Newsletter – 22nd January 98

Greetings to everyone on the list – especially the many new readers who’ve joined us in the last few weeks. Hope you all had a good New Year and the weather hasn’t been effecting too many of you – I know that some of our Canadian friends have not had an easy time with the dreadful ice-storms. Edinburgh’s winter continues to be mostly very mild, but the Highlands have recently had a lot of snow and up in Orkney they had 6 foot snow drifts, all the electricity cut off for a few days, and temperatures of minus 16 C at the beginning of the week.

This edition of the newsletter is basically to tell you about the forthcoming paperback edition of Caprice and Rondo, which was announced recently, and to let you know about the redesign of the web pages. It’s the latter that’s been taking up all my time recently as I’m in the middle of a complete revamp for our 150th anniversary in April and the possibility of an expansion of the search facilities to include the contents of Books in Print.

If you go to the home page ( rather than straight to the Dunnett page you’ll see that we now use a framed system for easier navigation, although I’ve tried to make sure that you can still use the site without frames if necessary. At the moment most of the contents are still as before in terms of style, but I’ll gradually be changing things to better match the frame style. Do let me know what you think of it and if you have any problems that I can correct in the design.

Caprice and Rondo

The hardback is now into its third reprint and copies are in short supply – although the reprint should be ready by the end of this month. The first paperback version has now been announced – as was the case with To Lie with Lions there will be a Michael Joseph trade paperback edition which is due to be published on 28th May priced at UKP 11.95 ISBN 0718140826 We’ve ordered copies and anyone who wants it can use the StockSearch system on the web pages as usual, or send an email to Craig on

I also asked about the Penguin paperback when I was in touch with MJ, but it looks as if that will not be available until next year.

“Questions for Dorothy”

I’ve collected the questions that have been sent in so far and passed them to Dorothy to compile answers. Once I get them back I’ll post them on the web page and here in the newsletter. I’ve been surprised at the quite small number so far – either you all know all the answers already or you’re too modest to speak up 😉 Perhaps once you see the first batch you’ll be emboldened to send in a few more, novice readers like me want to see as many as we can!!

One peripheral item of news that I meant to include in the last newsletter concerned the possible casting of an actor to play Lymond should there ever be a film or TV series. I know that this is a popular discussion item with many of you, and of course Dorothy herself did once mention that she was rather inclined towards a young Peter O’Toole when she started the series. Of the modern actors I find it hard to imagine an American playing the part having heard too many rather odd attempts at a Scottish accent, and have always thought it should be someone with more home connections. It was therefore very interesting to hear that Jason Connery – son of the one and only Sean – has bought a cottage in the borders area and is moving into it with his family as their permanent home. As anyone who saw the second series of the Robin of Sherwood TV series a few years ago will know, Jason very definitely has the hair colouring to play Francis and as an added Dunnett connection he has also recently appeared in the title role in a Scottish film production of Macbeth.

Another news item that caught my eye in the “Scotland on Sunday” newspaper last week was a report that the Mayor of Moscow is pushing ahead with a search of underground tunnels in an attempt to find the legendary jewel-encrusted library of Tsar Ivan IV, who of course had a fairly major role in Ringed Castle. The library – no-one really knows whether it exists or not – was reported to have come originally from Byzantium.

I’ll skip my impressions of the Lymond series this time around as I’ve been stuck near the end of Ringed Castle for the last three weeks. Too busy both at work and running the chess club to read anything properly since New Year, and I think I’ll have to back-track a few chapters and re-jig the memory on some of the political and trading intrigues. And of course re-reading the scene at the Revels will be enjoyable in itself!!

best wishes to you all


Newsletter – 11th December 97

Seasonal Greetings to everyone from Edinburgh

Caprice and Rondo

Most of you who ordered by airmail will by now have read your copies of Caprice and Rondo – the surface mail people have been receiving their copies in the last few days from the reports I’ve received. Hope you’ve all been enjoying it and it has answered some of the many questions generated by the series so far!! Of course I’m sure it will have thrown up a few more as well 😉

I’m sure you’ll all be glad to hear that it made the UK hardback fiction bestseller lists top ten, and a large part of that will have been down to you all. We’ve currently sold about 600 copies and demand continued to be strong despite having more than twice the number of advance orders as we had for To Lie with Lions. As mentioned below Dorothy signed a load more at the personal appearance which she did for us on the 12th Nov, and at the time we thought they would probably last until Xmas, but in fact they only lasted until the end of the month!!

New feature for the web site – Questions for Dorothy

Every time I’ve seen her recently, Dorothy has asked if there is anything she can do to help me with the web page. I’d been reluctant to ask for anything as I know how busy she is and most ideas were inevitably going to be very time consuming, but a comment I received regarding the US tour set me to thinking. Most of you probably have little or no opportunity to see one of her appearances and ask all the questions that I know you’re eager to ask.
Why not, I thought, compile a list of answers to all the most common questions that she is usually asked at these events and then invite some more that she can select from and answer.
I suggested this to her and if we can make it work she is keen to go ahead with it. This is a bit experimental and we’ll need to see how much of Dorothy’s and my time it takes up, but if it works out we’ll soon build up the equivalent of a Dunnett FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and maybe be able to give a little of the flavour of attending one of her talks.

If you want to be involved send in one question each and we’ll select about 10 or 12 depending on how much time and space is needed to answer them, and once Dorothy has replied to them I’ll post the answers both on the web site and here in the newsletter. If all goes smoothly then in a few months time we’ll repeat the exercise with some new questions and add them to those we already have.
It would help if you keep the questions separate from any other correspondence and put “Questions for Dorothy” in the Subject line of your message. If you have any standard answers that you know about then I’d be interested to hear those as well.

Please don’t expect an immediate result as both the Christmas holidays and Dorothy’s busy schedule will mean it will be well into 1998 before we can put up the replies. I’ll be away all next week as well so although I’ll be picking up mail at home I won’t be able to follow up any queries.

Dorothy’s Talk and Signing at South Bridge

As you know Dorothy did a small UK tour to promote C&R, and this included an evening here at our main shop.
I had printed some copies of the web site, both to give my colleagues who were running the event, an idea of her background and also to give out to anyone interested. Having read the summary the first thing one of my colleagues said on seeing her was “She’s not 74 !!!” and indeed she looked as usual much younger despite her recent heavy schedule, proving the old adage that a keen mind keeps you young.

She started off the night by giving a quick summary of the two series for anyone who wasn’t fully aware of them and it was interesting for me to hear her comparison of the more obviously attractive character of Francis with that of Nicholas. The impression was of a man with vast abilities but no real purpose in life, and she said she had wanted to have such a character to explore the ways he could develop.

She then went on to read a passage from C&R which she referred to as “the divining scene” and we were all held spellbound for a while as the scene progressed.

Having invited questions she then was able to regale us with stories of her research trips to the Ukraine and Poland for this latest volume, and we were soon in fits of laughter at her adventures. To land in the middle of the Ukraine at night and travel with a driver who speaks no English in an ancient ex-soviet car on cart-track roads that are awash with rain and landslides to a “2000 room soviet hotel” in the middle of nowhere, would be daunting for the most intrepid of us. I wished I’d had a tape recorder handy. Surely there is a wonderful autobiography waiting to be written when all the other projects are completed, though I’m not sure she’d thank me for suggesting it 😉

Something I didn’t know was that Steven Pacey, who read the audiobook of Niccolo Rising, was the actor who played Tarrant in the cult UK Sci-Fi series Blake 7. It turns out that when you get a contract to have one of your books turned into and audiobook, you have to supply pronunciation guides for the narrator, and that she didn’t know this until the day before the recording was due to start!!

We also learned that if you have your books published in Italy by her Italian publisher, one of the perks of the promotion visit is a box in La Scala Milan as the publisher is a director there!!

Once everyone hd bought their signed copies, had finished their wine and left, she very gamely continued signing large quantities of both C&R and Ringed Castle which have since been all sent off to the many fresh orders we’ve received since.

My own continued reading of Lymond

Thanks for all your comments about my thoughts on GK and QP. I hope all my replies reached those who wrote to me. I’ve had more trouble with my private mail account and am concerned taht some may have gone astray.
There isn’t much space here to go into too much detail about Disorderly Knights and Pawn in Frankincense which I just recently finished – I suspect I’ll need to re-read them before I do that. So just a few quick impressions.
At first I found DK a little slow, but that was soon dismissed as the pace quickened after the large amount of scene setting necessary to the story. I’m sure that if I re-read it now I’ll get many more clues to the subsequent behaviour of Graham Mallett, but at the time I had little idea of what was to come. What an incredible villianous construction he is!! Dealing with an obvious monster is one thing – when that monster is so thoroughly disguised as an angel that everyone trusts him absolutely the chances for disaster are vastly greater.
As the scene moved back to Scotland the sweep of the story became astonishing. Lymonds treatment of Joletta intriuging until the truth of her became apparent, the curious love/hate feelings of Jerrott, the death of Will Scott…. there seemed to be no rest in any chapter from the flood of new twists to be assessed. I had little warning of the “Council of War” at Boghall when suddenly all the clues half-seen or missed entirely were all suddenly brought together in that masterful speech condemning Gabriel against all the obvious appearances. A tour de force that hardly slakened until the dramatic ending quite unlike those of the previous two books.

I was warned that PF was hard to read and indeed it was. So much cutting between scenes after the two parties split up and ventured into continually changing areas, and the relations between Francis, Jerrott and Marthe in a constant turmoil. I found I was often having to check back a couple of chapters to confirm things and also often referring to the prophecies of the Dame de Doubtance. Phillippa is becoming a wonderful character and must surely figure highly in the last two volumes. The ending is quite staggering. It took me three reads before I was sure that Mikal’s treachery was actually a Lymond set-up to get into the Seraglio. Then the sudden switch in fortune of the trial that looked hopeless. I’m still trying to construct the final position of the chess game and I’m not sure if it can actually be done, but the concept is fabulous, the tension unbearable and the agony of Francis’ decision can be palpably felt.
Can’t decide if I should be re-reading or rushing on with Ringed Castle.

Enough for now. Hope you all have a great time over the New Year.

best wishes


Newsletter – 11th Nov 1997

Greetings from a suspiciously mild Edinburgh
(douce old Scottish saying in reply to a someone mentioning what a nice day it is – “aye, we’ll pay for this later” 🙂 )

Well, you might say that this has been an interesting few weeks!!
Naturally everything stopped for Caprice and Rondo, but unfortunately the gremlins in the computer systems didn’t seem to get the message. Our main South Bridge unix machine which runs all the stock control and accounts has been crashing regularly and taking up lots of time for Craig and I. The web site had to be moved from our old ISP to the newer one after they finally worked out how to host the secure server, but things didn’t go smoothly and I found I was locked out from making any changes for the best part of two weeks and then when I could get in it wouldn’t accept new files. We also couldn’t pick up StockSearch orders for a couple of days, so apologies to anyone who didn’t receive acknowledgements on time. Just for good measure we discovered that the comments box on Stocksearch hasn’t been working properly for ages and suddenly I’m getting loads of comments! I’m now in a new office upstairs as my long awaited move couldn’t be any further delayed and I had to move all my software and data over to Windows NT.

Caprice and Rondo

For those of you who don’t already know, the processing of the nearly 400 copies of Caprice and Rondo that were being sent airmail was completed in five and a half days (which was faster than we’d managed with about half the number of To Lie with Lions). Dorothy made three trips in to sign all the reserved copies and a few more in addition, but couldn’t manage all the spare ones before having to head back to the US for the second leg of her author tour. We’ve exhausted the signed ones with additional email orders but she’s coming in for a public signing session tomorrow so we’ll have some more signed copies then. All copies (apart from a small number that had problems with things like invalid card numbers that we couldn’t easily sort out) had gone out by the end of Friday 31st Oct and the UK ones went out on Monday 3rd Nov. I would expect that all the airmail ones would have arrived by now, and certainly I’ve had lots of messages telling of arrivals. I know that a short list of people have still to receive their’s and we’ll be checking into that now.

UK edition of Ringed Castle

This has now been published and any orders that we had have been sent out. The cover is now on the web page along with the others.

The US Tour

While I haven’t spoken to Dorothy since she got back I did get a chance to talk a bit more about the first leg of the tour. Apparently everyone who spoke to her or to the publishers wanted to know about King Hereafter and the Companion. Now I don’t currently know what the position is about US rights to either of them, but certainly Vintage have got the message that there is a large demand for them. I just hope Michael Joseph over here get the same message. (I’ve just been told that Caprice and Rondo is already having to be reprinted; which to me suggests that they didn’t print enough in the first place – more details as I can get them.)
One of the visits was so busy it was apparently described as being “more like a signing by Madonna” 😉

Dorothy told me that she was extremely well treated by Vintage and was astonished to find when she went to her hotel room window in Washington that she had the classic view up to the White House!

I had the pleasure of meeting Alastair for the first time during one of Dorothy’s signing visits. I had suggested that it might be possible for our small publishing division – the Mercat Press – to republish his autobiography, Among Friends. He brought a copy in and the Mercat editors are considering it at the moment. I’d like to get some feedback on how many of you would be interested in a copy if we do decide to go ahead with it, although it’s a bit early to know what the price would be at the moment.

Thanks to everyone for their restraint in sending messages during this period – it was much appreciated. I’ve still been getting about 30 messages a day but pretty much all have been on genuine aspects that needed looked at. Needless to say I did fall a bit behind in answering them all but I hope I’ve caught up most of them now. Anybody expecting a reply that hasn’t had one do get back to me.

Thanks also to everyone who mailed me on my personal address about my comments on GK and QP. As luck would have it I’d no sooner suggested it than my ISP started having email problems and I had a few problems getting replies sent out. I hope none got lost on the way to me, but I’ve now answered all I received so if you haven’t had a reply please resend if you still have the message on file. The problem seems to be in the anti-spamming software that they had installed recently and this has been happening with a number of UK ISPs – in fact we had the same problem with this account for a while and I was struggling to send out the last newsletter without most of the messages being rejected.

The reactions to my comments were most interesting and I hope we’ll be able to swap ideas further in the future. I’ve actually now finished Disorderly Knights – really shouldn’t have tried as I was having to grab the odd chapter when I came in late at night, usually about 11.45 till about 1.00am, and my wife wasn’t too pleased at me coming to bed even later than normal, but of course once I’d started it I couldn’t leave it alone. Finally finished it in a 4 hour session that finished at 3.00am this weekend. Won’t try to give my reactions to it now as I’m still getting over the breathless ending, so let’s keep that for next time.

I’ll be seeing Dorothy tomorrow at her signing tomorrow so maybe I’ll have some more news soon. In the meantime I’ll let you all get back to reading C&R 😉

best wishes


Newsletter – 21st October ’97

Greetings from a congested Edinburgh – about to be surrounded by politicians for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference, for which they’ve closed most of the city centre roads for security purposes!!

The Dunnett Tour of the US

I know that many of you have managed to see Dorothy in the first half of her author tour for the Vintage editions of Lymond. The reports I’m getting have been of packed bookshops, enthralled audiences and very happy booksellers and publishers! I spoke to Dorothy yesterday and she was overwhelmed at the reception she’s had and despite knowing already how keen you all are she was astonished at the enthusiasm and warmth shown. Someone apparently drove 800 miles to see her!! She was very touched by it all and sends her thanks.

Dunnett Companion

Firstly the situation with the Companion is that from the batch that I got hold of from the remainder merchants in England we were able to supply all of the people who had outstanding orders at the time of the last newsletter and a few of the new orders that were sent after it, but a number of people are still on the waiting list. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to answer all the requests individually as yet – there were just too many to get round and I didn’t know exactly how many copies I would have available until very recently because a couple of people who had requested multiple copies had changed email addresses. It turned out that they had managed to get copies from Duthies in Canada so fortunately I was able to supply more new orders than I originally expected.
Duthies have now told me that they cannot obtain any more so the only possibility is if I manage to get any more from the remainder people over here. If I have any luck then I’ll be in touch with those on the waiting list straight away. If you haven’t heard from me yet then I’m afraid you were unsuccessful for the moment, but I’ll try and message you all individually as soon as I can.

Quite a number of messages were sent to me at incorrect addresses and had to be salvaged in the error-trapping account that I have. This meant I had to jump between accounts cross-comparing message dates to make sure that orders were serviced in the correct order so I’m afraid that took rather longer than expected too. It looks as if the wrong address somehow got passed round as a lot of them were the same, so can you all please check that your address books have the correct one:
and at the same time that your entries for our order and enquiries (which Craig handles) are set to either
and not to the old address.

Caprice and Rondo

Now on to what you are all waiting for!!
I’ve been in touch with Michael Joseph and have persuaded them to give us advance delivery of C&R so that we can get the processing under way and get them signed by Dorothy as soon as possible. We have over 360 orders already – the vast majority of them to go airmail – which is almost twice as many as we had of To Lie with Lions, so you can imagine what a mammoth task it is going to be to get these out to you. Of course Dorothy is due to fly back to the US on the second part of her author tour on Saturday so how much signing can be done before that depends on when the books arrive. Keep your fingers crossed 😉
Official publication date is still the 6th November (although the first author event – in Nottingham of all places – is actually on the 5th) so technically we shouldn’t send out the UK copies until then anyway. However if you don’t tell then neither will we 😉 (and remembering how slow the post office were the last time it probably won’t make any difference anyway :-/ )

A small appeal
I know that you are all desperate to get the books and/or to double check your orders etc. but please try to be patient and let us get on with processing them. If everyone emails me now there is not an earthly chance of me answering you all individually, and trying to check which items have gone as we do them will only slow things down. Unless you have a really concrete problem or need to place a new order please don’t email me for the moment. I’ll keep everyone up to date with bulletins on how things are going. Should any copies go astray in the post or get damaged in transit we will of course send replacements, but the best way to keep track of things and know where we are, is to take care at the despatch stage rather than trying to rush it.
Thanks, we’ll do our very best to get them to you quickly and efficiently.

As yet there is no sign of the UK paperback edition of Ringed Castle which is also due this month. We have however been informed that publication of Checkmate has been delayed and won’t now appear until around April next year. So far I haven’t had an explanation of this. Anyone who has ordered it from us can certainly cancel their order if this is too late for them. We seem to be able to get the Vintage editions quite readily via a specialist US importer so anyone based outside of the americas can always get these from us if they wish.
UK author events so far arranged are as follows:

Wednesday 5th November
2pm ‘Off The Page’, Nottingham Central Library, Angel Row,
Contact: Lyn Turner Tel: 0115 985 4242

7pm Event at Waterstone’s Leeds
Tel: 0113 2444588

Tuesday 11th November
6.30pm Evening event at John Smith, Glasgow
Tel: 0141 221 7472

Wednesday 12th November

7pm Event at James Thin, South Bridge, Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 556 6743

Wednesday 3rd December
Evening event for Cawdor Book Services
At: Dunfermline Central Library, 1 Abbott Street,
Dunfermline, Fife
Tel: 0141 766 1000
Finally, I promised some of you I would give you my own reactions to reading the first two Lymonds.
Anyone else who isn’t interested can stop here!!
Haven’t had time to really sit down and think about this properly but here goes. First of all I enjoyed them immensly and as some of you predicted I was soon sucked in to forgetting about minor things like eating and sleeping 😉 I think my wife Fiona was pretty astonished because I don’t read much fiction since I find most of it pretty shallow, and I’ve never really enjoyed historical fiction from most other authors since I was a teenager.

I’ve heard one or two people on the usenet historical fiction group say that they found Game of Kings hard going at first or sometimes harder than some of the later books, and I can understand why although I was ok with it myself once I got used to the fact that I was really going to have to think as I read. Certainly my Scottish historical and geographical background was a great help although I did occasionally curse our habit of having lots of people with similar names! (Far too many Margarets for a start!!) Once the ground had been laid Francis emerged as a fascinating figure and very attractive to both sexes. My only slight quibble was how anyone could possibly be that well educated and experienced in so many things at such an early stage in his life, but that was soon forgotten. Sybilla is likewise a wonderful character but initially Richard seemed dull and predictable. Only later did he start to grow on me and I realised that while I might like to think of myself in Francis’ place I’m really much more like Richard in reality. The transformation of his attitude after the sworfight and shooting was startling.

The amnesia episode still leaves me wondering a little bit, and I’m told that many new readers go off the rails there. Christian Stewart was a lovely character and I was sad indeed when I realised that she would be unlikely to survive. But then it looks as if her death is quite an influence on Francis’ developement so perhaps it was inevitable.
It was hardly surprising given Dorothy’s reputation for historical accuracy that the episode of the young Queen Mary’s short visit to the priory at Menteith was confirmed in a radio program that I heard shortly after reading it.
The first meeting with the young Philippa was a harrowing way to start a long term relationship and laid so many possibilities for the future. I must confess the ending was something of a surprise in the dramatic slowing of the tempo during the courtroom scenes but tension was palpable and the card playing twist from the games Will Scott had played with Jonathan Crouch was masterly.

Queens’ Play had quite a different feel to it, though perhaps that is inevitable given the setting. The pace seemed faster despite the descriptions being necessarily more lavish. The rooftop race scene was positively breathless of course.
I’d be fascinated to know how many people spotted the twist of the Keeper of the Royal Menagerie. Being Scottish the name Abernaci rang alarm bells immediately – well, almost immediately, the knife throwing/ink bottle scene was doubtless there to distract us 😉 Of course it coming not long after the initial puzzle of which of the Irish party was actually Lymond was sneaky too!
I laughed out loud helplessly when the Frenchman mentioned “Ue” the elephant, and got a few funny looks from the people sitting quietly drinking outside the hotel in Slovenia where I was reading it 🙂

Robin Stewart being the would-be assasin was rather more of a surprise though perhaps I should have been expecting it by then – the hunting cheetah scene had put me off the scent I think. Thady Boy Ballagh was a wonderful invention with which to entwine the hero, with all the contradictions of debauched excess and chivalrous brinkmanship inescapeably intertwined.
The ending was again unexpected, but in some ways perhaps even more subtle than its predecessor in the disgrace of d’Aubigny and the interplay with Mary of Guise. A satisfying conclusion. It’s a good place to pause and draw breath before continuing with Disorderly Knights. Looking back, so much has faded from concrete memory that I can well understand those who read them again and again – I have a feeling that a few connections are likely to appear shortly!

In summary, everything I had hoped for and expected in the way of stimulating and thought-provoking reading. Believe me, I am not one who would praise it if I thought otherwise (even though it has been suggested that I was being put in an unfair position and I could hardly have admitted to not liking them). Just like Richard probably 😉

I’d love to have comments if your interested, but let’s keep them separate from business because I’ll never get through them in work hours the way things are at the moment. Maybe use my own email address at

Very best wishes to everyone. I’ll be in touch with any further news of C&R

Bill Marshall