Newsletter – 3rd May 2000

Greetings from a surprisingly warm and sunny Edinburgh. Very odd weather patterns just now – we had three inches of rain in 24 hours a few days ago and there was a lot of flooding, then suddenly we’re into a heatwave. Apparently in Norway, just over the North Sea, it was 28 degrees C the other day as against a normal temperature of 8 at this time of year.

This newsletter should have been ready a few weeks ago, but as some of you are aware, my mum had a severe stroke at the beginning of April so my time has been rather restricted. I’d like to thank everyone who has been in touch offering advice or sympathy – this has been a great source of comfort at a difficult time. Please excuse me if I don’t manage to reply to everyone in person.
I’m glad to say that mum has been making some progress in the last few days and seems to understand more of what we say to her and tries to respond. Yesterday was her 75th birthday and she seemed to enjoy the flowers and presents dad and I took in.


Everything seems on course for Gemini to be published in the UK on the 1st June as planned. I haven’t yet had a definite date for when we can get our copies delivered for Dorothy to sign but hope to find out in the next week. We now have 775 advance orders!! Naturally this is going to take a while for Dorothy to sign and for us to package and process, but rest assured that as in previous years we’ll get through them as fast as possible.

The press launch won’t be till a couple of weeks later as there is likely to be a launch event here in Edinburgh to commemorate the achievement of completing such a mammoth series. As the head of Michael Joseph is going to be in the US on business at the date of publication, and wants to attend the event, the press launch is thus a little later than usual.

I don’t yet have details of the author talks and signings that will be taking place after Gemini is out – they haven’t been fixed yet but it’s likely that there will be one here with us in Edinburgh, and one each in Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. I’ll post details when they are available.

In case any of you haven’t yet seen it, I added the Gemini cover to the web site a few weeks ago. I’m not allowed to give you the blurb but I think I can tell you that the castle in the picture is Craigmillar Castle just south of Edinburgh.

Dorothy hasn’t told me anything about what’s in it as she doesn’t want to spoil it for me. I have spoken to someone who has read the manuscript and described it as absolutely wonderful. There are apparently lots of loose ends tied up but one or two left for us to argue about – but then you didn’t expect it any other way did you?

Dorothy’s Australian Visit

In March Dorothy spent some time in Australia visiting Adelaide for the Writer’s Week where she had both a solo talk and took part in a panel session with Melvyn Bragg, Roger McDonald and Hilary Mantel. This was followed by a number of promotional events in places such as the Mosman Library in New South Wales. All the appearances were a great success, frequently going well beyond their planned times, and quite a lot of our net connected Australian contingent were able to see and speak to her.

Events in the UK

Dorothy took part in a “Meet the Author” event at Duff House in Banff in February, hosted by Charles Burnett – Ross Herald who some readers will have heard speak on heraldry.

She also spoke to the Friends of Dunkeld Cathedral in that lovely Perthshire town on 12th April. She tells me that attendance was double the normal figure and she spoke on some of her King Hereafter research that was relevant to the Cathedral – specifically the detective work which was required to isolate King Duncan’s father, the Crinan Abbott of Dunkeld. A copy of her notes has been placed in the Cathedral archives.

She will once again be taking part in the Edinburgh Book Festival – on the 23rd August. More details as they appear.

On the 6th and 7th of September Dorothy will be speaking at Greywalls Hotel in Gullane – quite close to the famous Muirfield golf course, a venue she has appeared at on a number of occasions before. Greywalls House is a splendid building designed by the famous architect Sir Edward Lutyens at the beginning of the 20th century, and offers a more relaxed and informal atmosphere than can sometimes be the case at author events. Tickets are £30.00 including lunch. They have a website for further information, ( and suggest that readers who wish to meet up may find the 7th the best day for this though they will be welcome on either date.

There a couple of events taking place during the Edinburgh Festival which might be of interest to early music fans. The first takes place at the beautiful Roslin Chapel (which is mentioned in the Dunnett Places to Visit page) on Monday 14th August and is devoted to the music of Bruno of Toul. Devotees of King Hereafter will know that Bruno of Toul was the name of Pope Leo IX who was visited in Rome by Macbeth There is a special bus from Edinburgh to the chapel. Tickets are likely to be in short supply as the chapel is quite small, and you will need to contact the Festival organisers.
The second takes place on the 18th August in Trinity Apse, which although now moved to the High Street and much smaller than it was previously, was featured in a number of the Niccolo series. The music being performed there is of the French court in the 13th century.

Additions to the web pages

I’ve added two new sections to the Dunnett pages:

Background Reading
contains a list of books that some of you may find useful for further reading on the history of the periods that Dorothy’s books are set in. It’s currently mostly Scottish books but I hope to add anything that is available on European history shortly. Any suggestions are very welcome.

Scottish Links
is a page derived from my own links pages (I have a series of interlinked pages that I use as my home page instead of going to someone else’s portal) and contains links that I hope will be of interest and some of which will be especially useful if you are coming to the Edinburgh Gathering.


More “Answers from Dorothy”

The Answers page was getting rather large so I’ve split it into five sections – New Answers, General, Lymond, Niccolo and King Hereafter.
Here are some new items.


Q. The Dossiers – Who wrote them?
Two extra “Dossiers” were produced with a series of Medici messages and a section written as if from “the Greek with the Wooden Leg”. Did
DD (a) write the “Dossiers” or (b) approve the material contained therein?

A. “Now there’s an ominous question. Both the Dossiers were written by me, at the suggestion of the publisher, who was concerned about the best way of introducing new readers to what was going to be a long series. I make sure, when I’m writing, that it is possible to pick up the threads of past books, but a summary can make it simpler, and I volunteered to write something that might seem a bit jollier than a straight resume. One Dossier was attributed to a mysterious outsider who was going to appear in most of the books, and the other derived from a superb pile of extant Medici correspondence from which I could fake an exchange of letters that would convey what I wanted. I haven’t looked at then since I wrote them but it sounds as if they have turned out to be non-se (or serially correct) in some instance? Do say!”

Dame de Doubtance

Q. I’ve never been comfortable with the thought of Lymond being a ‘believer’ in the Dame’s schemes and prophecies. Someone recently suggested that his identifying her with Camilla of the Volscians was a process of distancing himself from her – putting his free will against her playing ‘fate’.
(my comment): This question seems to come from the fact that some people interpret the final scene in Checkmate as Francis and Phillippa, kneeling on the prayer-stool, putting themselves in the hands of the D de D while others see them as having shaken off her influence and saying they are going to do things their own way. Those who think the former are often uneasy with the idea and look for things to suggest that it might not be so. The Camilla of the Volscians idea is one of these.

A. “The Dame (emphatically, by the way, not my alter ego. No wig and the only livestock I ever kept was a budgie) was called Camille, and the Volscian was no more than a baroque image that seemed to fit her grotesque/eccentric character, and lent itself to later associations. I don’t want to pre-empt the last book, but thinking people do hit on various ways of trying to shape the future for the better, and practical and spiritual influences both play a part. If it helps, the most important words spoken to the Dame de Doubtance on the last page of Checkmate are simply, ‘We are here’.”

Female Wanderings Without Chaperones

Q. There have been a couple of interesting threads about the unchaperoned and servantless travels of some of DD’s women – Kathi in Edinburgh and Gelis in Africa, to mention two. Can DD enlighten us about this? Like others, I thought that all women of good breeding were kept pretty close at hand.

A. “Happily, the system worked on about seven different levels so there’s a get-out clause from almost everything which is just as well, because I probably forgot or got fed up with chaperones more than once and just left them out of the scene The ideal, operated in the upper echelons of the most highly developed social enclaves (the Italian city-states and all wealthy courts) required unmarried maidens to be escorted by well-bred female companions. A lot of them would be in convents anyway, or being trained in superior households. In big working towns like Bruges and Edinburgh and York, they probably battled about quite cheerfully with members of their own household – a maidservant to carry things and a groom if required. Once you strayed into the unknown, like Africa, all bets were off because you had to be crazy to go anyway and any chaperone you dragged with you would likely desert or die. So it depended where you were, and also who you were. Poor little Portuguese demoiselle from a lower-middle drawer disappearing on her own for an afternoon might find her marriage hopes wrecked, but the rich and the powerful and the well-born could get away with bastards, lovers and murder, and frequently did.”

“Married ladies of a certain status were also expected to be accompanied, and you would find this with people like Alessandra Strozzi in Florence. But I doubt if the Duchess Eleanor in the Tyrol paid much attention to escorts for the sake or propriety, and in business settings, again, some of the wealthiest and most active merchants were married women and widows, who would use their household staff for practical purposes but would generally have the freedom of men. The 15th century is a long way off the 18th century, and it had its (rather endearing) rough side.”

Art Training

Q. I’d be interested to know if Dorothy attended art college and if so which one, or if she was self-taught in painting.

A. “Art was one of my Higher Leaving Certificate passes at school (Higher English, Latin, French, Maths, Art and – Lower History). Enrolled, with portfolio, at evening and book illustration classes at Edinburgh College of Art; transferred on marriage to Glasgow School of Art (wonderful Rennie Mackintosh building) for same evening subjects; signed on for new portrait-painting class which hit the button, and after one term’s tuition, had my portrait of my Father-in-law accepted for the annual exhibition of the MacLellan Galleries, where it was noticed and reported on in newspaper review by Dr Honeyman, the Director of Glasgow’s museums and galleries. Portrait painting career began at that point. Later, back in Edinburgh, l took some refresher day life classes after the birth of my family – and that’s it.”

Dragut’s Smile – What did it mean?

Q. While I have long been converted to the fact that Kuzum is Gabriel & Joleta’s offspring, there is a small part of my brain that continues to wonder why Dragut smiled when he returned Gabriel’s money and announced that the child was of no value to his parents or the Sultan and that he intended to sell him. This seems like a good time for the switch to have been made.

A. “Whatever happened later, I rather think that Dragut was simply amusing himself at that point with another variation in the mild game he was playing with Lymond and Gabriel. Of the two he rather preferred Lymond – he’d already offered to kill Gabriel for him, and warned him of Gabriel’s plans for Scotland. Lymond goes to save Scotland (contrast with anyone else we know?) but has failed so far to kill Gabriel, which Dragut was rather hoping for. All this while, the corsair has been harbouring the child, the pawn, whom he knows to be Gabriel’s lever against Lymond, and whom Dragut might therefore find useful. But if the child and the woman die soon, the game is off. Therefore Dragut alerts Gabriel that the child is going to die or be sold, to see what Gabriel will do. He probably anticipates what will actually happen – Gabriel will tell Lymond that he has a son, and the duel will transfer itself back to the Mediterranean, where Dragut can take a direct hand if he likes.”

Will be back in touch with news of Gemini as it comes out.

best wishes to you all


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