Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Ellis Peters memories


I mentioned Crippen & Landru the other day in connection with their new book by Philip Wylie. A few years back, I co-edited one of their books, a Lost Classic, featuring obscure stories by Edith Pargeter, aka Ellis Peters - The Trinity Cat and Other Mysteries.

My co-editor was Sue Feder. She was someone I never met, but she was a great fan of, and expert in, the work of Ellis Peters. Doug Greene introduced us via email and we corresponded about the various unpublished (in volume form) stories that Peters had written and which might be suitable for the collection. Sue’s enthusiasm was infections, and it was a sad blow when, some time before the book was published, she died after a long fight against serious illness.

I’ve been involved in various literary collaborations over the years, and I think of the Peters venture with considerable affection. The stories in The Trinity Cat, by and large, are set in fictionalised versions of her beloved Shropshire Many of them were written in the 50s, but they retain their charm, I think. She was a capable writer, though I’d describe her plotting as workmanlike rather than brilliant. Agatha Christie she was not –but she was much better than the great Agatha at evoking place.

I like to think Sue Feder would have been proud of ‘our book’. It was a pleasure to collaborate with her, albeit at a distance. It’s an odd thing, by the way, but three of the books I’ve produced over the years have been co-written with people whom, for one reason or another, I never actually got to meet.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for the reminder of Ellis Peters' great work. She really was a talented writer. I'm not as familiar with her short stories as I am with her Cadfael series. I must repair that egregious gap, and you've given me a helpful reminder to do that.

Mark Daniels said...

I love the Cadfael mysteries. Oddly, although I'm a big fan of PBS, the network on which the teledrama versions of Cadfael appeared here in the States, I had never heard of Peters' monk until my family and I visited Shrewsbury. We were there as a stop on a ten-concert tour in which our children's high school choir took through England. On Palm Sunday, they sang at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the core of which formed the Benedictine Abbey associated with the fictional Brother Cadfael. Across the street from the church was a now-defunct mystery attraction with a gift shop where I bought my first Cadfael mystery.

I love Peters' writing. In the Cadfael books, she vividly evokes Medieval England. The dialogue of her characters seems to go from my reading eyes to my ears, where I can hear the varied accents of the Welsh and others.

It was fun finding your blog in the midst of an entirely unrelated web search.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot. The novels are better than the stories, I admit, but the stories are certainly very worth while.

Martin Edwards said...

Mark, nice to hear from you. That concert must have been memorable. I have myself visited the defunct mystery attraction you mention!

Fiona said...

I'm a huge fan of Ellis Peters and have been trying to find a copy of the short stories (ahem - at a price I can afford) for some time. I'm interested in your comment about her plotting ability, Martin - I don't really think of her as a crime writer, not even with the George Felse books which I love, but her 'spirit of place' and characterisation are so vital that the whodunnit? angle is almost trivial.

Perhaps that also reflects my comment of yesterday about rarely guessing the guilty party because I'm too busy devouring the story!

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Fiona, yes, I think it's true that she was more interested in character, place and history than the puzzle.

J said...

Thanks for this lovely posting. I used to correspond with Sue when she ran the Ellis Peters Appreciation Society--back when Headline was issuing new hardcovers of her earlier books I thought I would never own! Between their reprint of THE LILY HAND and the C&L collection, one would get a nice sampling of her non-Cadfael short fiction.

Susan Gainen said...

I was doing some Domestic Archaeology -- my polite term for housecleaning -- and found two issues of Sue Feder's Ellis Peters Appreciation Society newsletter (#2 and #3), which reminded me of Sue, who introduced me to Cadfael, and of how we went about sharing our passions before we could blog.

Kathy Harig said...

Martin. Sue Feder was my orginal partner at Mystery Loves Company Tomorrow our books club at the store will be discussing a Morbid Taste for Bones and I was researching Ellis Peters again for the meeting. Although Sue left the store after one year, we remained in contact. I was very sadded by her death at such an early age. She was a brilliant and enthusiastic crusader for Peters' work I met Ms P several times and was always inpressed by her love and grace when she met her fans. Once I watched her sign about 500 copies of her book while she was in her 80's. Thank you for reminding me of my late partner and Edith. Kathy Harig

Martin Edwards said...

Great to hear from you, Kathy, and thanks for commenting.