Doh! – Donati

One of the contributors to the Game of Kings discussion list recently uncovered a little gem of information. The name Donati – as in Evangelista Donati, who looks after Joleta and later hands Kuzum into the care of Philippa at Zakynthos – is apparently the Italian form of Dunnett. One of those ‘obvious as soon as you know it’ snippets of knowledge, yet I don’t think anyone had discovered it previously. Well found Viviana.

So like Dorothy to drop such a connection into the story knowing that it might lay undiscovered for years. I can just hear her laughing – ‘oh good, they found one, but there’s plenty more to go’.

DDRA personnel changes

My holiday, mentiond briefly in the last entry, was much needed both by myself and my father (83) who went with me, and I’m glad to say that it went superbly well. The last few months had been a bit of a struggle and culminated in my being unwell at the time of the DDRA AGM and unable to attend. I was disappointed not to be able to see some of the overseas friends who had come over for both the AGM and the event at Saddle on the west coast of Scotland, and I hope we’ll get another chance to meet up at a future Dunnett event.

Despite my absence (or maybe because of it! 😉 ) I was appointed to be chairman of the association’s committee following Ann McMillan’s retirement. Ann has been made Honorary President and will continue to use her considerable experience to good effect in that new role.

It was all change on the committee with a new magazine editor, Sandra Hall, replacing Denise Gannon who has done such a sterling job producing Whispering Gallery for the last three years. There are also two other new faces in Jean Stringfellow and Anne Buchanan. In fact I find myself the only remaining member of the original committee, so I guess I must be getting old!

For the moment I’ll also continue my other role of membership administrator so enquiries on that score should still come to me.

Finally I’ve also been lumbered with the task of taking over from Ray Gannon’s humourous back page column in Whispering Gallery in a new feature called Ask Bill. It’s intended to be part serious, with advice on things like internet-related questions, and part humourous with some more flippant questions and answers. I hope those of you who are members will send in anything suitable.

Dunnett reader killed in Russia

Having just returned from my first holiday in two years I was horrified to read that a member of the Dunnett reading and discussion community – Pam Crane from New Zealand – had gone missing on a Dunnett locations trip in Russia after completing a Bejing to Moscow Silk Road trip, and that her body had been found later, presumed murdered. My sincere condolences to her family who must be deeply shocked.

It is a reminder that Dorothy travelled to some very out of the way places in pursuit of her researches and at a time when such travel was rarer and more difficult than it is now. Fortunately she always emerged from her trips unscathed – it is a tragedy that years later, and after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Pam should be far less fortunate.

Please, all of you who are undertaking trips, take care of yourselves and be sure to be completely aware of your surroundings and any possible dangers.

Missed deadlines, re-reads and new developments

It’s been a busy winter, mostly work with a couple of illnesses thrown in, so I’ve had little time to blog or indeed to answer all of the emails I receive, so if yours has been one of those I didn’t get to then apologies.

This weekend particularly has been frustrating. I should have been at three events, one of which was the DDRA AGM, however a virus that I picked up some weeks ago reared its head again during the week in the forms of a hacking cough and headaches and by the time Friday came I was feeling worn out by it and in no condition to attend either an old friend’s 50th birthday that night or the AGM on the Saturday. As there were a number of old friends from the USA attending who I had looked forward to seeing this was galling to say the least. My regrets to those people – I hope we’ll have other chances to meet up – and to my colleagues on the DDRA committee.

The current Lymond re-read on the Game of Kings discussion group has continued to be of very high standard from what I’ve seen, although I’ve usually been so far behind in my own reading that any comment I might have had time to make would have been from memory – and we all know how fickle that can be with any Dunnett book. Indeed there have been a number of sections of Queens’ Play that have surprised me again with new insights and slants. For instance I’d forgotten quite how inept and hateful a character Robin Stewart was around the period of his time in the Tower of London, or of how sharp were the exchanges with Margaret Lennox when “Vervassal” retrieves Phelim from her house and the monkey is killed by her evilly thrown sewing box. How cleverly Dorothy shows us the essentially good nature of the hitherto somewhat apathetic O’Liam Roe around this time; despite him also resenting Lymond’s interference with Oonagh. And how convoluted the political machinations are – it’s not just for Phelim and Henrisson that Lymond’s explanations of the ever-shifting landscape are needed.

At last…

I’ve had few successes in converting new readers but I think I’ve finally earned my ‘toaster’ – my dear friend and assistant in the last couple of years on the Thins website has been reading Niccolo Rising and has asked for Spring of the Ram. I’ve recently been building her a website for her jewellery design business which had started life on eBay and I’d encourage any of you who enjoy wearing interesting designs to take a look at it –
She’s interested to see if there are any inspirations for jewellery in the books and I’ve already mentioned Murano glass as one possible idea – if anyone has any other suggestions then please pass them on to me.

Books, always books…

Another current web project is for someone well known in Dunnett circles – Cindy Byrne who co-organised the events in Dublin and on Malta, moved to Campbeltown in the south-west of Scotland last year to take over The Old Bookshelf; a combined bricks-and-mortar and internet bookshop. The previous website proved to be unusable so I’ve been building a new one for her and recently snatched a few days in that delightfully peaceful area of the country in order to study the business and plan the further development of the site. It’s far from finished but I’m sure many of you will be interested in any Dunnett-friendly place to buy books so do drop by. Cindy is clearly right at home there and despite having to take time out for an eye operation is enjoying both the area and the ownership of a bookshop; an ambition of hers from an early age.


As mentioned above, at around the time I post this the DDRA AGM and weekend will be taking place in Edinburgh and is being immediately followed by a Dunnett get-together based in Saddell, (which is a village in Kintyre not many miles from Cindy’s new home) organised by Diana Crane who is well known for the long-running Oxford Days. While the Kintyre area doesn’t feature in the historical novels it was certainly known to Johnson Johnson, and Dorothy and Alastair sailed in the area themselves – Dorothy’s introduction to the Crinan Canal may well have inspired Nicholas’ sinking of the cannon scene in Niccolo Rising. If the attendees get the sort of weather I had on the final day of my trip they’ll have marvellous views over to Arran as well as the usual convivial Dunnett atmosphere. I can’t be with them this time so very best wishes to them all for a great few days.


There is a new feature which has recently been added to Google Maps which allows you to add your own maps with annotations and lines of travel. This is something I’ve long wanted to add to the Dunnett site and have experimented with over the years but the lack of an easy facility to zoom in (and the usual difficulties of copyright) has always meant I was dissatisfied with the results. The Google system is exactly what I was looking for and I’m currently putting together the basics of maps for Queens’ Play and for Pawn in Frankincense. I’ll continue this over the next few weeks so if you’ve any suggestions once they’re complete I’d be glad to hear them. The only problem so far is that Google has the placenames in the local language – not much of a problem in France but rather more of one in North Africa and even more so in Greece!