeralded Rajah has turned up on page 18 probably says all you need to know about its quality. I shall have much to say, but to spare you will save it until the end. It is a bit slow-going ebcause I keep having to stop to say "WTF?TRY(%HDFNW(HGOAT!"
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
Jill Paton-Walsh’s The Attenbury Emeralds, announced last year, is published on 16 September 2010. The first thing I’ll note is that whilst I don’t know the stats on novels published in hard back (in this case simultaneously with paperback), that they are bothering at all seems to indicate a fair degree of confidence in the publishers. It’s easy to forget when complaining that the sequels – and now prequel – simply aren’t Sayers, that these are very strongly-selling books, and that an awful lot of people like them. Much as I would like a facsimile of the Thrones, Dominations MS, if we could only have one or the other (which is of course not true), then looked at purely financially the novel was surely the right choice for the Estate.

At this point I owe an apology: I went to a talk by Paton-Walsh at last year’s St Hilda’s crime convention, and completely failed to write it up. The talk was mostly about jewels and crime, but she did talk briefly about the new novel, and read a short extract. I can’t say that it really encouraged me; the scene included Peter’s first-person diary, and I fear, though cannot quite recall, that some of the novel is definitely told from this POV, and Freddy Arbuthnot discoursing intelligently.

Having realised that publication is nearly upon us, I thought I’d have a sniff around for any further details.

Amazon blurb )

The same page has a short interview with Paton-Walsh – whether or not one likes her Wimsey fanfic, she’s certainly a fan! A good thing, given that she is being paid (handsomely, one assumes) to write fanfic.

There’s a slightly longer version of the same blurb at fantasticfiction.

Apart from the really obvious question of “why has Peter only got round to telling Harriet this story, given that they’ve been married for 16 years?”, I can’t say that JPW’s Peter and Harriet facing a changing world raises my confidence. Does anyone else want to bet whether we have a scene in which Helen rails against the new National Health Service*, and Peter or Harriet politely but firmly defends it? Notwithstanding that both of them would almost certainly have voted for Churchill’s conservatives.**

A much longer review, by a blogger who has actually read the book, is here.

There are some minor spoilers in the text, which I won’t discuss here except to say that once more my hopes are not raised, but I don’t think it’s spoilery to quote this:

The time is now firmly in the 1950s in Festival of Britain time. No more palatial living for most of the Wimseys’ friends and relations, the war has seen to that but Bunter is still here and though he would like to maintain the class distinction he finds it difficult when his son Peter is firm friends with the Wimsey boys.

Because as we know, children are never, ever sensitive to class distinctions and the fact that three of them are going to Eton***, and the other to a London grammar**** (actually, secret jealousy that Peter Bunter gets to stay at home could be interesting, but it won’t happen, nor will “So did he call you after Dad so that he got to say “I love you, too, Peter”?). But then my general policy whenever I hear the words “But I treated her like a daughter” is to assume that the employee thus treated would probably rather have had a decent wage, set hours, and paid holiday. We shall see. If the children are not appallingly cute/precocious, it may be all right. It will be interesting to see how Bunter fits back into domestic service post- the wartime variety, and how Peter copes with perhaps not quite so many housemaids. But the aristocracy were going bust all over the place in the inter-war period and you’d never know it from Sayers’ novels, and the fifties were not the seventies. As DLS put it in 1949: "No doubt the family income from landed estate is considerably reduced; but so long as Harriet can turn out readable fiction they will probably still be paying super-tax."

I await the arrival of my copy with anticipation. I don't anticipate loving it, but Paton-Walsh can at least write, even if I disagree with what she writes. Needless to say, I will not be considering it canon.

*I had not realised how big the Labour victory of 1945 was. They had a majority of 239, and more than twice as many seats as the Conservatives

** I can see Peter as a cross-bencher when he ends up in the Lords, not because he isn’t a Tory, but because he doesn’t strike me as a party political animal (it's hard to see him following a party line or submitting to the whips), and that, plus that whisker of unease at the hereditary principle leads me to think he’d probably be happier feeling he was able to plough his own furrow.

***Where, taught by Bunter, as fags they will all make perfect toast.

****Though my mother has a rather nice 1950s children’s book entitled The Harlands Go Hunting in which the daughters of the main family are at boarding school (considerably down the social scale from Peter – rural professional, I think), but are close friends with a girl in the village who attends the local school and is clearly not in the same social or income bracket (I’m now thinking that her mother may even be a domestic servant, but I’m probably making that up).

(Potential minor spoilers in comments)
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
Leafing through some DLS for dialogue help in the course of drafting some fic, a couple of paragraphs struck me.

The first is from the short stories. I don't read them much - they're not particularly good short stories - but I ought to read them more, as they have some interesting little passages in them. Like this one from The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker.

[Peter is staying in a grand hotel somewhere-or-other that liners dock from Africa (Southhampton?), and Mrs Ruyslaender has spotted his name on the register and, desperate, come to his suite at 11 pm to try to get his help on a case. Bunter admits her to the sitting room.]

The man stepped noiselessly to the bedroom door and passed, shutting it behind him. The lock, however, failed to catch, and Mrs Ruyslaender caught the conversation.

"Pardon me, my lord, a lady has called. She mentioned no appointment, so I considered it better to acquaint your lordship."

"Excellent discretion," said a voice. It had a slow, sarcastic intonation, which brought a painful flush to Mrs Ruyslaender's cheek. "I never make appointments. Do I know the lady?"

"No, my lord. But - hem - I know her by sight, my lord. It is Mrs Ruyslaender."

"Oh, the diamond merchant's wife. Well, find out tactfully what it's all about, and, unless it's urgent, ask her to call tomorrow."

The valet's remark was inaudible, but the reply was:

"Don't be coarse, Bunter."

*

I assume that Peter is still being sarcastic here, and not actually ticking Bunter off in the final sentence - it would be a bit much if he were, given that he started it. There are other passages of what Peter and Bunter and Peter and Parker talking about women/sex within the books, but I think that this is the most obviously blokish one.

*

Second, Busman's Honeymoon.

[Chapter 4, Bunter and Peter the morning after, not quite a page after Bunter's "I trust your lordship found everything satisfactory?"]

"Then buzz off and get breakfast before I get like the Duke of Wellington, nearly reduced to a skellington.... I say, Bunter."

"My lord?"

"I'm damned sorry you're having all this trouble."

"Don't mention it, lord. So long as your lordship is satisfied - "

"Yes. All right, Bunter. Thanks."

He dropped his hand lightly on the servant's shoulder in what might have been a gesture of affection or dismissal as you chose to take it, and stood looking thoughtfully into the fireplace till his wife rejoined him.

*

All things considered, perhaps it's a good thing that the body turned up in a cellar and gave them all something to talk about...

Just spell it out for a moment. There's Bunter coming in, asking in code if Peter had a good night's not-sleep, and Peter giving a "you cannot seriously think I'm going to answer that" response and changing the subject. Then they waffle on about business (a bit awkwardly? A little excessively normal?) before Peter appears to feel guilty, calls Bunter back, apologises, ostensibly for the trouble (this the man who in the past has booked a holiday cottage with no indoor plumbing at all without remorse), Bunter brings up - something - again, gets an answer, and the final ambiguous gesture of reassurance/don't need you anymore, and Peter stares at the fireplace Bunter has just relaid mulling over - something - the options being presumably (1) yes, that was a highly satisfactory night, or (2) Oh God, is this about to be a bit difficult?

All of which I've thought before, and tended to assume that Peter is intending to be sympathetic if abstracted. What I haven't thought about before is the implication of Bunter potentially taking it seriously as a dismissal. It certainly makes Peter's laughing about the morning's Humorous Soot/Sink Incident an awful lot harsher from Bunter's POV, and adds greater force to his being off-kilter over the next few days and the absolute triumph when he beats Harriet to be the one wanted once again. No wonder the Duchess wonders how things are going after talking to him.

***

And yet people still think that Bunter fantasises about racehorses. Well, I suppose they have big noses and are famously well-endowed. (Do you think I'd get away on the Yahoo list with "Bunter has a dirty night out in the Denver stables" on the grounds that it if you don't accept anything at all is going on re. Peter then something must be going on re. Equus caballus?)

[Cross-posted from LJ]

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