Febrero Q&A II

Enough questions for February, save your others for next time.

Q: WDI says, I’m curious about what draws you to the 1920’s/WWI era. You’ve explored it, one way or another, in both the Russell books and in Folly, and of course it’s the setting for Touchstone. On a related note, either I’ve become more sensitive to its appearance, or more authors are turning to that time period for their books. Aside from Anne Perry, I’ve recently run across 3 other mystery writers whose series are set in that period. Do you see a similar convergence and, if so, do you have any thoughts on why that era is capturing the imagination these days?

Tangentially, I’m hoping that reading more about it will help give me a sense of connection with my paternal grandfather, who was one of the last doughboys to go to Europe from the U.S. I only met him a scant handful of times as a child and never really knew him except for snippets . .

A: Yeah, well, I was at the Front first.

Except of course, I wasn’t, the Great War has been a rich source for fiction in Britain for decades. My own interest in the period came front-to-back, since the time of Holmes’ retirement couldn’t be moved back before August, 1914. (as given in Conan Doyle’s “His Last Bow”)—I talk a little about this in the web site’s a href=http://oldsite.laurierking.com/mary_russells_world.php>Mary Russell’s World page, the England’s Teens and Twenties essay. But the question points out that I ought to have a separate page on the Great War itself, so next renovation of the site, I’ll add that.

As I began to research into the Great War and the years that followed, I found that it resonated with someone who had grown up during the Vietnam war: the sense that the war was eating a generation of young men, the enormous social changes that came under its influence, the apparent impossibility of a clean victory, the horrific effects technology had on the human body.

The Great War was the first war to be dominated not by swords and flying pieces of metal, but by technology, turned full bore against humans: Exploding artillery and machine guns, tanks and poison gas, bombs raining down on civilians and rising from a featureless sea. You look back at the photographs of the Front and you see not soldiers, but boys, and the heartbreak and tragedy and lump-in-the-throat heroism comes clearly into focus.

And the Twenties? An earlier version of the Sixties, up to and including short dresses on skinny girls.

About your grandfather—you probably know about the Doughboy Center?

Q: Roxanne asked, does one have to belong to the Mystery Writers of America to attend any of the Edgar events?

A: The only thing not open to the general public is the Agents and Editors party on Wednesday night. But if you want to join MWA and aren’t a published writer, you can always sign on as an affiliate member—details are on the membership section of the MWA web site.

And I’m told that the full posting about Edgars week will be on the MWA site next week, including how you register for the Wednesday symposium (where LRK will be talking on some as-yet unknown topic) and the dinner itself.

Q: Kathy asks, Speaking of gay detectives. Is the going to be a book about Kate and Lee that describes the process of getting pregnant, selling their house and Nora’s birth, etc.. I feel that I missed seven years.

A: You did miss seven years, or several anyway, sorry about that. And for the same reason I probably won’t be writing about the first years of the Russell/Holmes marriage, I probably won’t go into greater detail about the domesticity of Kate, unless it connects with a story after The Art of Detection. As Dorothy Sayers found when she wrote her last Wimsey novel, it’s difficult not to create what she ruefully called a love story with detecting intervals. It’s a hazard in a series, that you find yourself writing about the daily lives of the people and skipping over the mystery.

Maybe we need a new genre, post-crime novels, that continues the lives of the people in a series without having to bother with a new crime each time?

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