Reading Welsh and Maineiac mysteries together, hoping to discover clues as to the state of The God’s Cycle corpus. Is it dead or alive? Pairing the Maineiac and the Welsh is not inappropriate because there are parallels in this coupling. The Maineiac is not a Mainer born and bred, but one “from away,” someone just crazy enough — wanting to live here despite the covert/overt challenge. The Welsh, as everyone in the UK knows, are plain crazy. The English of long ago absconded with Britain and the true King Arthur. The Irish (slightly less crazy Celts) absconded with St. Patrick, but that’s another history.
Really you’ve got to expect it. I didn’t know Mark Twain had written detective fiction. Of course he did. Of course he satirizes Sherlock Holmes! Of course the story is set it in a mining camp out West, there being precedent in Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, published fifteen years before. And of course Twain called his A Double-barreled Detective Story.
The double-barreled is metaphor for two detectives working on the same murder case. Sherlock Holmes uses observation and scientific analysis. Archie Stillman (non de plume) uses his nose for scent analysis. Each detective has strengths and weaknesses — Sherlock Holmes’ weakness is Mark Twain — who burlesqued him mercilessly. (Almost)
Our investigation begins with the town’s point of view and a town character whose presence afterward will be sparingly used (that’s my plan). She’s a crank, pretty much there to start the “show,” giving a book talk in the library. Ruth Moore deployed a crank in the first chapter of her Walk down Main Street. Just to get things started.
Peter Hitchens’ blog at the Daily Mail provided a nudge to pick up Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair again. He quoted Holmes in defense of how amazingly wrong the easy explanation can be: “It is a capital error to theorize without data.” I only remembered this mystery book after grabbing it from the top shelf and starting on it again. Hitchens calls Tey’s mystery “severely brilliant.” Here a “dogged, skeptical inquiry reveals that something apparently impossible is true.” The “unpopular” suspects are innocent of the charge, though judged guilty by almost all in the rural town.
Good News on the Investigation of Life in The God’s Cycle. The latest: there’s loads of tension in Maine’s 1998 ice storm — enough almost to float a novel without a murder mystery. As anticipation concerning the ice storm builds, I may be able to give the murder a low-profile.
Here’s a list of factors contributing to ice storm suspense:
1. Threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. (12 such deaths reported in Maine’s storm.)
2. Trees breaking by the thousands, blocking highways and lanes, crashing on houses, and downing live power lines.
3. Absolute darkness. Slowly mitigated by primitive means. (In complete darkness, one man in Maine woke thinking he’d gone blind. R and I have experienced this darkness.)
4. Extreme difficulty walking on solid ice as thick as your forefinger is long — accompanying injuries. I had one of these and it turned out chronic to this day. (ouch)
5. Mysteriously, one store open in an isolation of light provided by the power company. My reading so far has not discovered the cause of this. The state’s central office of the power company itself lost power.
There’s much more. But all the above will suffice for minimum and slow advance on the murder, for both officials, reader, and writer.
I’ve been rereading Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers and finding it, this time around, a regular mishmash (if the paradoxical coupling with the adjective can be accepted, or even excepted). I recall being less than thrilled with my initial reading, without recalling why. Now I see. Sayers could have used an ice storm and cut the puzzle. Though some may enjoy the dance, for me it’s not engagingly presented. (I feel my eighth-grade teacher saying, pay attention!) With an ice storm her corpse could have gone under the sea, stayed out of sight awhile, bobbed to the surface, gone under, come up again, each time in a different part of the sea and (of course) the narrative. Oh yes! both reader and writer recall. –That murder again! (Or was a suicide?) But there it is again!!
I’m not yet embroiled in the investigation, but must, like any detective, do the legwork, tedious inspection of clues no matter how trivial or overblown. Much is needed. Lots of background on the ‘ 98 ice storm and other winter storms germane to the thoughts and actions of characters. This kind of work is, well, work. Something much more interesting to me is building the mystery-story structure. Also, My imagination’s been marinating in enjoyable stories of detection by various authors in both print and unabridged audio versions. It’s said Sayers immersed in mysteries before writing them. I have how-to books but don’t plan to read them… unless I get stuck?
Had thought The God’s Cycle was dead and, investigating the matter,… turns out a detective fiction might help with that inquiry. Naturally, this being the Town of Gott’im, it would not be hard-boiled, would not be noir, or PD James. Not even Sayers. It won’t be Chandler, of course, but I do rely on his method to get me through this crucial investigation. Meaning I, the author, don’t know whodunit. I will let the story itself teach me that. In fact, I don’t even know who it was done to yet.