Tag Archives: Dorothy L Sayers

Historical Fiction, or just Old-Fashioned?

It’s very hard to find a picture of a scruffy old bloke reading a book when you look through the free photo library. This is the closest I could get. Most book readers, according to the free photo library, are well-groomed young women. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

In the last week I have been reading Lord Peter Wimsey novels bought via Amazon and downloaded instantly to my tablet. At 99p each they are reasonable value and available instantly. I’m dubious about paying much more than that for an eBook because it doesn’t reallt feel like you are getting much for your money.

I’ll pay more on the rare occasion I buy a new book or when I buy a reference book, but when I’m buying a book that’s been in print since the 1920s, particularly one that’s now out of copyright, I have a very parsimonious attitude. Any author reading this is probably shuddering at the idea of someone like me representing the future of book-buying. Sorry about that, if you are one of them.

Considering that I’m purchasing the license to read the ‘content’ and that terms and conditions can be altered or terminated at any time without notice I feel comfortable with 99p, but not at £4.99 and £5.99. I can buy a proper book in clean condition for that, and still have something to pass on to a neighbour or a charity shop.

Several of the editions I bought have faulty formatting, but that’s the nature of cheap eBooks. You have to put up with it.

Several of the books feature what we would now consider racism. Whenever you read books from between the wars they always seem to. I’m not qualified to discuss racism, and I’m not sure if Sayers was racist or not. However, the references to Jews and blacks (not necessarily using those words) no doubt mirror the way people talked in those days. It doesn’t necessarily means she was racist, just accurate, but it doesn’t make for comfortable reading. It’s very easy to condemn writers from the 20s and 30s for being racist, and modern commentators often do, so I’ll resist the temptation.

My other concern is that the books contain plot devices I’m not entirely happy with. There is a missing heir (which turns out to be a red herring), an undetectable poison (which turns out not to be a poison) and a case of someone claiming to be his own cousin. It’s getting close to implausible. So is the idea of a middle-aged, possibly elderly, man scaling a building to dispose of a dead body. There are, in case you didn’t know, ‘rules’ about these things. And more here.

There are good bits in the books too, even though, as I get older Wimsey and Bunter are becoming closer and closer to Wooster and Jeeves.

I’ll have to do some proper reviews soon. For now, let’s say that my tastes are more inclined to historical crime fiction than they are to classics of the Golden Age.