Mini-Newsletter – A Ton of Gemini – 26th May 2000

Greetings everyone. This is just a quick note to tell you how the deliveries of Gemini are coming along.

They arrived late last week, a few days later than I’d hoped, and the first shock was just how heavy they really were – 1.1kg each. We had 816 advance orders at that time (more than double Caprice and Rondo) and took delivery of 1000 copies so that is 1.1 metric tonnes of Gemini. (as my muscles will testify since I had to open them all myself!!) I took a couple of pictures of the sea of books as we sorted them – they filled our events room – and will put them on the website once they’re developed. People were coming up just to look at the spectacle and wonder if the floor would hold up!

Dorothy and I went in on Saturday and again on Monday (which was a UK holiday) and were there until 8pm, me opening the packets, inserting the order details and passing them to Dorothy for her to sign and where possible personalise the copies. Then me sorting them into countries. At that point there were about 500 for the US, 147 for the UK, about 35 each for Canada and Australia, as well as substantial amounts for New Zealand and Germany, plus all the smaller amounts for Japan, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Eire, France, etc. etc. though more orders are coming in all the time.

We managed to get 860 of the 1000 copies signed which gave us a few spare but the additional orders have exhausted those and Dorothy is coming in this afternoon to sign the final 120. Since Monday we’ve been frantically packing the books and checking credit card details for charging. With so many copies it is a long long job. We’ve already sent out the books for Australia, New Zealand and other far flung places like South Africa on Wednesday and Thursday, Canada went out Thursday and this morning. For the US copies there are so many of them that after looking into the various options we decided that the best and fairest method was to send them all at once by a bulk airmail carrier who have promised that they will deliver door-to-door in “a few days”. This should mean far more consistency than using the normal postal system. We are about half way through the packing and charging of these and the despatch staff are coming in over the weekend to work extra hours on it. We hope to send them off on Tuesday or Wednesday (Monday is another public holiday and the carrier is closed then). There are a few that we’ve found have either invalid or expired card details or seem to have duplicated orders and we are attempting to contact everyone affected at the moment. The UK copies will go out as soon as they are packaged up.

So now we all cross our fingers and hope that there are no postal service strikes, no airmail planes falling out of the sky and no hurricanes or tornadoes!

It’s probably worth mentioning to those that were worried by the cost of the book and the strength of the pound, that in the last few weeks the pound/dollar exchange rate has fallen from 1.65 to the current 1.48. Not sure exactly how the other currencies have been doing but I think they are better than they were. I should also say that the real costs of airmail postage have turned out to be considerably higher than expected because the book is so large and because of recent postage increases. In effect you are getting a discount of about 3-4 pounds on the price.

Oh yes, by the way, I’ve been reading my copy in the early hours of the morning and so far it’s superb!

Personal Appearances

Three dates have so far been fixed for promotional appearances where Dorothy will give a short reading and then answer questions and sign books.

Monday 12th June
Edinburgh – James Thin South Bridge, 7.00pm
Tel: 0131 6228278

Monday 26th June
Manchester – Waterstone’s Deansgate 6.30pm
Tel: 0161 837 3080

Tuesday 27th June
Leeds – Waterstone’s 93/97 Albion Street, 7pm
Tel: 0113 244 4588


US Tour

There is also good news for the US readers. There will be a promotional tour in September around the same time as the Philadelphia Gathering. Dorothy will probably be in the US for about 2-3 weeks altogether. No details of the individual appearances as yet, but as soon as she hears anything I’ll pass them on.

Ahh, as I write this I’ve just been told that Penguin have duplicated the 1000 copies of Gemini and our Goods Inward Dept are going crazy. Who’d be a bookseller? I think I need to lie down in a darkened room.

Best wishes and fast postal deliveries.

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.

Gemini

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, (www.greywalls.co.uk) 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.

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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.

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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.

Dossing

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.”

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

best wishes to you all

Bill

Newsletter – 12th January 2000

Greetings from a very windy Edinburgh. Hope the New Year celebrations were excellent (and have worn off now!!) and not too many of you are suffering from the flu which seems to be everywhere at the moment.

First piece of news is the imminent release of new versions of the Penguin Niccolos. They are appearing in slightly larger format with completely redesigned covers not unlike those used for the Vintage Lymonds. They all have attractive paintings on the front and are in a larger and much easier to read typeface. The first four are due out this month and the rest will appear in March. The price remains UKP 7.99 and rather surprisingly the ISBNs remain the same as before. I’ve added scans to the web site so you can take a look at them – go to the Book News page or straight to the Book Covers page.
Anyone wanting to place orders for any of them can do so from the Bibliography page hotlinks as usual – it might be best to mention in the comments box of the checkout that it’s the new cover editions that you want, particularly for the last three, just to be sure.

For those who like to know what the pictures are:

Niccolo Rising – View of a Market Place by Hendrik Steenwyck (1550-1603)

Spring of the Ram – detail from A Sultan Receiving tribute by Giovanni Antonio Guardi (1699-1760)

Race of Scorpions – detail from View of Naples depicting the Araganese fleet re-entering the port after the Battle os Ischia in 1442, attribited to Francesco Rosselli (1445-c1513)

Scales of Gold – detail from The Meeting of Etherius and Ursula and the Departure of the Pilgrims, from the St. Ursula Cycle, 1498 by Vittore Carpaccio

Unicorn Hunt – detail from The Book of Hours: May, c1540 by Simon Bening

To Lie with Lions – Gerrit deVeer Narrative of Barent’s last voyage, 1598. Ship of William Barent’s fleet caught in ice

Caprice and Rondo – details from Namadic Encampment from a ‘Khamsa’ by Nizami, Tabriz, East Azerbaijan, Persian, Safavid dynasty, 1539-43
Another page which I’ve updated on the website is the Dunnett Places to Visit page. I’ve been able to pinch some pictures from various of our new Mercat Press books and some that we took over from the Stationery Office last year. As I mentioned a few weeks ago to the members of the discussion groups the page was becoming a little slow to load as it grew larger, so I’ve taken the main pictures off the page and used thumbnail links instead which makes the load time much better. Since then I’ve also added some extra places and details into the lists. This is still very much an ongoing project so if you have a place you’d like to see added just let me know.

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Dorothy’s Australian Visit

I’ve been trying to get the full details of this but there are still some things to be finalised. What we know about at the moment is as follows:

In Adelaide on the opening day of the Writer’s Week on Sunday 5th March she’s speaking in a solo session at 1pm.
On Wednesday 8th she’ll be in a Panel Session on historical fiction with Melvyn Bragg, Roger McDonald and Hilary Mantel from 2.30-3.45
In Sydney she’ll have a public event arranged by Penguin at a so-far unknown bookshop on either Monday 13th or Tuesday 14th before flying home on the Wednesday.
Anyone in Australia who subscribes to Whispering Gallery will receive details of the events from Penguin once they are settled.

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Events in the UK

Dorothy will be speaking at a “Meet the Author” event in Banff on Saturday 5th Feb at 5pm at Duff House, hosted by Charles Burnett – Ross Herald who some readers will have heard speak on heraldry.

She will once again be taking part in the Edinburgh Book Festival in August, but the date has yet to be fixed.

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Some Sad Non-Dunnett News

For those that haven’t already heard, two very well known historical fiction writers have died in the last week. Patrick O’Brian the nautical writer best known for his Aubrey-Maturin series died in Dublin at the age of 85.
Nigel Tranter the Scottish writer and historian and a friend of Dorothy’s, died of the flu on Sunday at the age of 90. He was so prolific that there are a number of his books still in the pipeline – he was usually about 3 or 4 books ahead of his publishers. He was largely responsible for putting many Scots back in touch with their history and was closely connected with the moves over many years to establish the Scottish Parliament.

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More “Answers from Dorothy”

Q. Is Nicholas in any way inspired by a Flemish story about a character called Claus?
In the beginning of June I brought two books home from the library. One was Caprice and Rondo. The other was From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner. I read Caprice and Rondo until my eyes hurt and I had a devil of a time getting up from work. Then I started the more scholarly work on fairy tales. In Ms. Warner’s book there is a discussion of a Flemish collection of tales, c. 1475, called Les Evangiles des quenouilles. In it an old lady, Dame Abreye l’Enflee’ tells the story of her Uncle Claus from Bruges who travels to the monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai. There he meets a stork who speaks Flemish. The stork gives him a ring from his wife Mal Cenglee (Badly Beaten) on the condition that she will no longer be mistreated. Is this the character upon whom Nicholas de Fleury is based? Are there any more Claus tales from that book? What geographical, political, or commercial importance did St. Catherine’s have that travelers sought out the community? I have always been awed how Mrs. Dunnett has made economic history so vastly compelling. I have never met any practitioners of the dismal science who have ever come close.

A. What a delightful discovery! No, I’ve never heard of these tales. Claes (not Claus) was simply a common abbreviation for Nicholas. The choice of Mt. Sinai is also pure coincidence – it fitted the plot and purpose of my story. Its importance is pretty well described I think in Unicorn hunt. For Greek orthodox monks, it was sacred because of Moses, the Burning Bush, the body of St. Catherine etc. Pilgrims desiring grace left wonderful gifts, hence the treasures preserved through the centuries. And in general of course it had strategic importance.

Q. Is Thorfinn descended from Einar?
I wish to ask a question about Thorfinn. Was he descended from Einar, Third Earl (Jarl) of Orkneys? Einar was the son of Rognvald the Wolf, who was cousin to King Harald Fairhair and mentioned in the Heimskringla quite a bit. Einar was called by the locals “Torf Einar” as he introduced the burning of peats to the locals. His half brother Rollo achieved fame as the first Duke of Normandy and ancestor of the Royals. This is part of my family’s 1100 year history. Thorfinn is my all time favorite character in literature and I’d love to find a connection no matter how feeble. Of course at this remove, they’re all feeble!

A. I’m so glad that you like Thorfinn. And how nice to be descended from Torf Einar! (What do you cook by?). According to the family trees you read in the Icelandic Sagas, Torf-Einar was the son of Rognvald of More the Mighty, and Einar was the father of Arnkel, Erlend and also of Thorfinn Skull-splitter, who married Grelaud, daughter of Duncan, Earl of Caithness by Groa, daughter of Thorstein the Red. Sons of this Thorfinn were Arnfinn, Havard, Ljot, Skuli and Hlodvir. Hlodvir married the daughter of an Irish King and became the father of Sigurd the Stout, who married twice. By his first wife, Sigurd had three sons, Somerled, Brusi and Einar Wrymouth. Sigurd’s second wife was the daughter of King Malcolm of Scotland. Their son, and King Malcolm’s grandson, was King Hereafter’s Earl Thorfinn the Mighty, who was therefore great-great-grandson of Torf-Einar. How’s that?

Q. How do you approach your quotations?
I would be very interested in exploring DD’s choice of quotations. Did she go looking for quotations to fit the bill, or use quotations from works she was already familiar with because they seemed to fit, or a bit of both? Were they a product of the store of information she already had, which presented themselves in the heat of creation, or part of her preparatory reading, or later inserts in a framework already written ? I’m imagining the scene written with ‘blank for quote’ and suitable quote later inserted. If the first, she really has a fabulous store of information in the memory cells.

This question (from Diana Crane) came out of a discussion about following up quotations to see if they illuminated the story they were included in, and in particular in the story of Sir Gowther. The following extract from one of the messages gives the background for those who aren’t familiar with the story.

I forget now who first pointed out the interest in reading on in poems and sources quoted by DD, which I consider one of the most exciting and fruitful insights I’ve received in five or so years of Dunnett sharing. Heike has been showing us how interesting it can be for KH.

To recap the story briefly, Gowther’s mother is barren and about to be put aside by her husband when she meets a fiend in the orchard in the shape of her husband and lies with him. At the end he resumes fiendly shape and tells her she will conceive, so she hastens to make love to her husband the same night. The fiendish offspring is born and shows his qualities immediately, killing numbers of wetnurses and tearing his mother’s nipple, having been born with teeth. He grows fast and wreaks all sorts of mayhem, fighting and killing. His worst crime is to burn a convent of nuns, having first raped them ( the rape is omitted in one version ). Eventually an elderly count remonstrates with him and suggests he is the child of a fiend. Gowther goes to his mother to demand the truth of her : at first she says he is the child of his putative father, then tells him the truth. Gowther is devastated, goes to seek pardon of the Pope, performs a severe penance and is forgiven eventually, meets his truelove, marries and inherits his father-in-law’s dukedom. Afterwards he lives a blameless and happy life and puts up a new convent on the site of the one he burned.
There is a footnote on the ‘Devil’s contract’ theme in folklore. ‘The child is subject to diabolic influence from whose dominion it is freed by its own ingenuity or the intervention of Providence. Stith Thompson remarks . . . Gowther . . . was not to blame for his demonic association, since the fault lay entirely with his mother.’

I thought there were quite a few things of interest, which at the very least could explain why that particular quote came to Lymond’s mind. For example, the birth secret, the child demanding the truth about his birth from his mother, the responsibility of the mother’s sin for the disorder of the child, the child’s responsibility or possible responsibility for the death by burning of a convent of nuns, with a suspicion of sexual misconduct with one of them thrown in. In the printed version of Gowther the motive for setting the convent to the torch seems to be at least partly to hide the evidence of the sexual misconduct and I think there are insinuations in GoK ( which of course I don’t believe 😉 ) that Lymond might have wanted to silence Eloise because of possible incest between them. All in all, fascinating stuff.

A. For the Lymond series, I began reading in the late 1950’s every poem or song I could find of the 16th century or earlier. Some of it I didn’t note down, but (fortunately, forty years later) I did make a note of striking passages that were relevant to the story I knew I was going to tell. I repeated the process before and during the Niccolo series.

Before I write a chapter, I scan and memorise all the material I am going to use -place, people, clothes, climate, plot requirements, language and quotes. Then I put all my notes aside, let it simmer, and sit down and write the complete chapter straight through, inventing on the basis of what I’ve assimilated. Sometimes I’ll kick myself because I’ve forgotten a brilliant quotation, but it never looks right when it’s stuck in afterwards.

Stemming from this: sometimes a whole poem/song is significant, like the ones Lymond chose for his Hotel d’Hercules banquet, and I’m so pleased that someone has thought of hunting out the full references. At other times, the quotation enters the character’s mind because of a single appropriate word or phrase, and the subsequent verses have no special significance. I don’t know how to help you distinguish one type from the other, except by saying that references to whole poems generally occur at moments of high emotion – mill, what hast thou ground – or those instances where Lymond cannot bear to listen.

I’m mortified that I can’t remember where I quoted Gowther, and you’ve probably been cleverer than I have in noticing the parallels. Writing the book, I wasn’t particularly concerned to make much of Eloise, and I’m not sure that I’d intentionally add to the poignancy by attaching a meaningful poem. But again, I may just have forgotten. The opportunist accusations about Eloise were meant to obscure and delay the correct reading of Lymond’s character, but to be wholly discounted later on. Even Lymond’s unwitting responsibility for his sister’s death was of less importance to the chronicle, or even to him, than other things that were to happen to people he loved as an adult.

Another of Heike’s King Hereafter Questions

Q. In p.4, ch.14, Sulien and Thorfinn discuss the Threefold Death prophecy. T. says: ‘A German historian and a French poet told such a story of Alexander the Great, and because of another poet called John, a prophecy came to rest against my name.’ Is he speaking about Otto von Freising, Walter of Chatillon and John Maior?

A. Again, without my notes, the following is a series of half-recollections. This particular pronouncement of Lulach’s refers to the trick of the Walking Wood, which becomes attached to the Macbeth legend, 400 years after his time, in the form of the doom-story about Birnam Wood marching to Dunsinane. It is lifted from classic folk lore, and the nearest example of that, for Scots poets and ballad-makers, is in the Buik ofAlexander, based on the French Les Voeux du Paon. The John I was thinking of is probably John Barbour, whose work on The Bruce inspired Wyntoun, who dreamed up the Birnam story. I can’t now remember who the German historian was – his name might not be known – but you might be able to trace his work if you follow back the Alexander the Great/Walking Wood references in early literature.

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Confessions of a Dunnett Reader

It’s a long time since I gave you any of my own impressions – in fact it was away back when I first started Niccolo Rising. Partly due to lack of space and partly due to my inconsistent reading patterns I’ve never really had a chance to follow up on this, but there is also the fact that in many ways it’s harder to talk about the individual Niccolos in isolation because there is much less separation in the volumes and more inter-relation between different scenes spread right across the series. I am now part way through To Lie with Lions and in some ways I feel I’m only now beginning to see the threads develop in a way that can be understood and theorised about. Whether they are being understood correctly of course is another matter entirely!!

General impressions – I liked Katelina in many ways but she wasn’t the highly intelligent heroine that she would have needed to be to be the star of the story – or even to survive. She seemed to be rather born out of her time as well, and wanted a level of romance in her life which maybe wasn’t possible in that time. She sadly didn’t have the foresight to accept a marriage to a much older man which would then later release her to a position of more independence. In as much as he could at the time I rather think Nick did love her or at least was very fond of her, but he is lacking part of the character makeup that would allow him to really commit to her even if she hadn’t been married to Simon by then. I’m sure he was able to love Marion – but it was partly a mother substitute feeling rather than a well-rounded love. I know some people criticise Nick and Katelina for the waterfall scene, but I have more sympathy for them. Quite apart from the aftermath of the rescue from a phobic death I think that Katelina was on an emotional roller-coaster caused by living with Simon and FFJ and thinking alternately that she loved/hated/loved Nick. It’s an intensly emotional moment and the sort of reaction that real human beings would have.

Like, I’m sure, many others, I didn’t like Gelis as a youngster and then came to like her a lot in the African sections of Scales of Gold. The manner of the betrayal, and the realisation that it all must have been planned for a long time and carried through with Oscar-winning acting ability was a stunning shock. I’ve been noting the times in the later books when we (often unexpectedly) get her point of view and it seems confused and frightened underneath the iron composure. Where has she received these ideas about Nicholas, and whose viewpoint has influenced her? – it seems to me that there is more going on than just revenge for her sister and that someone has been feeding her a very biased view for their own ends, but who? It would surely have to be someone who goes back a long way, so is it an enemy or could it be someone we think is a friend?

Which brings us to Anselm Adorne – hero or villain, is he part of the Vatachino from the beginning or does he merely join in an alliance with them after the Cairo/Sinai events. At the moment I’m inclined to believe him basically honourable and sometimes causing harm in the midst of business ventures as happens sometimes.

Kathi is a delight – a real breath of fresh air – and I can see why some people would like her to be The One as the similarities with Phillippa are striking. A bright intellect and a very sensitive nature – maybe even a touch of psychic ability too – she seems one of the very few to have any real understanding of Nicholas. Though of course no-one really knows him because he doesn’t yet know himself.
Has he even yet recovered from Umar’s death and the later revelations about the manner of it I wonder. It’s hard to overstate just how much his world must have fallen apart with the combined effects of the news on the wedding night after having been so happy beforehand. Obviously Simon bore much of the brunt of his anger at the Salt Pans and it was in some ways surprising that he didn’t kill him – but then that never seems to be his aim.

Of the others, Tobie seems to vary alarmingly in regards to when he’s sympathetic and when he isn’t, while Julius seems to be a complete airhead!! How can he run a bank and be so lacking in awareness? I do however like John’s typically Scots engineer’s logic and attitude, and he occasionally has some great lines.

Well I could go on like this for pages and pages but I’d better stop for now. Once I finish TLWL and C&R I’ll see if I can come to any more profound (?) views about what going to happen next and where the connections are…. and then they’ll no doubt be demolished completely by Gemini 😉 For any real insight I’m sure a number of re-reads are mandatory – what a pity we can’t read in our sleep!

best wishes to you all

Bill

Newsletter – 13th Sept 99

Greetings from a bright autumnal Edinburgh.
I’ve not long returned from my summer holiday prior to which the Festival was going on here in the city. This of course included the Edinburgh Book Festival at which Dorothy was one of the opening day speakers along with her editor Richenda Todd. The bulk of this newsletter is taken up with a report of that event, taken from the notes I made on my palmtop computer at the time. Since I didn’t really have time to work on it until I was in the middle of the second week of the holiday, they may be a little disjointed, but I am well aware that it’s all too easy to fill in the gaps with what you think happened or with stuff you’ve heard before, rather than what was actually said so I’ve tried to resist the temptation to smooth it out too much and rather present it as my immediate if somewhat summarised impressions.

Dorothy and Richenda Todd at the Edinburgh Book Festival

The event took place in one of the many Book Festival marquees set up in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town. It probably held about 200 or so people for the talk and although not totally full was not far off it.
The purpose of the talk was to give some idea of the relationship between the author and editor on a long multi-volume series. They started by looking at what type of books they were trying to produce, and said that they were trying to avoid the Hornblower type of story which has no overall plan but was a series of individual stories. Richenda felt historical fiction is the most difficult type to produce. Dorothy also felt that publishers were easier to sell to at beginning of her career.
She reiterated that Lymond was all planned out but that the sources were often not recorded (which is of course where Elspeth Morrison came in.)

Lymond was edited first in US, by Lois Cole and Bob Godfried. Richenda came in during the House of Niccolo on Race of Scorpions and had the manuscript dropped on her desk when she arrived – which must have been a pretty intimidating start. She had to quickly read the previous books to ascertain the style used before she could do any editing.

As we know, Dorothy was initially turned down by various UK publishers and was first published in the US. It was Alastair who suggested it be a series – Dorothy said “he was a newspaper editor ….and she was used to obeying” 🙂

Lymond was marketed in US as the next “Gone with the Wind” and amongst other promotional events 10 salesmen walked down the street in “Crawford tartan” ties advertising it. It was subbed to Cassell in the UK, which she was very happy with as all her school dictionaries were done by them so she felt they had a certain authority!
Cassell published Lymond then unfortunately in a change of direction ditched their fiction list altogether. While Dorothy was looking for another publisher Rosemary Cheetham of Century phoned her. She had read Lymond at the age of 12(!!) having been given the books by her mother and had grown up with the ambition of publishing them.

The US publisher wanted another series but Dorothy wanted to do individual books instead (like the JJs). She decided to go down that route but that first book turned out to be King Hereafter which then needed 5 years research. Having decided that continuing in that direction would mean only ever writing about another 3 books, she decided to go back to a series with Niccolo.

Returning to the Author/Editor relationship they said that publishers frequently change direction and have different ideas on marketing so it’s difficult to maintain a consistent style. Richenda was happy that they’d managed to keep the same jacket artist for all the Niccolos, and also the same proofreader and copy editor. (This is quite an achievement as there have been changes in Michael Joseph and Richenda herself is now freelance rather than working for them directly.)

During this section Dorothy mentioned that 3/4 hour earlier, before having to leave for the talk, she was in the middle of writing possibly the most dramatic section of the entire series. So if it didn’t turn out right it would all be our fault! 😉
They next discussed secrets and how to keep them. To avoid giving the plot away before people have read the book you need to look at things like maps, genealogical tables, ends of chapters, news of places that Dorothy has visited prior to writing each book, etc.

One book had a 15th Century “Cod War”. The artist produced a superb exploding volcano but that was not allowed on the cover as it would have given the game away. They came up with a cover in which it was hard to tell the difference between sand and snow! The map also had to be doctored to hide Iceland under the flap and it was skewed to accomplish that – despite the mapmaker’s protests that you had to have north pointing straight upwards.
Blurbs which gave too much away were often problems with a new publisher.

On the Scales of Gold shock ending – Richenda confessed to being poleaxed and said she sometimes feels dim. 😉
The main thing an editor does is checking on the shape, pacing and clues to the development in the story. Dorothy never discusses the story as she writes but once it is sent to the editors the first phone call in response is very important. For instance Bob Gottlieb contacted her about the Marion/Nicholas marriage, saying that for the first time he felt she had cheated him of a scene. He wanted to see a Marion/Felix scene to show Felix’ reaction and how Marion would deal with it. Dorothy wrote the scene in an hour. If there is a reaction like Richenda’s feeling poleaxed she has to look again at the clues that she has included to see if she needs to make things any clearer.

Fax machines came on the scene during the period of writing. On one occasion having just finished a book Dorothy went off to Arran on holiday to a chalet hotel which had one fax machine at the reception desk. Richenda sent loads of long faxes which Dorothy replied to standing at reception while guests gave her their keys or instructions about their meals etc. 🙂 Some of the faxes were somewhat explicit – they’ve never been back!

Richenda mentioned the Scales of Gold orgy scene – she had wanted to know what Diniz was doing? As a result he lost his virginity twice. She’s still embarrassed about it!

Not just sex but fashions have changed over the years. Cruelty to animals for instance is looked upon rather differently. Sentimentality is not allowable so much now either. Game of Kings is set in aspic, but the JJs are surrealistically in their periods. Readers have to be aware when the various books were written to understand how attitudes and fashions have changed.
Because of the unusual nature of the two series with the later-written Niccolos preceding the time of Lymond, Richenda, who doesn’t know what the ending is to be, has the flow going forward whereas Dorothy has it going backwards.

Consistency is very difficult. Regarding who does what, Dorothy assumes she will have to check history since she does so much original research which often hasn’t been tackled by historians. She also has to constantly work out what speed a camel goes at, how fast and where and in what conditions ships can travel, the speed of bullock carts, letters etc. She always tries to visit the scene to check the terrain.
As an editor – how much can you trust the author? A naval author who Richenda worked with got the ships bells wrong at one point and she started checking everything – it turned out that half of his historical and technical descriptions were wrong. Dorothy mentioned some racy French that was wrong but the US editor picked it up. The Latin tag for Lymond’s arms was wrong -she hadn’t used the accusative case – and the covers had to be redone.
US editors don’t have the same mores of the Europeans so there is a difference in how their editors and readers approach some passages.

Dorothy was given advice early on in her career that you must make your villain as strong as possible or the hero won’t be believable. Colleagues must also be top of their tree.

With time having gone all too quickly they moved to a Questions & Answer session

Q. Some characters we get very fond of but then you kill them.

A. It’s necessary because otherwise the last book would be massive. Endings should however be satisfying. Umar in particular was a turning point for Niccolo. A long series does something that only books can do – subtexts for instance.

Q. Spelling – how do you handle modern readers v period and UK v US

A. Dorothy mentioned that recently her word processor gave her the “too many spelling mistakes to continue displaying them” error message while writing Niccolo 8.
Lymond started using the original spellings but it’s impossible all through. An important difference in the two series is that while Lymond would quite often be speaking English or sometimes French, Niccolo is almost never speaking English. She puts in syntax to suggest the different languages. Scots is shown in a vernacular to suggest the language concerned.
Changed place names need to be supplied for the publishing team, e.g. Dubrovnik and Gdansk for the map maker.

Q. Any characters who won’t go away?

A. Not really. The main characters are fixed. Facts about minor characters do arise – Dorothy reads 20 different magazines on renaissance history.

Q. What are the relationship between UK and US editors?

A. Originally they were independent, but later they got together. Main thing is the structure and their different feelings about how clear things should be made. US editor now send comments to Richenda and she combines them with hers before asking Dorothy. There is a lot of time pressure as two years is a very short time to produce books of this complexity. These days there are PC issues to consider. One scene Bob thought was too literary though Richenda thought it was ok – it was eventually rewritten. Richenda jokingly suggested that they should republish with both versions of the scene and let readers decide which was the best!

Regarding sex scenes, one person thanked Dorothy for not making them explicit in the way some writers do. She replied that if you’re too explicit you run out of things to say whereas if you describe it as an act of love then there are always new ways to talk about it.

Q. Why do the supporting characters have little faith in hero?

A. It makes the books longer!! 😉 The reader should be also unsure about him.

Q. Any prospect of a new series?

A. No. Too much work, but more importantly there would be too many other people dependent on her and she feels that wouldn’t be fair to them.

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After the talk, which started around 5pm, and once Dorothy had spent some time in the signing tent, a group of us went with Dorothy to the Caledonian Hotel for drinks, and I had the pleasure not only of meeting Richenda for the first time but also the bonus of meeting Elspeth Morrison, also for the first time. The four of us later attended the Book Festival opening party. While some of the conversations must remain under wraps I can tell you that Niccolo 8 is going to be even longer than expected. It also looks as though it will be later than we’d hoped, although I hope to have word of the official publication date soon. The title still hasn’t been released and is known to only a handful of people (not including me!) but again that is expected soon.

The Companion

There has been some speculation from people with US publishing contacts that Vintage may be about to release a first US edition of the Dorothy Dunnett Companion. I’m told that they have been in touch with Dorothy about it but although she gave them Elspeth’s contact details they have not been in touch with her yet, so don’t expect too early a result on this. Personally I have mixed feelings about such an edition. It was always hoped that there would be a revised edition once the Niccolos were finished but I can’t see there being sufficient potential sales for both a reprint and a new edition, and I would much rather see the latter myself.

New “Answers from Dorothy”

I’ve uploaded some more “Answers” to the web page, including a very long one about Groa which Heike Meyer in particular should find interesting.

Hexagonal Brooch in Game of Kings

Q. Is the large Hexagonal brooch in GK based on a real piece of jewellery? ‘A vast, hexagonal brooch set in ebony and diamonds shouted into the sunshine in a cacophony of light. The thing was enormous. Crouch, sitting within yards of the bed, could see the centrepiece was a heart set with pointed diamonds: around the heart and attached to it by foliated gilt wire were crystal plaques, each bearing an angel’s head, bewinged and carved in onyx: the plaque below the point of the heart was joined to it by a scroll, and on the scroll in diamonds were the initial letters H and D, entwined. It was the most expensive-looking jewel Mr. Crouch had ever seen in his life…. “H for Henri, D for Diane de Poitiers!” cried Mr. Crouch.’ Anyway, what struck me about this description this time around is that it sounds like an actual piece of jewelry that DD might have seen somewhere.

A. “Without my notes, this sounds like a description of a piece actually owned by Diane de Poitiers, presumably now lost, or I wouldn’t have introduced it. At a guess, I got it from an inventory of Diane’s jewellery in one of the many books written about Diane and the French court she lived in.”

The fourth and fifth in a series of King Hereafter questions from Heike Meyer

The House of the Grey Sandal-hose

Q. In p.4, ch.3, Lulach says to Crinan junior: ‘Three Kings, two Ediths, and the House of the Grey Sandal-hose.’ We had a rather heated discussion about the meaning of this, especially ‘House of the Grey Sandal-hose’. Is it the English translation of a family’s name, which is originally in another language , e.g. Gaelic? Or is it a reference to the descendants of someone known for his funny trousers, e.g. Ragnar Lodbrok ? My theory – which may be totally off the track – is, that the whole passage refers to the forthcoming events in 1066; the three kings being the three rulers of England in that year (Edward, Harold, William), the Ediths the Queens of Edward and Harold, and the House of the Grey Sandal-hose a reference to Ragnar Lodbrok’s descendant Harald Hardrada . Are we all wrong ?

A. “I have been waiting twenty years to be asked this question. One of the kings is Henry I, as above, who also accounts for an Edith. All the answers have to do with an unnoticed connection with Scotland. And the key to the whole thing – wait for it – is Tarzan.”

Groa

Q. To create your Groa, you blended the persons of the historical Ingibjorg Finnsdottir and Macbeth’s Queen Gruoch. Now I’m no adherent of the ‘Macbeth is Thorfinn’ theory, and the main reason for this are their respective wives. They obviously lived at the same time, Gruoch in 1032, at the death of her first husband, already was mother of a son, and she is mentioned about 1050 as a benefactress to the Loch Leven monks. Ingibjorg was already married to Thorfinn at the time Rognvald was killed, which is estimated about 1045. But she can’t have been born much before 1030, because the genealogies give her as the granddaughter of King Harald’s full brother. Even if this brother was born at the earliest possible time, about 995/6, this would make him a very young grandfather. And Ingibjorg bore at least three children to Malcolm Canmore, which would be possible, but not probable, for a woman high in her forties, as Gruoch would have been. To give Groa a birthdate about 1015 AND call her the great-niece of King Harald is – no offence intended – rather improbable. So is this a case of poetic licence, or did you discover something during your research for KH to support a theory that Ingibjorg and Gruoch are truly the same person ?

A. “Well, not poetic licence, as five years in the salt mines will testify! But as is maybe evident, 99 per cent of the evidence for both the traditional interpretation of this reign and for mine is circumstantial, which makes it hard to answer simple questions in less than three weeks. Disentangling Macbeth/Thorfinn has to be followed by disentangling the wives, which is much more difficult, partly because the dates you quote can’t all be trusted. (Many Scottish historians have believed, for example, that there were two people, mother and daughter, called Ingibjorg, and King Malcolm married the daughter). The Historiographer Royal for Scotland, who followed all my research, pointed out that my theory would solve the whole problem and allow Thorfinn’s wife to be young enough to bear children to Malcolm (actually only one son, Duncan, is fully authenticated: Donald and Malcolm are not). A lot depends on the Icelandic sagas, but oral-based history is awful for dates. They all sat round the fire chanting their family trees, which are usually handed down in brilliant order, but dates are generally absent or wrong. They have to be independently corroborated.

Deep breath. Queen Asta married twice. Her first offspring included St Olaf, born in 993, if I can understand the only notes I have to hand. By her second marriage, date unknown, she had several children, including King Harold Hardradi (supposedly born 1015) and Halfdan father of Bergljot mother of Ingibjorg. Halfdan was older than Harold. If Asta got off her mark and remarried as soon as she was widowed, Halfdan could have been born, as you say, in 995/6 which, if he were a fast developer, would mean that Bergljot could have been born in 1011 and had her daughter Ingibjorg about 1024. This has to be checked (and I can’t just now) against the other known dates, if any, of Bergljot’s marriage and childbearing range. But if it’s all true, it means that Asta had a procreation period from about 991 to 1015 with a potential gap of 20 years between the first and last children of her second marriage.

Which makes something awe-inspiring of Snorri’s tale of how St Olaf took his half-brothers Halfdan and Guthorm on his knee when his youngest half-brother Harold was three (thus presumably in 1018) to compare the two boys and their brother. For this scenario, Halfdan would have to be born no earlier (to be kneeworthy) than 1012, which would make Bergljot born 1028 plus, and Ingibjorg 1041 plus, too late to marry Thorfinn whoever he was. So back to the drawing-board, remembering that at that time people had two wives at once, and what do we know about Queen Asta anyway?

My conclusion, wading through all this porridge (and this is just the bit I remember) was that the sanctifying of St Olaf had led to a lot of cleaning up in the background; that Halfdan’s dates and even parentage were shaky, and that there was no proof that Ingibjorg couldn’t have been born about 1015-17. This, if she became Gruoch, would make her a (very) young mother of Lulach, and later of Thorfinn’s two sons, followed by a Queen Asta-like gap of about 23 years (medical reasons? political reasons? children we don’t know about?) before she bore Duncan to King Malcolm in 1058 at the earliest.

Lastly, Gruoch qua Gruoch. As with Ingibjorg, there are no records to tell when she was born, what she looked like, or when she died. In all history, her name appears only once: in the record you mention where the Irish-trained Culdee monks of St Serfs monastery in Loch Leven in Alba attest to a gift of land called Kirkness, made to the monastery between 1040 and 1057 by ‘Machbet son of Finlach, and Gruoch daughter of Bodhe, King and Queen of Scots.’ The attestation itself is thought, because of anachronisms, to be slightly faked: the monks are known to have rewritten their charters before protesting their rights to a later King. This King was probably David (1124-53), and the occasion was likely to be the dispute over Kirkness (see above) between the monastery and Robert le Bourguignon.

At least one of David’s charters was witnessed by someone called Macbeth son of Thorfinn, who was probably the same as Baron Macbeth of Liberton who gave land to several churches about 1141. The monks may have attributed the gift of Kirkness to the earlier royal Macbeth to strengthen their claim. (And I checked the dates. Macbeth died in 1057. This Macbeth son of Thorfinn is not a direct descendant, but the conjunction of names is rather interesting).

The monks knew the name of Gruoch from two registers in their possession, later lost. The historian Wyntoun, who was prior of St Serfs in 1393, is believed to have found the name there and used it in his account, unique to him, of how Macbeth ‘killed King Duncan his uncle’, and married ‘KingDuncan’s widow, Dame Grwok.’ Wyntoun’s history is the only other place where the name is to be found.

Historians have found one other possible reference to the Lady’s family (but not to her) in the Annals of Ulster for 1033, which say that Mac meic Boete meic Cinaedha (Kenneth) has been slain by Malcolm son of Kenneth. This may mean either ‘the son of the son of Boete’, or ‘the son of MacBoete;’ and the premise is that Boete is the Bodhe mentioned at St Serfs. There were several Kings called Kenneth, and several Boete’s, giving rise to many possibilities. Gruoch, who is not mentioned anywhere, might be descended from one of the King Kenneths, and the Boete son of Kenneth killed by Malcolm (King Malcolm II, it is suggested) might be an unknown brother of hers. Nobody knows. But this idea, followed through, could make her Irish, royal, and with a claim to the Scottish throne which (it was thought) would explain why Macbeth married her. But he was already King Malcolm’s grandson, as Duncan was.

Take your pick. But I plumped for the Moray/Norway alliance as being the most compelling reason for marrying. Also, Professor Munch (Chron Man), is on record as saying that ‘Gruoch’ is an Irish scribe’s rendering of the Norse/Icelandic name ‘Groa’. Renaming was not only common but virtually compulsory on switching cultures, and led, for me to the likelihood of an Ingibjorg/ Margaret/Meregrota evolution. And if you want to speculate further, Bodhe and Bergjlot are not all that dissimilar.

The evidence on both sides is weak, and a decisive answer may one day turn up. But meanwhile, I rather share Thorfinn’s fondness for Groa. I am only sorry that we know nothing personal about her whereas we know exactly what Thorfinn looked like, for example. Whoever she was, for us she can only be fiction.”

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Other Books of Interest
For those of us who like to read anything on the background of Dorothy’s books, I’ve just added to our Scottish pages a recently announced book from the excellent Tuckwell Press which might well be of interest.

The Rough Wooings: Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1551
Marcus Merriman
Tuckwell, Winter 1999
hdbk, 186232090X UKP25.00
The period in which both England and France sought to capture Scotland by a forced marriage of the child Queen Mary is amongst the most colourful and interesting of our history, and had repercussions that are still felt to this day. This study promises to be a major contribution to our understanding of it.

Edinburgh 2000
There are still a number of places left on the Edinburgh 2000 Gathering, for anyone still interested. The form is still on the main Dunnett page on the website and can be downloaded.

This is now quite long so we’ll leave it there for now. It strikes me that I haven’t given you any “Confessions of a Dunnett Reader” recently but that’s been partly because my own reading time has been so limited and partly because the newsletters have been fairly full of other things and I now have others like the Scottish Books newsletters to write as well. There has been much discussion of children’s books on the discussion groups recently with many of you buying Harry Potter from us. Some of you may like to have a look at the new Children’s pages on the website to see what else is happening in that line in the UK.

Must go and do some more reading – while I got a fair bit done on holiday I promised myself I would finish the Niccolos and leave enough time for a Lymond re-read before N8 appears, and I’m already behind schedule and the chess season is almost upon us. There’s just never enough time!

Best wishes to everyone