Friday, May 24, 2013

Morocco with Mary

I discovered the Mary Russell novels the same way that Russell discovered Holmes: by accident. A bookworm for as long as I can remember, I find solace browsing libraries and bookstores. The treasure trove that is appeals to me for its variety and comprehensiveness, but it in no way matches the bliss of walking through stacks of physical books: their smell, the heft of them, the hush that surrounds them. Whereas other people shop for clothes, jewelry, or shoes, given half a chance I lose myself in a bookstore.

On that particular day, I had no idea what I was looking for. Mystery stories are one of the genres that appeal to me, and I happened to be in that aisle. Why I picked, of the many options available, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I have no idea. At the time, I wasn't even a Sherlock Holmes fan, although I had enjoyed the films The Seven-Percent Solution and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Whatever. I picked up the book, and there was fifteen-year-old Mary Russell, roaming the Sussex Downs with her nose in a book until she almost tripped over the great detective. A kindred soul! Is it any wonder that, twelve books later, when I became host of New Books in Historical Fiction, interviewing the author, Laurie R. King, was high on my wish list?

Fortunately, Laurie was busy the first time I approached her, because that would have been the interview I had to re-record due to general idiocy in the management of audio software (for that incident, see “Less Than Perfect”). I might never have had the nerve to ask her twice. But finally, her schedule cleared, and the interview is live at New Books in Historical Fiction.

Note that Skype was not on its best behavior on Tuesday. It gave me a better connection to Kyiv than it did to California. Go figure. But most of the sound is clear, and if something sounds a bit dicey, hang in there: it will clear up fast.

The rest of this post comes from the NBHF site.

Morocco in 1924 has political factions to spare. A rebellion in the Rif Mountains threatens to oust Spain from its protectorate in the north—a response to Spanish mistreatment of the local population, itself driven by the desire to avenge seven centuries of Moorish domination. The Germans worry about the iron mines barred to them by the revolt. South of the mountains, the French fight in vain to defend a line drawn without regard to traditional tribal or geographical boundaries. Britain fears that it will lose access to the Mediterranean if the French succeed. Meanwhile, the Rifi, under the leadership of the Abd-el-Krim brothers, are not the only leaders determined to rule an independent Morocco. The corrupt but charismatic Raisuli (al-Raisuni) has no intention of standing aside for a pair of military upstarts, however gifted.

Into this hotbed of unrest strolls a moving picture crew intent on filming the desert at sunrise. The crew includes Mary Russell, the wife and partner of Sherlock Holmes. When the great detective himself returns from a side trip to discover that Mary was last seen days before, heading into the mountains in the company of an unknown child, her unexplained absence pulls Holmes and Russell into a web of threads that criss-cross to create a true garment of shadows.

Join me as I discuss Garment of Shadows (Bantam Books, 2012)—the latest, wonderful addition to Mary Russell’s memoirs—with Miss Russell’s faithful literary agent, Laurie R. King.

Mary Russell Holmes has her own blog, which she maintains with some regularity as new volumes of her adventures appear. She has been supplying her agent with manuscripts for some time: the first volume is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. To find out why Russell abandoned the hallowed halls of Oxford to work for Flytte Films, read The Pirate King, the previous book in the series. Either way, seek her out. You will not regret the decision.

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