The website and the blog

For 21 years I worked in bookselling – firstly in Science books, then in Computer books, before taking over the running of computer systems for the company I worked for. They were James Thin, a 150 year-old fifth generation family firm who were known worldwide as a source of academic and Scottish books. Back then it was one of the largest stockholding bookshops in Europe and it expanded to have at one point over 30 branches. It had contacts with a number of loyal local authors and one of those was Dorothy Dunnett. Thins had a mailing list of readers, mostly overseas, who always wanted her latest books as soon as they appeared.

When I branched out into setting up email and then a website I made contact with some of these readers who had formed an internet email discussion group and were delighted that there could be a web page devoted to her on our new site.

It was to prove a life changing meeting! I was lucky enough to make friends with Dorothy and work with her in developing the website and help to communicate with her large and enthusiastic readership by sending out newsletters. The site blossomed but Thins started to get into financial difficulties. Then suddenly, just two months after Dorothy’s untimely illness and death, the company’s banking was withdrawn and the administrators were called in. Many of us lost our jobs and the website was closed. Unwilling to see the Dunnett pages lost I rewrote and redesigned them into something like the site you see today and hosted them on my own webspace.

After a couple of years of struggling to find consistent work I found I could no longer keep writing the newsletters that I’d continued to send. That state of play continued until I decided to add this blog.


The website and the blog — 12 Comments

  1. Great news about the re-issue of the Lymond titles! I began reading DD in the early 70s and am still hooked – have them all in H/C as well as the Niccolo series. I too was a bookseller (in Australia) for almost 30 yrs and introduced so many readers to these incredible stories.
    ….. still rant on about them to friends.
    I think if ‘they’ do as good an interpretation to film as the Poldark series, I’ll be happy, although, as you say, it will never be the Lymond in our minds.

  2. Dear Bill,

    My birthday gift last year was the complete Niccolo in hardback…a dream of a collection from a beloved spouse. I have both Companion Guides, which is enormously helpful. I am just beginning (for the second round) said series…my question…is Niccolo on audio? It would be a dream.

    My husband and I will be in Bruges for two weeks this May so am designing s walking tour for us…a lovely project!

    Thanks for all you do!

  3. Hi Mary and welcome. Lovely to have the hardback collection (well done to your husband!) – you forget sometimes how much easier it is to read compared to the dense printing of the paperbacks. Though the hardback’s extra weight do mean laying them on your lap rather than holding them up!
    I’ll a little out of date on the availability of the audiobooks so I’ll need to check, but certainly they were available for a while. I’ve started (again) on redesigning the site and re-writing the content so I’ll be investigating all these aspects.
    Bruges is a delight and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. There is an excellent guidebook to Bruges available from the Dorothy Dunnett Society if you need an hints.
    best wishes

  4. I am staying with my son in Devon and so, with time to spare, I have the luxury of re-reading my autographed copy of “Gemini” which I devoured moment it was published. I have been interested in your blog and,rediscovering the DD website, have loved the opportunity to re-read Dorothy’s thoughts as the series ended. I, too, remember the early heady days as we gradually came to realise there was a link to Lymond.
    Stirling 2000 was a highlight. How lucky we were to attend.
    I was introduced to DD and Lymond by a lady called Isobel Dixon from Edinburgh many years ago. She was a stalwart admirer of DD. Any efforts to contact her have been unsuccessful. I live in Kent and Jo Kirkham of Rye once did marvellous study days. There I met Margaret Longmate, a determined Scottish lady proud of her lineage and connection to the Sinclairs. Sadly, she died in December last year.
    Having found the DD websites I shall be returning to them in the future and have fun remembering the early days and – yes- I once bought a book from you in Thins on a NADFAS visit to Scotland!

  5. P.S. Isobel was “Dickson”.

    Reading Dorothy’s thoughts on finishing Nicholas I notice she was afraid she’d never finish it. You knew her well at that time. Was she already ill?

  6. Hi Julia and Welcome. Glad to hear you’re rediscovering the site and hope you find the blog articles interesting. I always enjoy reading comments on them and they’re often stimulating with new ideas. You may be interested to hear that the much-delayed redesign and revision of the main website is now finally underway, though it’s a big job and may take a few months.

    Yes, Stirling was such a wonderful and very memorable occasion. I don’t expect to ever have dinner in such a grand hall again! And meeting so many people for the first time who I’d only known through emails was a treat.

    I haven’t heard anything of Isobel for quite some time I’m afraid. I’ll ask around if I get a chance. Jo’s been a stalwart for many years and her various Rye events are legendary.

    I don’t think Dorothy was ill at the time of the Gathering, but I do think that she felt a great responsibility over finishing Gemini – both to her readers in terms of giving them a satisfying conclusion, and to the people at her publishers who were responsible for getting the book to print. We can only speculate how deeply she was affected by Alastair’s death but I always felt it must have been such a difficult and emotional occasion to finally finish the book and the series and not be able to give him the manuscript to read. He was always the first to read them as soon as she completed them, and was always so very proud of her achievments, and this time he was no longer there!

    best wishes

  7. Not really any further news since the update we got at the DDS AGM as far as I know. The screenplay script was re-written I believe but nothing further on how likely it is to be taken up.

  8. Hi, my Name is Andrés Prado, I’m from Chile (English is not my native language).
    I used to remember my Grandmother when I was a little kid translating a book to Spanish Language… Then I grew up and I asked her about that book that she used to spend hours and hours translating when I was such a Kid (early 90’s). She told me that before I got borned she was suffering a really hard life-moment, and suddenly, Lymond CHronicles appears in her life. The book and the series was so so amazing to her that it really “saved” her for her depression, so she decided to translate the book for her loving ones, thinking in her childs and future grandchilds. (There wasn´t a spanish translation for the book in those time)….
    decades has passed, she is still alive (she is in her 80’s), she translated all the series, printed the books and ringed them and stored it in her library.
    Time goes by with al this crazyness we call life….. I found the printed and ringed books some time ago in her library.. and started reading the chronicles……..
    They are really really amazing!

    There isn´t any reason why I’m writing this to you, maybe just to share with you her story, and how this crhronicles that where her only deep company in a difficult life-dark-time of her life kind of safe her.
    She knows perfectly how to navigate on internet (translating the book maybe was the tool that made her open to the PC-internet world), maybe you can comunicate with her….
    Anyway…. Thanks a lot, this chronicles kind of saved her, and in that way that “saved” our family.

  9. Hello Andrés, and thank you very much for sharing your story, which I find particularly inspiring at the moment. As I write this reply I have been at my father’s bedside in hospital for the last few days. He is 96 (his birthday was only a few days away from Dorothy’s) and he is in his final hours as his kidneys have failed.

    Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful lady – to translate these books is a very difficult task – and I am so glad to hear that they helped her through such a difficult time in her life. And I am absolutely certain that Dorothy would have been thrilled and thankful that her work had had such a positive effect – she cared very much for all her readers and communicated with many of them who wrote to her.
    Please send my greetings to your grandmother and tell her that I would be happy to hear from her and I hope the contents of this site provides her with further pleasure.

    best wishes to you both

  10. Dear Bill
    I am the enquiries officer of the DDS and have received this query “Back in the mists of time Bill Marshall said Dorothy had left notes about Judith, the long lost wife of Johnson Johnson. Do you know, or can you find out, anything about this? After Lamont,[confirmed as an autocorrect error – SM] JJ was my favourite.”

    are you able to enlighten me, and therefore her? can I post your reply on the DDS FB page as there are a few JJ fans who would like to know the answer too

  11. Hi Sarah
    Yes I just replied a few days ago to the person who asked this and who had contacted me directly, but I think it’s a misunderstanding of something else that was said as I don’t recall saying it and as far as I know Dorothy didn’t have any such notes for JJ. Earlier Dorothy had said there was a synopsis of Gemini in case anything happened to her before she could finish it but I don’t recall anything similar for JJ – those tended to be written much faster (if I remember correctly I think she did most of them in about 6 weeks) so wouldn’t really need such a backup plan.

    I remember Dorothy joking that Mickey Thies (much missed) should write the last JJ herself since she seemed to know more about the plot than Dorothy herself did, after Mickey had been prodding her about when she’d be able to start on it.

    I think if there was anything put aside it would likely have turned up in the archives in the National LIbrary of Scotland, but as far as I know Pam Keeling has finished going through any material that hadn’t already been indexed and hasn’t come across anything. So I fear we’ll never know what twists she had in store for us.


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