This week we’re all about The Past and Other Lies, a stunning new mystery with a plot that centers around England’s General Strike of 1926. That made us think, suddenly, about another mystery that revolves around the Strike: A Summer in the Twenties, by the astonishing Peter Dickinson. We don’t currently publish that title, but we do offer several of his other books. How well do you know his work?
A. In King and Joker, at what meal do we first make the acquaintance of the teenage Princess Louise and the rest of the Royal Family?
C. In The Old English Peep Show, a policeman has been sent to investigate the mysterious death of a “servant” at England’s answer to Colonial Williamsburg. The policeman, so mild-mannered that he tends to fade into the wallpaper, is Dickinson’s only series character. His name is
Music forms such a powerful background to our lives, and this was no less true in the 1920s, even with the iPod as yet not even a pipe dream. Radio broadcasts in England were still in their infancy – regular “entertainment” programs (broadcast, crucially, from the Marconi Research Centre) had only begun in 1922 – but young people like Bertha and Jemima, from The Past and Other Lies, would nevertheless have been familiar with the popular songs of the day. What were they humming as they hung the laundry in 1926? (more…)
The central, catalyst event of The Past and Other Lies is Britain’s General Strike of 1926 – a 10-day walkout called by the Trades Union Congress in support of the country’s coal miners, who were being “asked” to accept what amounted to a 24% cut in wages, after a 35% pay-cut over the previous seven years. Nearly two million workers joined the strike, many of them in the transport industries – bus drivers, railway engineers – as well as stevedores, printers, and workers at iron, steel, and construction companies. From London to Glasgow, armed battles broke out between the strikers and the cops, while in Northumberland, strikers forced the famed Flying Scotsman train off the rails. (more…)
Fed up with “formulaic” mysteries? Have we got a book for you! Actually, that’s not quite true: The Past and Other Lies does indeed hew to a formula, of sorts, but the elements have a lot more in common with Greek tragedy than with, say, Sue Grafton. While most contemporary mysteries open – or at least middle – with a crime, the dark deed at the heart of The Past and Other Lies, by contrast, arrives only at the very end, the revelation of the poison that has so terribly damaged one generation after another. While author Maggie Joel’s other novel, The Second-Last Woman in England, was all about the “why,” The Past and Other Lies is about what the crime produced.
Or produces. The sense of inevitability, of the extent to which lies and betrayal can beget only betrayal and lies, gives the book a powerfully classical feel: The House of Atreus played out in the grimy flats and shiny, high-rise apartments of 20th-century London.
Adding to the impressions of classicism is the fact that each of these generations – three in all – is represented by a pair of sisters. First up are Jennifer and Charlotte, circa the go-go 1980s. Brittle, never as successful as they think they should be, and much given to “amusing” little practical jokes about suicide.
For their misery, look to their mother, Dierdre, whose memory is all but stuck in the night during the London Blitz when a bomb took out half the street and exposed the grotesque secret that has twisted her relationship with her sister, Caroline.
And finally, there’s Bertha, Dierdre’s mother and sister to Jemima. One of them will commit a crime the courts would recognize. One will commit a crime that will make the other crime inevitable. Where does the blame lie? Where does the “chain of blood” begin? The Past and Other Lies is a classic Felony and Mayhem “novel with mystery elements.”
This week only we are offering up both the paperback and ebook versions at a discount.
Who doesn’t love a gift certificate? It always fits, it never goes out of fashion, and the eventual goodies depend on nobody’s taste but one’s own. If there’s a mystery-lover on your gift-list, a Felony & Mayhem gift certificate could be the perfect present.
It’s perfect for you, the giver, as well. After all, a gift certificate means no wrapping, no waiting in line at the mall, and no need to apologize for having left things too late. You’ll have your F&M gift certificate — ready for sending on to the recipient, or printing out for a more formal presentation — within 24 hours of placing your order (our elves work fast!). And best of all, just to sweeten the deal, this holiday season we are offering our gift certificates at a very festive 10% off!
Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solestice…there’s no holiday that can’t be made more festive by a little mayhem. And we’re sure your nifty gift-ee will agree. In the meantime, Happy Reading!
Even the Felonious need a little me-time with their stuffing and pie, so there will be no Thursday quiz this week. As far as we’re concerned, you’re all mystery mavens: That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
But it wouldn’t be a holiday without a few fireworks, so we’ll be making a nifty announcement on Thanksgiving: Watch this space.
In the meantime, we are working on a Felony & Mayhem playlist – a musical medley that will, we hope, reflect our literary line-up. Thanksgiving is the most family-oriented of holidays, so in a curtsey to that Norman Rockwell tradition, we offer the following tune, by Tom Lehrer, top of our hit parade. Think of it as No. 1…with a bullet.
Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory. Well, at least I do. And in recognition of the Events in Dallas – which gave rise, of course, to what is arguably the greatest set of conspiracy theories in the known world – we are this week offering a 25% discount on not one but three swell conspiracy-theory thrillers.
First up is Reginald Hill’s fabulous Who Guards a Prince, almost certainly my favorite of his non-series novels. (Our title, by the way, reverts to the original British; when the book first came out in the U.S., it was given the dumbed-down title of Who Guards the Prince? I figured our readers were smart enough to handle the version that Mr. Hill intended.) The baddies, here, are Freemasons – catnip for the conspiracy-minded – and protagonist Doug McHarg has a blunt, rough-hewn aspect that may remind some readers of a certain Mr. Dalziel.
Next is The Peking Man is Missing, which is in fact based on one of history’s most fascinating – and true – unsolved mysteries. But wait, there’s more. The novel’s ripped-from-the-headlines appeal gets a significant boost from the fact that the author, Claire Tashdjian, actually played a role in the mystery’s unfolding: The novel is essentially her speculation as to how it might have played out. But over the years – the mystery dates back to 1941 – there have been any number of speculations, and we’ve included both an essay on the various theories and a second essay – by a noted paleontologist – on the history of the Peking Man fossils. Plus some never-before-published photographs of Ms. Tashdjian in China. The book is what you might call a complete package.
And finally, we couldn’t even pretend to nod to JFK without showcasing The Cambridge Theorem, Tony Cape’s spectacularly twisty novel about a depressed grad student who amuses himself by applying mathematical logic to questions like Who Killed Kennedy. When the student is found hanging from a short rope, it’s assumed that his personal demons simply won the day. But one cranky cop has a different idea. We love this sneaky stunner, and not least because one of Mr. Cape’s imagined solutions turns out – some years after he wrote it – to have been very close to the truth.
Finally finally, we don’t sell it, but if you’re a real conspiracy buff, grab yourself a copy of Them, by Jon Ronson, about the couple of years that Ronson spent hanging out with conspiracy-theorists of various stripes. Who else is going to tell you the truth about the giant Jewish lizards from outer space?
So, I had decided that our four “Valentine and Lovelace” books were all going to feature cover illustrations showing “iconic” gay imagery from the 1970s/80s. The back-pocket bandana and the studded-cap-with-aviators were no-brainers, for anyone who remembers the period. The visage of a drag-queen also felt right; some of us went to a lot of drag shows in the 80s. Our illustrator, a young Brazilian guy named Andy Alves, had no problem knocking out swell drawings, even though he had yet to be a gleam in his mother’s eye at the time these images are intended to evoke. (more…)