Meet The Monarchs
This week, I give you the penultimate episode in the video series, Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction. After the Four Queens of Cozy, now come the Monarchs of Fabulous Foreigner Sleuthery. Who are they? How many are there?
I’ve done my research and looked at lists of top 10, 20, and 30 best sellers now and of all time, in general and mystery. Foreign detectives, whose first language is other than English in books written in English, are as scarce as hen’s teeth. In fact, among the fiction genres ‘bests’, foreign leading characters with an accent or dialect are surprisingly thin on the ground.
So this video homes in on the Golden Age of Cozy Mystery to find just …. Well, you’ll see. And here it is … The List:
Class Act Classics to Follow
As an author, you can opt out all together and just say that so-and-so had a particular accent. However, suppose you want to add that little bit of extra texture to the reading experience. What other precedents are there for using accents and dialects? Here they come, and what pedigree!
Among the top US classics, John Steinbeck does it in The Grapes of Wrath. Harper Lee does it in To Kill a Mockingbird, so does Mark Twain, Herman Melville in Moby Dick, and Ralph Ellison in The Invisible Man. Among the Brits, our very own Charles Dickens and Emily Brontë are just two examples.
As you see, if you choose to go their route, you’re in the best of company. So you’re all geared up to do it, too. Next week, we round up the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series with a how-to of portraying accents and dialects in novels. And we shall be exploring the whole knotty subject of ‘foreign’ in our year of our century, and what this means for authors and readers.
This Week’s Puzzle!
This took quite a few goes, but finally, suddenly, I knew I had found my … but that would be telling.
Once you’ve assembled the jigsaw and made your best guess as the the identity of the character depicted, you can check here in the new Character Biographies page.
Otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Night, which gives us the distinction of being the only country in the world that celebrates an act of terrorism, or its failure, depending on your point of view. Today marks the 417th year since the gentleman named above led a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. So we light fires and let off fireworks to show where old Guy went wrong with his gunpowder, drink punch (yes, indeed, not tea, although that’s optional) and get rid of garden waste, all on the same jolly evening. As you read this, my friend and furniture restoration mentor Tony and I, will be enjoying the huge haul of fireworks he has assembled.
Food for Fireworks Night, and Thought ….
Our traditional (Tony’s, mine and the neighbours who usually gather for this delightful evening) post-display fare is chilli con carne, veering from the customary jacket potatoes and toffee apples. In 1605, alas, this Brits’ favourite Tex-Mex dish had not yet arrived on these shores, which, no doubt, added to Mr Fawkes’ dissatisfaction with the state of the nation.
Now, the new sequel takes place over November so the burning question (pun not intended) is, will there be fireworks? This thought has only just occurred to me. It would be rather fun to include it. What is your vote? Regardless of the outcome, this special event is referenced in Amanda Cadabra and The Flawless Plan, so if you’re in the mood for some cozy mystery Autumn fare before the new release arrives, you can find it here.
Dispatches from the Author AI Front
My Letter to you would not be complete without a report on this week’s Trial By Graphics. In the video, as you see, I wanted an image to evoke ‘cozy mystery.’ So I offered MJ, as I have christened the Midjourney AI bot, the following prompt: the golden age of cozy mystery fiction. Mysterious atmosphere but with a hint of fun. Slightly smiling woman …. Yes, I see, well, the spirit is right. An art deco feel, architecture and period glam lady. But an outdoor table with a lone teapot on it next to a burning sundial? Offering number 2. Beautiful evening dress but not usually worn with a trilby, MJ. And why is she holding a saucer with a teacup attached to its base? That’s not the usual way up. No, really, it isn’t. And as for offering number 3, I don’t think a woman in a day dress would be reading at night outdoors while her charming vintage car was on fire. Do you? The final and fourth: the outfit looks right, but not sure about her proportions.
The first image seemed the most promising if I could replace the strange cup and saucer with, say … a glass of champagne and replace the hat with a stylish coiffure. Bear in mind that MJ, like your average 2-year-old, does not understand the words ‘no’ and ‘not’. I burrow back into the fray with added, positive, suggestions. Sigh. No, MJ, just one glass, held in one hand with just five fingers, and the stem attached to the base, and no, customarily in humans, there is only one forearm attached to an upper arm. I try again, specifying ‘one glass of champagne.’ Ah, if only the vaguely correct glass hadn’t been held upside down.
Clearly, I should drop the whole glass thing. What else could a woman in a cozy mystery be holding? Got it! A notebook. Here we go. Two rounds later and the closest attempt looks like a cross between a mini-jotter and a cosmetics compact. I have to do a Photoshop job on the hair but … we got there!
I did try Dall-E 3 with the same inspiration and it had the right idea, but was rather heavy on the alcohol, pipes, clocks and men in hats, one of whom appeared to be diligently filing his revolver. No doubt, it takes all sorts. You can only imagine what the pair of them did with ‘a plate with a jacket potatoes on it, another plate with toffee apples on it, and another plate with chilli con carne on it.’ Suffice to say that neither knows what a toffee apple is.
Sequel Update and Coming Up …
More plot for the new cozy mystery in the series, temporarily entitled ‘Book 9’ has come to me, thanks to one dark and stormy night when I was driving and …. Well, that’s a behind-the-scenes titbit that I shall share with you in the fullness of time. The word count is climbing towards a significant landmark.
Next week. The Fabulous Foreigners finale, a new puzzle and more sequel news.
Happy Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night or an Especially Cosy Week,