Left Coast Crime 2016, “The Great Cactus Caper,” awarded four Lefty awards tonight at the 26th annual LCC convention, held this year in Phoenix.
Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel (given since 1996).
• Donna Andrews, Lord of the Wings (Minotaur Books)
Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (Bruce Alexander Memorial, first given in 2004) for books covering events before 1960.
• Rhys Bowen, Malice at the Palace (Berkley Prime Crime)
Lefty for Best LCC Regional Mystery Novel, set in the LCC Geographic Region (Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii).
• Gigi Pandian, The Accidental Alchemist (Midnight Ink)
Lefty for Best World Mystery Novel (set outside LCC Geographic Region).
• Louise Penny, The Nature of the Beast (Minotaur Books)
The Left Coast Crime Convention is an annual event sponsored by fans of mystery literature for fans of mystery literature, including both readers and authors. Usually held in the western half of North America, LCC’s intent is to provide an event where mystery fans can gather in convivial surroundings to pursue their mutual interests.
Stuart Pawson: R.I.P. Pawson was the author of the Detective Inspector Charlie Priest series, set in the Yorkshire district.Stuart Pawson was a member of the Murder Squad which is a group of seven crime writers from the North of England.
Killer Nashville announced Robert J. Randisi as the recipient of the 2016 Killer Nashville John Seigenthaler Legends Award. An exceptionally prolific author—Randisi has written over 650 novels in the western, mystery, sci-fi, horror, and spy genres, under different pseudonyms—Randisi’s dedication to the craft is rivaled only by his passion for advocating, encouraging, and featuring other genre writers.
He has edited over 30 short-story anthologies, collections in which numerous authors found their first breaks. His willingness to share professional insights led him to serve as co-founder and editor of Mystery Scene magazine. His desire to highlight new talent birthed another of his brainchildren, the now-coveted Shamus Award. And in founding The Private Eye Writers of America, and co-founding the American Crime Writers League, he not only raised the bar for multiple genres, but also demonstrated the legitimacy of crime writers by showing that they were not sensationalists, but real writers addressing real problems.
Slides are popping up in offices everywhere, so why not in your personal library? This cool staircase in South Korea is made out of wooden bookshelves and features an integrated slide. It's taking up valuable book space, but it sure is fun!
If you're a crime fiction author or reader, you've probably heard of Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee, an annual event for fans to attend programs featuring over a dozen crime fiction authors. We've attended almost every year since its inception, and we got to thinking...
What if we brought this event to Chicago?
Dana Kaye has teamed up with award-winning Chicago author, Lori Rader-Day, to launch Murder and Mayhem in Chicago. Like its Milwaukee counterpart, it will be a one-day event filled with panels and interviews with talented mystery authors. Sara Paretsky has already signed on, with many more authors slated to appear.
The event will be held on March 11th, 2017, at Roosevelt University. To receive the most up-to-date information and access to early bird pricing, sign up for the mailing list here.
And if you're attending Left Coast Crime this weekend, Dana and Lori will be available to chat about the conference in person...possibly over a drink!
ACORN TV’s New Legal Drama JANET KING SERIES 1: THE ENEMY WITHIN
U.S. PREMIERE BEGINNING MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016
Australian actress Marta Dusseldorp (A Place to Call Home, Jack Irish opposite Guy Pearce) stars in the gripping, new legal drama Janet King, Series 1: The Enemy Within making its U.S. Premiere on Emmy®-nominated Acorn TV beginning Monday, March 14, 2016 with its first two episodes, followed by a new episode every Monday through April 25. The 8-part Australian series focuses on the life of Janet King, a senior crown prosecutor. Determined to prove she still has her edge, Janet returns from maternity leave to find her workplace even more demanding than when she left. She quickly becomes involved in a high-profile and controversial case, making several enemies throughout her search for the truth - enemies that will threaten her career, family, and ultimately her life. Janet King co-stars Vince Colosimo (The Great Gatsby, Jack Irish) as Chief Superintendent Jack Rizzoli and Aimee Pedersen as Janet’s life partner, Ashleigh Larsson. Available at Acorn.TV and on a variety of devices.
Today I welcome back Ken Wishnia, Editor of Jewish Noir. Kenneth Wishnia’s novels include 23 Shades of Black, which was
nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and an
Anthony for Best Paperback Original; Soft Money, and Red House. His short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen,
Alfred Hitchcock, Queens Noir, Long Island Noir, Send My Love and a
Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. The Fifth Servant
was an Indie Notable selection, a Best Jewish Book of the Year according
to the Association of Jewish Libraries, won a Premio Letterario
ADEI-WIZO (the Italian chapter of the Women’s International Zionist
Organization), and was a finalist for the Macavity Sue Feder Memorial Historical
Mystery Award. He teaches writing,
literature, and other deviant forms of thought at Suffolk Community
College on Long Island.
Kenneth Wishnia: Acidic Jews Or, Translating a “Jewish Noir” Story from 1912
The Israelites and their descendants have been prone to a noir outlook on life since ancient times. The voluminous folklore relating to the Jewish holiday of Passover even includes the following question and answer:
Why are hard-boiled eggs eaten on Passover?
They are a reminder of the Jewish people. The longer eggs are cooked in hot water or roasted on a fire, the harder they become. This is also true of Jews. (Goodman 401)
So according to tradition, Jews are as hardboiled as they come. This perspective served as the inspiration for the Jewish Noir anthology (PM Press).
I want to focus on one story in particular, Yente Serdatsky’s “A Simkhe” (A Celebration), which was first published in Yiddish in the Forverts (The Forward) in 1912, and has never been reprinted. This story is appearing in English for the first time in the Jewish Noir anthology, and it is a real honor to rekindle the voice of this long-neglected Yiddish writer.
The first challenge was finding a decent copy of the original text. I had to go to the main branch of the New York Public Library to locate and print out a poor photostat of an out-of-focus microfilm image of the original pages of the Forverts, which were already flaking and tearing when they shot the film. So I was working with a third generation text full of misprints, crumbling letters and words that just disappeared into the oblivion of the darkened gutter. At times it felt like I was decoding one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Another challenge I faced in translating the story is the language itself: Yiddish, even literary Yiddish, often exhibits qualities that typically characterize oral traditions, such as a frequent repetition of words that is generally avoided in modern American fiction. One example of this repetition comes when Serdatsky’s narrator describes how the principle female character in the story reacts to seeing old friends who no longer talk to her: “der blat in ire hend tut a tsiter” (the newspaper in her hand shakes). The word “tsiter” is used every time another person comes in, or five times in one paragraph. There is no exhaustive literary search for multiple ways of expressing this idea. I deleted some of the repetitions in the Yiddish elsewhere in the story, but left most of them in for the sake of fidelity to the original text. (Note: I have already received an email from one reader pointing out that the English translation uses “face” twice in the same sentence. Well, that’s how Serdatsky wrote it, folks.)
One important exception to this repetition is Serdatsky’s employment of three different words for “friend”: fraynd, bakanter and khaver/khaverte/khaveyrim. Irena Klepfisz has pointed out, using the feminine singular form, khaverte, for her example, that this word means either “friend” or “comrade” (Klepfisz 78), the latter implying commitment to the same political cause. However, Serdatsky’s two narrators in “A Simkhe” often seem to use these three terms interchangeably, although there is one clear instance where the distinction between them is used for sardonic effect:
Er hot a raykhen gesheft. Er borgt oys amol etlikhe
dollar tsu a khaver un er hot derfor a sakh “fraynd.”
He has a successful business. Sometimes he lends a few dollar to a friend [comrade] and now he’s got many
In order to preserve the cynical tone of the Yiddish, I chose to pair friend and “friends” in quotes, rather than shift from comrade (a more faithful translation) to “friends.”
Serdatsky’s personal life also followed a noirish trajectory. In the same way that discrimination against the Jews in the U.S. did not take the extremely violent form of pogroms and other mass killings as in the Old Country, but typically followed a more “genteel” pattern of social exclusion (Karp 16), American Jewish socialists “made a special point of supporting women’s suffrage,” and in the socialist press, “Women’s literature was both a symbol of modernity and a way of increasing circulation” (Fain Pratt 76-77). Yet a writer such as Yente Serdatsky was “excoriated for the thinness of her plots [and] the sameness of her characters” by male critics, and she stopped writing for several decades, the partial result of “living within a pattern of seeming acceptance combined with implicit exclusion” (ibid. 80; 88).
In the Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Encyclopedia of Modern Yiddish Literature), author Zalman Reisen is quoted describing Serdatsky as
a belle-lettrist with a truly writerly temperament,
who deals especially with the quiet tragedies of
woman, her longing for luck in love, her isolation,
the betrayed hopes of youth, etc. [Her writings] give expression to the voices of former party-members and their disappointments. (“Serdatsky” 505)
Norma Fain Pratt, feminist literary scholar and translator of Serdatsky’s short story, “Confession,” extends this idea further:
Her stories portrayed the fate of revolutionary Jewish women in the American environment. Isolated, left without ideals, often having sacrificed family life for the revolution, these women experienced mental depression, poverty and lonely deaths. The stories written in the 1908-1920 period reflect an unwillingness by the author to adjust to American life. Her central theme remained one of relentless estrangement. (Fain Pratt 80)
Sounds pretty noir to me.
Finally, renowned Yiddish poet Yankev Glatshteyn (Jacob Glatstein) wrote that Serdatsky’s stories dealt with
the first conscious awakening of experience and
disappointments of the Jewish woman. In America
we had several such specialized women writers,
such as Miriam Karpilov, Rokhl Luria. [She]
published several powerful things... and it would be
a very good thing if someone would honor her by
re-issuing Yente Serdatsky’s legacy; perhaps someone
could select a volume of her older and more recent stories and with them set up a monument to this angry
writer, who perhaps really quarreled mostly with
herself.* (“Serdatsky” 506)
I hope that I have contributed in some small way to this worthy enterprise.
*In a final swipe, Irena Klepfisz suggests that Glatshteyn’s closing comment conveys an indirect dismissal of Serdatsky’s feminism (Klepfisz 77). Don’t let this be the last word on Yente Serdatsky! Get a copy of Jewish Noir and strike a blow for feminism!
Fain Pratt, Norma. “Culture and Radical Politics: Yiddish
Women Writers, 1890-1940.” American Jewish History 70
Goodman, Philip. The Passover Anthology. Philadelphia:
Jewish Publication Society, 1993.
Karp, Abraham J. Golden Door to America: The Jewish
Immigrant Experience. New York: Penguin, 1977.
“Serdatsky, Yente.” Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher
literatur. Vol. 6. New York: Congress for Jewish
Jewish Noir is unique collection of all-new
stories by Jewish and non-Jewish literary and genre writers, including
numerous award-winning authors such as Marge Piercy, Harlan Ellison,
S.J. Rozan, Nancy Richler, Moe Prager Reed Farrel Coleman), Wendy
Hornsby, Charles Ardai, and Kenneth Wishnia. The stories explore such
issues as the Holocaust and its long-term effects on subsequent
generations, anti-Semitism in the mid- and late-20th century United
States, and the dark side of the Diaspora (e.g., the decline of
revolutionary fervor, the passing of generations, the Golden
Ghetto, etc.). The stories in this collection also include many
“teachable moments” about the history of prejudice, and the
contradictions of ethnic identity and assimilation into American
Downton Abbey fans, here's your chance to buy the Dowager Countess Lady Violet Crawley's Home. Byfleet Manor is now for sale.
The 17th century mansion has acted as a set on Downton Abbey for the past five years, and now that the series is coming to an end,
current owner Julie Hutton has put Byfleet Manor on the market for $6.1 million. The Dowager Countess may have referred to
her home as a "little cottage" on the show, but it's actually a
stunning 6,000 square-feet, featuring eight bedrooms and about 19 acres
of land in Surrey, England.
Ernest Hemingway and his cats. Today's Caturday post of a famous author and their cats is very close to me. Hemingway loved cats. And it's well known that he had many polydactyl (six-toed) cats. TheErnest Hemingway Home & Museumin Key West where he lived from 1931 to 1939 has maintained and cared for Hemingway's cat population. Many, many years ago, my sister and I visited the House where we were quite taken with the 6-toed cats--the 100s that seemed to fill up the house and grounds. No big surprise, we ended up leaving with one. No, not in our bag, but with the permission and encouragement of the caretakers. That is not the case today, so don't even ask. What Judie and I had not considered was that pets were not welcome at our vacation hotel on Islamorada. So we ended up having to drive to Miami to board the cat for the remainder of our vacation before we returned to California. Times were different. No homeland security. We took the cat on board the plane easily, and there was no muss, no fuss. F-Puss, the Hemingway cat, had a litter before she was spade, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were and are some of the Hemingway 6-toed cat descendents in and around Palo Alto.
Here are some more photos of Hemingway with his cats in Key West. People who abhor cats on tables, turn away now.
Umberto Eco was author of the Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, as well as being a major figure in philosophy and academia. He died tonight after a long battle with cancer.
Eco wrote The Name of the Rose, one of my favorite books. It's agothic murder mystery set in an Italian medieval monastery, and combines semiotics, biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory.
On February 23rd, William Morrow is releasing a special TV tie-in edition of Agatha Christie’s classic, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.
This special edition is tied to the Lifetime miniseries And Then There Were None, which premieres on Lifetime on Sunday March 13th and Monday March 14th at 9pm ET/PT.
The new Agatha Christie edition of And Then There Were None features a new cover with tie-in art from the miniseries, which is a co-production for BBC One and Lifetime.
The miniseries stars all your favorites!
Douglas Booth (Great Expectations, The Riot Club) Emmy Award nominee Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, The Imitation Game) Maeve Dermody (Black Water, Beautiful Kate) Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises, Torchwood)
Anna Maxwell Martin (The Bletchley Circle, Death Comes to Pemberley)
Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders, The Tudors)
Miranda Richardson (Mapp & Lucia, Parade's End) Toby Stephens (Black Sails, Jane Eyre)
Noah Taylor (Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones)
Aidan Turner (Poldark, The Hobbit Trilogy)
Celebrated American writer Harper Lee, best known for penning the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at the age of 89.
Lee was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, the youngest of four
children of lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee.
As a child, Lee attended elementary school and high school just a few
blocks from her house on Alabama Avenue. In a March 1964 interview, she
offered this capsule view of her childhood: "I was born in a little
town called Monroeville, Alabama, on April 28, 1926. I went to school in
the local grammar school, went to high school there, and then went to
the University of Alabama. That's about it, as far as education goes."
She moved to New York in 1949, where she worked as an airlines
reservations clerk while pursuing a writing career. Eight years later,
Lee submitted her manuscript for To Kill a Mockingbird to J.B.
Lippincott & Co., which asked her to rewrite it.
On July 11, 1960, Lee's novel was published by Lippincott with
critical and commercial success. The author won the Pulitzer Prize for
fiction the following year.
The film adaptation of the novel, with Mary Badham as Scout, opened on Christmas Day of 1962 and was an instant hit.
Harper Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, recovered and resumed her life
in the hometown where she spent many of her 89 years. A guardedly
private individual, Lee was respected and protected by residents of the
town that displays Mockingbird-themed murals and each year stages
theatrical productions of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Go Set a Watchman, the Sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, came out this past July. It also features Scout Finch, this time as an adult.
I love Library Bars. Check out this article in Paste. It starts with The Library Bar, L.A. and includes Bourbon and Branch, my local Library Bar. Do you have a favorite Library Bar that not's included? Have a favorite you want to go to? Comment below.
Be sure and check out this article for photos and locations.
The National Literacy Trust (NLT) and the Authors’ Licensing and
Collecting Society (ALCS) have launched an award in memory of Ruth
Rendell for champions of literacy. The prize is for an author or writer who has worked towards raising
literacy levels in the UK, either through their writing and books or
through their advocacy and championing of the cause of literacy.
Schools, charities, libraries, booksellers and individuals can nominate
candidates via the NLT website by the 31st May.
The winner will be chosen by a panel of industry judges, including
NLT director Jonathan Douglas and ALCS board member Jonathan Fryer. The award, which does not come with a monetary prize, will be then be
presented by Rendell’s son, Simon Rendell, at a ceremony at the House
of Commons in December as part of the All Party Parliamentary Writers
Group annual reception. Douglas said: “This brand new award celebrating the commitment of
authors to the literacy cause is a wonderful tribute to Ruth Rendell,
who was a much-loved author and a powerful advocate for literacy.” Rendell, who died last year at 85, was the bestselling author of murder mysteries, including the Inspector Wexford series.
If you're a PDF subscriber to Mystery Readers Journal for '15, you will have received download instructions. If you're a hardcopy subscriber, issues were sent two weeks ago. Contributor copies went out last week. Please let me know if your issue didn't arrive. To order this issue, go HERE. To subscribe to Mystery Readers Journal for '16, go HERE. Below is the Table of Contents, as well as some sample articles.
MYSTERY READERS JOURNAL: FORENSIC MYSTERIES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Forensic Fact meets Forensic Fiction by Lin Anderson
Forensics… More Than CSI by Lori Andrews
Flawed Forensics but Hopeful Outcomes by Noreen Ayres
Today I welcome Vaseem Khan, the author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, a surprising read for me, and one that I really enjoyed. Vaseem Khan is the author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, first in the Baby
Ganesh Detective Agency series set in India and featuring a baby
elephant! He first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road
in 1997 when he arrived in the city of Mumbai, India to work as a
management consultant. It was the most unusual sight he had ever
encountered and served as the inspiration behind his light-hearted crime
novels. Vaseem was born in London in 1973, went on to gain a Bachelors
degree in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics,
before spending a decade on the subcontinent helping one of India's
premier hotel groups establish a chain of five-star environmentally
friendly 'ecotels' around the country. He returned to the UK in 2006 and
has since worked at University College London for the Department of
Security and Crime Science. Elephants are third on his list of passions,
first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that
Vaseem Khan: A Crime-Solving Elephant – it makes perfect sense!
The first elephant I encountered in literature was named Uncle. Uncle wore a purple dressing gown, held a degree from Oxford, lived in a castle, and appeared in six wonderful books by J.P. Martin, written in the sixties. You could say this was where my love affair with elephants began. Add to this the decade I spent in India during my twenties and it was inevitable that my debut novel The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, would feature a baby elephant.
The novel follows Mumbai police inspector, Ashwin Chopra, forced into early retirement, but unable to let go of the final case of his career – the death of a poor local boy – whilst simultaneously faced with the outlandish dilemma of taking in an infant elephant named Ganesha sent to him by his enigmatic uncle.
Readers ask me why I chose an elephant as a sidekick for Chopra. Aside from the fact that I am passionate about these incredible creatures, there are many practical reasons why an elephant makes perfect sense as a crime fighter. Firstly, elephants are supremely intelligent, one of just a few animals classified as being ‘self-aware’. They also possess excellent memories, a trait that has been amply employed by many renowned fictional detectives – elephants really do not forget! Elephants are also known for their complex emotions. This emotional range is important to me – part of the charm of my series lies in the relationship that develops between the somewhat rigid Chopra, his exuberant wife Poppy, and the, at first, despondent elephant calf that has been sent into their care. There is also the fact that elephants and humans have worked together in many arenas – industry, the circus, pageantry, transport, and war. When you think about it, it’s not beyond reason that an elephant might partner with a private investigator!
With this series I take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India, where I spent ten incredible years at a time when she was transforming into the global powerhouse that she is today. Mumbai is one of the world’s great metropolises, often called ‘the city of dreams’. People come to Mumbai to make their fortune, to become famous on the sets of the world’s most prolific movie industry, to start micro-businesses in the city’s slums. But where there are dreams there are also nightmares, and Mumbai suffers from high rates of crime, as well as many other social problems. Like most Indian metropolises the city is facing a cultural onslaught from westernisation – which brings both good and bad, as I describe in my novel. The sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes of this modern India flesh out my canvas as Chopra and little Ganesha pursue an exotic gallery of villains over the course of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series.
The second installment is out soon and is called The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown – about the theft of the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond, first mined in India, now a part of the British Crown Jewels which, in my story, are being exhibited in Mumbai, where a daring heist takes place. Inevitably Chopra and little Ganesha are called in to investigate!
In the 17th century, espionage was more diverse than you might think.
Not only did female spies exist, they employed some of the
most fascinating techniques in their information gathering. Forthcoming research into female spies that operated in Europe and
England at the time shows that they utilized an ingenious arsenal of
tools, such as eggs and artichokes, to smuggle secrets ...
I'm very pleased to be part of the JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP BLOG TOUR. Amateur sleuth Jane Austen returns in Jane and the Waterloo Map, the thirteenth novel in Stephanie Barron’s delightful Regency-era mystery series.
Award winning author Stephanie Barron tours the blogosphere February 2 through February 22, 2016 to share her latest release, Jane and the Waterloo Map (Being a Jane Austen Mystery). Twenty book bloggers specializing in Austenesque fiction, Mystery, and Regency history will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts and book reviews from this highly anticipated novel in the acclaimed Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. There's also a fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of Barron’s book and other Jane Austen-themed items. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for the complete Blog Tour Schedule and Grand Giveaway Contest.
Jane and the Waterloo Map is the new novel in the bestselling Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron.
Inspired by the life of the famous English author, Jane Austen returns
as a clever, yet genteel, sleuth in this delightful thirteenth
installment of the bestselling Regency-era mystery series.
Barron was born in Binghampton, New York, the last of six girls. She
attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history,
before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She
wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since
then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver,
Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads. Her new novel is Jane and the Waterloo Map, the latest in the Jane Austen Mystery series.
Stephanie Barron: Jane Austen, Detective Novelist
Back in 1999, I gave at talk at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting that compared the structure of Emma to a detective novel.
For more than a decade, I was ignorant of the fact that the late, great British detective novelist, P. D. James, had already delivered a similar lecture to the UK Jane Austen Society in 1998. Entitled “Emma Considered as a Detective Story,” it noted that while Austen’s fourth novel can be viewed as a light-hearted romance about a self-absorbed young woman, Emma Woodhouse is unwittingly engaged in investigating and exposing a social crime at the heart of the book. Eligible and charming Frank Churchill, who should be flirting with Emma herself, has contracted a secret engagement with impoverished Jane Fairfax instead, against the expressed wishes of his adoptive parents. By suppressing the truth, and forcing Miss Fairfax to do the same, Frank descends into a series of impostures that deceive and betray the friends and family nearest to his heart. He wounds his beloved Jane to the point of self-martyrdom. Emma, the reader’s guide through these social labyrinths, is the original unreliable detective—she misinterprets the motives, actions, and desires of everyone about her with a destructive confidence that nearly ruins all their lives. The village of Highbury is turned on its head. Only when Frank’s “crime” is revealed and justice accorded to Jane Fairfax, is order restored in Emma Woodhouse’s small Eden.
Austen’s construction of the story is both subtle and ferociously clever. The perceptive reader finds clues that generally reveal themselves only upon a second journey through the book. (The anonymous delivery of a pianoforte to Miss Fairfax’s lodgings is a web of misdirection and misinterpretation.) Evidence is analyzed and false conclusions drawn. Witnesses offer testimonies that conflict and obscure the truth. Red herrings abound. And Emma, who blithely embarked on this elaborate investigation in the novel’s first pages, realizes almost too late that the most deceived and benighted person in Highbury is herself. Austen seems to be warning us that the greatest mystery we can penetrate—a word she often used--is the motivation of the human heart, which can destroy or construct as much happiness as it chooses.
One suspects that Dame P. D. continued to mull the parallels between Austen and murder fiction for years before she gave way to temptation and wrote her pastiche on both, Death Comes to Pemberley. She was an enthusiastic Janeite, and no doubt catalogued the deceptive characters in each of the novels—Willoughby and Wickham come to mind, but so too do Mr. Elliot, Henry Crawford, and Isabella Thorpe. Austen heroines are natural detectives, challenged continually to investigate appearances and divine the hidden truth, or risk the commission of errors that may lead to lifelong misery. This portrayal of the concealment and revelation of human motivation—the essence of passionate intrigue as well as crime—was Austen’s great talent. What Jane called penetration—perceptivity and empathic understanding—are critical to both writers and detectives. It is the crux of her endurance as an author: we return to her books because they persist in revealing us to ourselves.
But Jane’s penetration is also the reason I decided, two decades ago, to steal her life and voice for the main character in a series of detective novels.
I took up with Jane in 1802, when she was at a personal crossroad: she had just turned twenty-six; she had accepted and then hastily rejected an offer of marriage from a man she did not love. She chose personal truth over comfort, risk and possible want over economic security—and had she done otherwise, we would never have known her name. She would have become Mrs. Harris Bigg-Wither instead of Jane Austen, the mistress of a fine drawing room and park at Manydown House, but not of Fitzwilliam Darcy or Emma Woodhouse.
Over the years I have followed Jane around England, from Bath to Southampton, Chawton to Canterbury. We have grown old in each other’s company; one of us has raised two children. Thirteen novels later, we have reached the autumn of 1815 in Jane and the Waterloo Map.
Jane was staying with her brother Henry at his house in Hans Place, London, that November, partly because Henry was ailing and he was her favorite brother. He’d lost his wife a few years earlier, and now, as Jane celebrated her fortieth birthday, they were two middle-aged siblings supporting each other through the wretched autumn of 1815. Wellington had narrowly won the Battle of Waterloo six months before, at enormous human cost to both the Allied and the French forces, but as a result of Napoleon’s fall and the end of hostilities on the Continent and in America, tens of thousands of military men returned to England looking for jobs. The economy tanked. Henry Austen was a banker and a militia payroll agent. Runs on all three branches of his bank ruined him by the turn of the year, and he was declared a bankrupt.
Although she was concerned about Henry’s health and that of his bank, Jane was really in London for entirely personal reasons. She was proofing the typeset pages of Emma, which would be published by John Murray in late December or early January 1816.
Murray was taking a chance on Emma. He was accustomed to putting out books by sweeping British male authors—Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott being two horses in his stable. Jane’s previous book, Mansfield Park, hadn’t equaled her early success with Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice. And in a poor economy, people were less likely to spend their pence on books. From Jane’s letters during October and November 1815 we know Murray tried to take advantage of her—offering to buy Emma’s copyright only if she sold him the rights to her first and third books as well. She refused, retaining the rights to Emma, financing the book’s publication at her own expense, and according Murray a ten percent commission for his trouble. Unusual enough as a lady novelist, she had decided to invest in herself and become a woman of business as well.
Waterloo Map finds Jane visiting Carlton House, home of the Prince Regent, a man she despises. The Court Physician, Matthew Baillie, has been called in to treat Henry Austen, and has boasted of meeting his sister Jane. The Prince Regent is an admirer of Miss Austen’s novels, and orders his chaplain, James Stanier Clarke, to invite her to tour the palace. Apprehending that in this case an invitation is an order, Jane obliges Clarke, who shows her through Carlton House’s principal rooms. But as she enters the library, she practically stumbles over the body of a Hero of Waterloo....
Only I know, at this point in Jane’s story, that she has a bare eighteen months to live. Her fears for brother Henry ought better to have been kept for herself. I have no idea how many more adventures she and I will share before pain and illness close her eyes in 1817, but I relish the ones we have known thus far. She has taught me so much about penetration, that Jane—with her subtle and ferocious heart.
Grand Giveaway Contest:
Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes
In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map,
Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages
filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour that started on February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016.
Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016.
Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!