A general feeling of being under the weather evolved into a nasty cold last week. Combine that with me trying to finish an 18th century ball gown until October 22 and you have the reason for the no posting. I’ll try to do better, butI may post a little more sporadically until the gown is done. I hate deadlines and try not to have them, but I have only myself to blame.
I hope you don’t mind if I fall back into a book post today. I’m currently re-reading the books about my favourite sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey. Dorothy L. Sayers wrote a number of novels and short stories about him between 1923-1940 and if you want witty and smart crime novels in an Art Deco setting, then you should read this.
The books follow each other chronologically, but most can be read out of order, if one likes that. The exception is Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon and Striding Folly. Those stories also contain Lord Peter’s big love, Harriet Vane and you would spoil their story if you read them out of order. I enjoy reading all the books, but my favourites are Nine Tailors or Murder Must Advertise. My absolute favourite, however- actually one that is on my list for the best 10 books I have ever read, is Gaudy Night. In Gaudy Night most of the action take place with Lord Peter safely out of the country while Harriet Vane gets involved with a poison pen mystery in Oxford. The book is really about a woman’s proper place, and if you can have it all, both work and family, or if you have to forsake one of them. Just about every discussion in the book, as well as the mystery, is about that, with different viewpoints and arguments. The book was written in 1935, but a lot of it feels very modern even today. It’s also a very funny book as well as a very romantic one.
Lord Peter is described as rather Bertie Wooster like and usually plays the town dandy to conceal his intelligence. He also has, like Wooster, a perfect man servant called Bunter. There is also Lord Peter’s family, a number of friends that re-appear in several books and his best friend, a policeman called Parker. And of course, mystery writer Harriet Vane. The characters range from two-dimensional, especially in the first book, to evolve into something quite complex and interesting. Lord Peter himself suffers from shell shock from the World War I, something that reappears when he is stressed. Harriet Vane, who Lord Peter first meet when she is accused of murder, battle with her inferiority complex and the circumstances that makes it difficult for her to accept that Lord Peter really loves her. She is also passionately honest and objective, which often makes things difficult for her.
If you don’t feel up to read, then there are a few movie and TV adoptions. Please avoid Haunted Honeymoon from 1940 with Robert Montgomery. It’s a truly bad adaption and Sayers’ refused to allow it to be called Busman’s Honeymoon as it basically only have the names and bare bones of the plot in common with the book.
In the early 1970’s Ian Carmichael starred in Five Red Herrings, None Tailors, Clouds of Witness, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and Murder Must Advertise. They are not bad, though Carmichael and most of the cast are too old for their characters and the 70’s is very evident in costume and make-up.
In the late 80’s Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter starred in Strong Poison, Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night. The cast is excellent and the costumes beautiful, though the women’s hair are generally much fluffier than the it really was in the 1930’s- but the 80’s were all about big hair. The first two are also very good adoptions of the book, but Gaudy Night has been stripped of everything but the basic plot and suffers from it.
(Personally I have always visualised the young Peter O'Toole as Lord Peter)
The books in chronological order
Whose Body? (1923)
Clouds of Witness (1926)
Unnatural Death (1927)
Lord Peter Views the Body (1928) Short stories
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
Strong Poison (1931)
Five Red Herrings (1931)
Have His Carcase (1932)
Murder Must Advertise (1933)
Hangman's Holiday (1933) Short stories
The Nine Tailors (1934)
Gaudy Night (1935)
Busman's Honeymoon (1937)
In the Teeth of the Evidence (1939) Short stories
Striding Folly (1972) Short stories