Tag Archives: Dorothy L. Sayers

Friday Faceoff – Halfway up the stairs isn’t up and isn’t down…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring stairs, so I’ve selected Murder Must Advertise – Book 10 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers.

 

This cover, produced by HarperTorch in May 1995, is boringly generic. They have taken one of the original images and plonked it into the middle of a white cover. The best part of this cover is the period feel of the font, which is well done.

 

This edition was produced by Four Square Books in 1962 and is a far better effort. There is a real sense of drama conveyed by the crumpled body at the bottom of the twisting staircase with all the advertisements behind him on the wall. My big quibble with this cover is that ugly black block for the title font – if it wasn’t for that, this one would be my favourite.

 

Published in 1967 by Avon Books, this edition is my favourite. I love the marble effect of the cover and the lovely art deco effect produced on both the image and the fonts for the author and title, which look as if they have actually been designed to complement each other.

 

This edition, published by HarperPerennial in 1993 is another good effort. The staircase looks far more seedy and shadow of the hapless victim on the wall while falling to his death gives a rather creepy feel to the cover.

 

This Dutch edition, produced by Uitgeverij Het Spectrum is another blast from the past as it was produced in 1961. I like the punchy effect of the cream and black against the red, which I think would have been a much stronger colour before it faded with age. The figure falling headfirst down the stairs gives lots of drama to the cover, making it appealing and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

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Friday Faceoff – Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a potion or perfume bottle, so I’ve stretched the idea of a potion a little further and selected Strong Poison – Book 6 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers.

 

This cover, produced by HarperCollins Publishers in October 1987, is boring given the fabulous premise and what is at stake in this stunning book. Wimsey’s unexpected burst of passion for a desperate woman fighting for her life doesn’t remotely factor into this vanilla cover. There’s nothing innately wrong with it, other than its complete lack of excitement or connection with the gripping content.

 

This edition was produced by Open Road Media in July 2012 and looks as if it took all of 10 minutes using an off-the-shelf graphics program. This book deserves better.

 

Published in March 1995 by HarperTorch, this cover is deliberately harking back to the 1930s when this book first appeared. The large title font and relatively small area given over to the artwork may not be to my taste, but I can at least respect the care and attention that has gone into the drawing, which takes three crucial scenes from the book and illustrates them.

 

This HarperCollins offering, published in 1993, ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I love the punchy colours and strong art deco feel, along with the detailed depiction of the crucial medium scene in the book. This is my favourite – I even like the black edging, which is unusual for me. But this time around, it has the period styling and small details that turn it into part of the cover rather than a blank interruption of the artwork that so many of these solid blocks of colour and bordering tend to do.

 

Produced in October 2009, this pink and grey effort by Hodder & Stoughton will certainly draw the eye and is clearly designed to work as a thumbnail. The imagery is stark and crude in comparison to some of the earlier efforts and the colour garish, but I suppose it grabs the attention. However, it doesn’t do the book justice in my opinion. Which is your favourite?

ANNDDD…

Chuckles at Chuckles Book Cave is promoting both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space

ANNDDD…

Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang are featuring an except from Dying for Space

My Top Ten Literary Heroes

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In the interests of gender equality, I felt that I should write an article featuring my top ten literary heroes, after publishing the blog ‘My Top Ten Literary Heroines’ here. In no particular order, here they are…

1. Rincewind from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchettthelightfantastic
The timid wizard who finds himself in the middle of adventures despite himself. I love his aversion to any form of risk – a confirmed coward myself, I’ve always found the lantern-jawed sort of hero rather offputting. I also hugely envy Rincewind his Luggage, a chest made of sapient pearwood that will swallow any amount of clothing – along with particularly aggressive characters Rincewood regularly encounters on his travels.

thegobetween2. Leo Colston from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
I first read this book as a teenager, cried at the end – and it somehow wormed its way under my skin and never really left me. Leo’s bitter-sweet recollection of a particular summer holiday that altered his life when he was thirteen leaps off the page and deserves to be far better known for more than its marvellous opening sentence.

peterpan

3. Peter Pan from the play by J.M. Barrie

I fell hook, line and sinker for the beautiful, cocky little boy when I read the story of the play aged eight. And at intervals in my life, there have been other adorable, cocky little boys full of vinegar and spirit, who light up my existence…

4. Miles Vorkosigan from the series by Lois McMaster Bujoldmemory
Miles is a remarkable creation – chockful of testosterone and driven with a desire to prove himself in a series of wonderful science fiction, space opera adventures. He would be unbearable if he wasn’t also battling the congenital defects that he has to deal with due to an attack on him before he was born. As it is, his foolhardy bravery is awesome and admirable.

5. Lord Peter Wimsey from the series by Dorothy L. Sayersbusman'shoneymoon
Forget about Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot – the detective I’ve always loved is the shell-shocked, younger son of a noble family. He often affects the idiot, while being in possession of a keen intellect and a drive to see justice done. Dorothy Sayers confessed that she was in love with Wimsey – and I can see why.

6. Claudius from I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves
IClaudiusAgain, a series I read as a teenager and fell in love with this complicated, damaged man who manages to survive by sheltering behind his physical disabilities most of his life. Derek Jacobi managed to bring a marvellous incarnation of the character to life in the acclaimed TV series.

7. Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfussthenameofthewind
Rothfuss took the Fantasy genre by the scruff of the neck and gave it a very good shake in The Name of the Wind. I love the character in all his driven complexity and secrecy – and am very much looking forward to reading The Doors of Stone when it comes out.

farfromthemaddingcrowd8. Gabriel Oak from Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
He has always been my ideal male – brave, physically strong, with an inbuilt instinct for doing the right thing and loyal right down his marrow… Bathsheba Everdeen is an idiot for refusing to marry him the first time around and I just hope she pulls herself together and is the wife he deserves.

wolfhall9. Thomas Cromwell from Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Henry VIII’s bullying fixer is so much more in this remarkable portrayal. I love the way Mantel’s writing manages to get right inside the character – a man of extreme contradictions, but fascinating, driven, formidably intelligent and physically energetic… Yep. I’m smitten.

themartian10. Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir
Did I mention that I was an inveterate coward? The one exception is that I’ve always longed to go into Space – indeed, as a little girl I was firmly convinced that I’d end up there. I picked up this book, hoping it would be a story of brave derring-do survival and I wasn’t disappointed. And yes… as a girl I read Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson and spent hours playing versions of being castaway on a desert island…

Those are my offerings. The near misses include Hagrid from the Harry Potter series – I’ve always loved Hagrid’s sheer stubborn good-heartedness and his bluff inability to keep secrets. If only perfidious Dumbledore had half of Hagrid’s intrinsic integrity… Shakespeare’s Macbeth – yes, I know he turns into a murdering monster. But at the start of the play he’s a brave warrior in love with his wife who wants to do the right thing. For me, he has always epitomised the doomed anti-hero who could have been someone even more extraordinary, if only events and the people closest to him hadn’t stacked up against him. Hiccup from the How To Train Your Dragon series. No, not the magnolia hero of the animated film series – but the skinny, unsure and permanently anxious version Cressida Cowell brings to life in her outstanding humorous adventure series. Cade Silversun from Melanie Rawn’s intriguing and original Glass Thorns series about a magical theatre troupe. In addition to writing their plays, Cade is afflicted with prescient visions – and is one of the most interesting, layered characters in modern fantasy. Matthew Shardlake from C.J. Sansom’s Tudor crime series. A spinal abnormality has prevented Matthew inheriting the family farm, so he travels to London to seek his fortune practising the law and gets embroiled in a number of murder mysteries.

So that’s a roundup of my top literary heroes to date. Who are yours? I’d love to hear who are your favourites and why…

Review of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

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When I was younger, I was completely besotted by Lord Peter Wimsey. I burned through all the books and then reread them –  always a rare event for me. There are far too many good books out there in the world to waste time revisiting ones I’ve already sampled. Besides – what if the next time around, I find that the whole experience is less exciting or enjoyable? Then I’ve ruined both reading episodes… But when Himself reread this book as a treat after a particularly gruelling spell at work – I scooped it up afterwards and tucked in, convinced that Sayers is a writer of such quality, I wouldn’t regret revisiting this desperate adventure.

Can Lord Peter Wimsey prove that Harriet Vane is not guilty of murder – or find the real poisoner in time to save her from the strong poisongallows? Impossible, it seems. The Crown’s case is watertight. The police are adamant that the right person is on trial. The judge’s summing up is also clear. Harriet Vane is guilty of killing her lover. And Harriet Vane shall hang. But the jury disagrees…

And THAT is how a book blurb should read, people! We have a clear idea of exactly what the first set of problems besetting Lord Peter will be in punchy, concise language, so the reader can decide whether they like the book, or not without having at least the first half of the main plot points blurted out on the back cover.

The quality doesn’t end there. This is a joy to read. I loved the drama and Lord Peter’s reaction. I loved all the characters peopling the story and the final section, purportedly by Peter’s uncle, is just outstanding. The prose stands up very well, because Sayers doesn’t see fit to layer her book in swathes of heavy description using every multi-syllabic word she can cram onto the page. Like all great writers, she has an inborn instinct about what needs to be said and the best way to say it. Of course, this was written in the days when anyone found guilty of murder was hanged, so there is real tension in this story, as Lord Peter battles to clear Harriet’s name. It is – literally – a matter of life and death.

What I’d forgotten from my first reading, was just how much humour is also woven into the tale. I giggled aloud at some of Lord Peter’s drier comments – and the séance scene is not only gripping, but regularly tips into outright farce. As for the scenes between Lord Peter and Harriet – they crackle with intensity and this granny – who regularly rolls her eyes at the noisy snogging sessions in films – still found her heart beating faster at Lord Peter’s passionate championing of Harriet.

It is a gem of a book. Truly. As is the whole series. And if you haven’t read them, and you have ever enjoyed a crime novel, then track down Lord Peter Wimsey’s adventures. You’ll thank me if you do.
10/10