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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Writers' Day Out in York

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ April 27, 2011

Eboracum, the ancient Brigantian settlement which was garrisoned by a Roman legion in AD 71 and became capital of the province of Northern Britain, better known today as York, was the perfect meeting place for a group of history-loving mystery writers from three continents.

Dolores Gordon-Smith who lives in Manchester and sets her Jack Haldean mysteries in the 1920's, Jane Finnis who lives nearby and authors the Aurelia Marcella series set in Roman Britain, Rebecca Jenkins who lives in Durham and writes the FR Jarrett Mysteries set in Regency England, pre-published Sandra Powley from New Zealand, and myself from the States with Felicity and Antony from my Monastery Murders digging through the crumbling remains of huge chunks of medieval history couldn't have had a better meeting spot than this historic city with the daffodils blooming everywhere to greet us.

We met at the train station, so what morenatural than to renew acquaintance at the nearby hotel with a cup of coffee. Left to right, we're: Donna, Rebecca, Dolores, Jane.

Then a walk along the historic city walls which are among the finest surviving examples of medieval city fortifications in Europe. Much restored, they date mainly from the reign of Edward III in the 14th century. Lovely York Minster in the background was our goal.

At the Minster, built on the site of the Emperor Constantine’s military headquarters, we went first to the Crypt and Undercroft, the oldest part of the Minster where a museum on the Minster's history begins in Roman times with a bust of Constantine and artifacts and carvings found on the site which predate the Minster and explain how the Minster was built, including fragmentary remains of Roman plasterwork and the foundations of the medieval nave walls.

Upstairs in the nave I was especially taken with the special installation of artist Ghislaine Howard’s monumental monochrome paintings of The Stations of the Cross which were being shown as devotional work at York Minster during Lent and Easter. I especially liked the fact that the paintings were installed at floor level since so much of the service of Stations of the Cross is done with the participants kneeling.

From the Minster we went to the Shambles, the oldest street in York. The word Shambles derives from the Medieval word Shamel or Flesshammel, which means to do with flesh, as it was the street of the butchers, but is now lined with enticing shops.

Since it was by then well past lunch, however, we headed straight to Ye Olde Starre Inne, a contender for the title of York's oldest pub and probably its most famous because of the sign which spans the medieval street of Stonegate. The pub is set back from the street, with its entrance down a small snicket. The sign was put up after a landlord in the 18th century built a house in front of the pub. As a business it could no longer be seen from the street and would miss passing trade. Now that sign stands as one of the icons of York.

 

Over plates of fish and chips and ploughman's lunches we exchanged and autographed books. Since I was already a fan of Aurelia Marcellus, I was delighted when Jane Finnis gave me her latest A Bitter Chill. As the title indicates, the story is set in the depths of winter. Innkeeper Aurelia's hopes for a peaceful and joyous Saturnalia are shattered by rumors of political plots, brigands running a protection racket, and demanding noble guests involved in murderous quarrels. I was held spellbound by the complex plot and superb period detail as well as the varied cast of characters, and delighted to be able to attend vicariously a Saturnalia feast and a Roman wedding.

 

I had previously admired the cover of Rebecca Jenkins' Death of a Radical, so was thrilled when she produced a copy for me from her copious bag. I haven't finished it yet, but I can already tell you it is intricately plotted and poetically written with the excellent period detail I always want in an historical novel. Readers of Georgette Heyer will find this entirely new approach to the Regency period enthralling.

 

  

Not in the picture because I had finished reading it before leaving home, was Dolores Gordon-Smith's A Hundred Thousand Dragons, to my mind, Jack Haldean's best adventure yet. The explosion of a burning Rolls Royce with a body in it brings on an investigation that forces Jack to relive the youthful failure that has haunted him for years. Following the clues of a fiendishly clever cypher, Jack returns to the scene of his former torment. His desperate attempt to right old wrongs and prevent new ones leads Jack and his friends to an explosive ending in the Arabian desert that will have Indiana Jones fans— and Jack Haldean fans— cheering.

Good reading, good fellowship, a delightful day out. Who could ask for more?

 

 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Reader Comments:

I wish I'd been with you, Donna. You know how much I love England and Scotland, and enjoyed the research trips I spent in both in order to write four of my Ben Reese mysteries. It's been too long since I've been back to the UK.

I'm sure your research was as meticulous as ever, and I'm glad you got to spend so much time with other interesting writers.
-Sally Wright, April 28, 2011

Thank you, Sally. I thought of you so often on my journey. Someday we need to do a research trip together!
-Donna, April 28, 2011

Donna, it was a lovely day - I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, and thank you for your kind words about A BITTER CHILL. York is one of my favourite cities; I lived there for two years as a small child and although, being aged seven when we left, I can't remember an enormous amount of detail about life there then, I do know that seeing the historical ruins and especially the walls and the Minster were what got me hooked on history. And you're so right about our day out - it wasn't just the sightseeing that was good, it was the chance to get together with like-minded people and talk about books and history. I'm looking forward to your posts about the rest of your trip.
-Jane Finnis, April 30, 2011

That was lovely to read, Donna, and brought back such great memories of an outstanding day out in a beautiful city with brilliant companions. York Minster really is a "must see" destination. Living fairly close by, I've been a few times, but I'm always moved by what a wonderful building it is. And, no matter how crowded, there always seems to be space to really enjoy it.
Terrific stuff - and thank you for your kind words about Jack's escapades in A Hundred Thousand Dragons.
-Dolores, April 30, 2011

Dolores and Jane, lovely to hear from you. I can't wait to get to writing about the rest of our adventures, but in the meantime I'm cherishing the memories. Don't know when I'll manage to get back over the water, but we must do it again.
-Donna, April 30, 2011

So very interesting, Donna! I love hearing about your travels and this sounds like quite a day, in an amazing setting. I'm also off to check out a book or two from your list!
-Debra E. Marvin, May 10, 2011

Thanks Donna, it was such a pleasure to meet you (and the others) to share the love of history and all those experiences of writing and publishing. Iím looking forward to your latest in the Daughters of Courage series! Come back soon :-D
-Sandra Powley, May 27, 2011

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