Haven’t we met before? A guest post by L.C. Tyler
This month we are proud to publish the paperback of The Maltese Herring by L.C. Tyler, the eighth instalment in the Herring Mysteries series featuring crime writer Ethelred Tressider and his agent Elsie Thirkettle. Over the course of the series, Ethelred has solved a number of crimes and has been shot at, kidnapped, arrested, menaced, deceived, abandoned and insulted – the last of these mainly by his agent. At the same time, Elsie has consumed many kilos of chocolate. They make a good team. Today L.C. Tyler discusses the characters that keep coming back for more…
Few writers of crime series can resist the chance to reintroduce a favourite character from an earlier book. I don’t mean the main protagonist or the series sidekick – Watson or Hastings or Lewis – but the eccentrics who were intended to plug a hole in the plot but somehow talked their way into a bigger part. Agatha Christie had a number, including Ariadne Oliver, a fictional novelist who was loosely based on Christie herself and Poirot’s secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon, who was “unbelievably ugly and incredibly efficient. Anything that she mentioned as worth consideration usually was worth consideration.”
I haven’t yet included a fictionalised version of myself in any of my books – though some people have suggested that I do resemble one of my two main protagonists – the slightly mournful and dishevelled crime writer, Ethelred Tressider. My other narrator (chocoholic literary agent Elsie Thirkettle) does, like Poirot, have a very efficient secretary, who over several books has taken on more and more responsibility at the agency, including trying to keep Elsie to her diet. Though her original part in the plot of Crooked Herring was small, I think she may be here to stay. The same applies to crime writer Ethelred Tressider’s policeman friend, Joe, who occasionally consults Ethelred on cases in a way that I am sure happens only in detective fiction. When Ethelred moved to the other side of West Sussex, I conveniently got Joe a transfer to the same part of the county.
Other characters make appearances in just a couple of books, for example cheap detective Herbie Proctor, who appears first in Ten Little Herrings. He is discovered at a hotel in the Loire, ‘drinking the smallest size of beer that the restaurant served. His clothing suggested that he considered Oxfam to be a designer label … On the plus side, assuming that he had cut his hair himself that morning in poor light and using nail scissors then he hadn’t made such a bad job of it.’ He later shows up, in Herring on the Nile, aboard a paddle steamer, now wearing pink shorts and trying to remain inconspicuous in his under-cover role. What he lacks in courage (and he lacks a great deal), he makes up for in optimism. At the end of Herring on the Nile he announces: “Some of you may not know, but I am a private detective.” As Ethelred observes, it was quite touching that he thought he still had any part of his cover intact.
In The Maltese Herring, I have provided a second outing for the Reverend Sabine Barclay-Wood. Barclay-Wood first appeared in Cat Among the Herrings as the fictional author for a collection of early twentieth-century Sussex folk tales – a volume that provides an important clue in solving a murder many years later. That was all I needed him for, but his waspish presence continued to make itself felt. Later in the book it is revealed that he also wrote a fairy tale about church mice that led to a protracted libel action brought by the Bishop and Dean of Chichester. In The Maltese Herring we discover that he has penned a hymn for children, ‘God of Sunshine, God of Love’, which has a place in the Guinness Book of Records for being banned in 31 countries. He is a keen amateur archaeologist, and habitually used the finger bone of an excavated mediaeval bishop to tamp down his pipe. And he had a habit of inserting sections of Daily Herald editorials in his sermons and claiming that he was quoting St Paul. His deviousness – and in particular his random and unauthorised excavations at Sidlesham Abbey in the early 1900s – cause Ethelred a great deal of trouble in his latest case, as you will soon discover if you read the book …
The Maltese Herring is currently one of our Books of the Month with £2 off the paperback price and free P&P for UK deliveries. Get your copy now!