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1899-1936: The Making of a Detective Novelist

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14001-0
Publisher: St. Martin's

Best known as the creator of the enduringly popular sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, Sayers gives us glimpses of her life in this selection of vivid and often entertaining correspondence. This collection, which comprises only a fraction of the letters Sayers left, follows the author from her youth--she is only five when she writes the first, remarkably articulate, letter here--through the period of her fame as a mystery writer who is just beginning the religious works of her later years. Throughout, Sayers presents herself as an intriguing combination of reticence ("I never can write about my feelings") and brashness ("I really am a vulgar child"). Intelligent and a keen observer of her surroundings, she demonstrates the ability to sketch character and setting long before she pens her first novel. She does not hesitate to turn her lively sense of humor on herself, as when she notes that her unsuccessful verse translation of the Song of Roland sounds well enough "chanted aloud in the bath-room." Sayers taps all of these abilities to turn out controlled and for the most part upbeat letters, even when she is riding out her infatuation with writer John Cournos, struggling to establish her financial independence, making living arrangements for the illegitimate son she bore and "adopted" but never acknowledged, and coping with a husband who is given to "odd fits of temper." Fans of Sayers's mystery writing will particularly relish some of the later entries that show the author at work: for example, those to Dr. Eusatce Barton sorting out the details of their collaborative novel, The Documents in the Case, and those touching on the work it takes to get the play Busman's Honeymoon to the stage. Absorbing reading on its own, and a worthy companion to Reynolds's biographical Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul (1993.)