Monday, October 8, 2012

New Mystery Line Overtaken by Wimsey

From Tulsa World: Harper Collins is launching Bourbon Street Books, the publishing house's new imprint for mysteries, by reissuing four classic novels by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Sayers created the amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey, and the four novels in the Bourbon Street Books reissues are those that trace Wimsey's romance with Harriet Vane, a mystery writer accused on murdering her fiance in the novel "Strong Poison."

The other books include "Have His Carcase," in which Harriet - seeking to escape the notoriety of her trial - happens upon the body of a murdered man on a beach; "Gaudy Night," in which Harriet and Wimsey join forces to solve a series of bizarre incidents during a reunion at Oxford; and "Busman's Honeymoon," where the couple's early days as husband and wife start out with a body in the cellar of their honeymoon cottage.

Each volume has an introduction by Elizabeth George, best-selling author of the Inspector Lyndley mysteries.

George writes that her introduction to the character of Wimsey was through the "Masterpiece Theatre" adaptations of Sayers' novels that starred Ian Carmichael in the 1970s. (The first three novels that feature Wimsey and Vane were adapted for PBS' "Mystery!" series, with Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter, in 1987.)

But, she writes, "I quickly became swept up in everything about him, from his foppish use of language to his family relations ... in Dorothy L. Sayers' novels, I found the sort of main character I love when I read fiction: someone with a 'real' life, someone who isn't just a hero who conveniently has no relations to mess up the workings of the novelist's plot."

Sayers, who was one of the first women to earn a degree from Oxford University, wrote a wide range of works, from plays (many of which dealt with religious themes) to essays to a translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" that Sayers considered her best work.

But her literary reputation rests on the 11 novels and several short stories featuring Wimsey, which were praised for bringing a greater richness of character and background to the traditional British detective novel.

The Bourbon Street Books imprint will offer trade paperback editions, priced at $14.99 each, and will include contemporary titles, such as Oliver Harris' thriller "The Hollow Man" and the latest in Lynda LaPlante's series about Anna Travis, "Blood Line."

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