Laurie King is the author of multiple books in mystery genre, like Mary Russell series, Kate Martinelli series and some stand-alone books. She is currently promoting her latest book in Mary Russell (and Sherlock Holmes) series, The Language of Bees .
I am a pretty late entrant to Mary Russell series (the first book was published in 1994), having just finished the first two books (yes, yes, the reviews will be up shortly). And only my strong reader’s ethics have kept me from jumping ahead and grabbing the book from my library. Given that it is placed right in front of entrance, I am not sure how long this state of affairs will continue.
But back to the actual subject of this post:
So, the afternoon started with Ms. King describing the premise of the books in short. Mary Russell is a young woman, who stumbles into an old man on a walk in the Sussex downs. That fortunate meeting gives her a companion, and a family, while Sherlock Holmes gets a protégé, a sharp mind rivalling his own, and a partner in life.
The introduction was followed by a short reading of The Language of Bees, followed by question and answer session. Ms. King answered various questions regarding her impressions of the original series (she loves the stories), the reaction she got from Sherlockians (they quieted down when they saw her respect for original series and the author), her other series and novels (and how she would like to consider taking some characters from those into trilogies). The other questions included:
- On the research that goes into each book: the first draft does not contain any specific details, but has annotations “ask somebody…”. Those are added in later drafts.
- On Mary Russell’s character: Mary is half-American because she had to be an outsider to London scene. She is a theologian, because that is one more point of arguments for her and Holmes. Otherwise, Mary and Holmes are “birds of same feather”, except perhaps her feminism, and his interest in bees. Except for minor characters, most characters are not given certain inclinations, but they end up like that for the story purposes.
- On the dialog style: Holmes and Mary (given the era and their age difference) would have more formality than normal couples. Plus, the books are written as an 80-year old woman’s recollections of her life.
- On Watson and Mycroft: Given Watson and Holmes’ relationship, it is hard to put a third character, and achieve a balance. Which is why Watson has so little role (or is absent) in many books. As for Mycroft, he is very “useful” for any and all purposes.
- On clues and “to be continued”s in a series: The clues are useful when they are elaborated later. But they are also inconvenient, when the storyline changes and the threads cannot be tied up. That is why the book ends on a “to be continued” (to avoid people calling up saying there are some unresolved threads).
I do have the recording of her reading, and I can put it up if you want (do tell me where I can upload mp3s free).
Do check out if Ms. King is coming to your town on her tour. It will be a great experience, believe me.
Quote of The Day:
Either my friend and mentor was quite mad, a man willing to go to considerable difficulty and expense to satisfy a bizarre and romantic fantasy of paranoia, or else the life of my rustic beekeeping companion with the odd skills was extraordinarily more demanding, even dangerous, than I had fully realised.
Somehow I could not think him mad.
– Mary Russell, The Beekeeper’s Assistant