Friday, September 14, 2007
The mystery of Yorkshire
Where better than the United Kingdom to immerse yourself in mysteries? As part of the Smithsonian's Mystery Lover's England and Scotland tour, I'm doing just that -- getting quite the literary education while visiting some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere. Our base for now if the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate (North Yorkshire), a turn-of-the-century grand spa hotel.
Study leader Carol Kent, a former Georgetown University professor, has presented us with first-rate classes on gothic literature (think horror, the supernatural, a brooding atmosphere and the macabre) and how some modern authors "defang" the gothic by turning it on its head (authors Robert Barnard, Reginald Hill).
We've had some wonderful guest speakers as well -- authors Staurt Pawson, Ann Cleeves and Martin Edwards formed a panel on why the North of England is so hospitable to mysteries. For Cleeves, one explanation is that the south has become populated by wealthy newcomers who don't spend their time peeking out windows to see what their neighbors are doing. But in the north, there's more seclusion -- and more noisy neighbors. The landscape helps as well -- the moors and dales of Yorkshire have been inspiring writers since the Bronte sisters.
Cleeves and Martin have novels coming out soon -- watch for them! And if you aren't a Pawson fan yet, his Insp. Charlie Priest is one of the best characters today in detective fiction.