Tuesday, July 20, 2010
My mystery author guest: Jeri Westerson
As promised yesterday, mystery/suspense author Jeri Westerson is visiting my blog today, or at least her sleuth, Crispin Guest, is! Above is the cover photo for the second book in Jeri's Medieval Noir series, Serpent in the Thorns. The upcoming third book, The Demon's Parchment, will be released in October. If you haven't read the first two books in the series, Veil of Lies and Serpent in the Thorns, yet, I suggest you do it quickly, so you'll be ready to devour the third book when it comes out.
First, Jeri will give us an overview of the series, then Crispin will tell us about himself:
I write a medieval mystery series decidedly different from your average medieval mystery fare. My detective is no monk. Far from it, and these stories are situated not in the glittering halls of court, but down in the gutter of a dark and sinister city. This is the tale of a hard-boiled medieval PI as told by the man himself, Crispin Guest, ex-knight turned detective on the mean streets of fourteenth century London. Thirty years old in 1384, Crispin was cast out of the only life he had ever known, that of a privileged upbringing, with all the trappings of the wealthy and the ear of the King’s court. All that was lost to him when, seven years earlier, he committed treason for what he thought was the good of the country. When he should have been executed, his mentor the duke of Lancaster spoke up for him and instead of an ignoble and certainly painful death, Crispin was given back his life, though all else was forfeit; his lands, his title, his wealth—in short, everything that defined who he was. He found a new home on the Shambles, the pungent butcher’s district of London. He re-invented himself as “the Tracker,” a medieval detective, earning sixpence a day…plus expenses.
Crispin made friends of tradesmen and merchants, and, most notably, Jack Tucker, a young orphan boy who spent his time on the streets as a cutpurse and, much to Crispin's chagrin, insinuates himself into Crispin's life as his servant.
Crispin cannot help but think of himself as a knight even though he no longer wears a sword.
But let's let him tell it:
I am not an irreligious man. My faith is my own. And it is private. I believe in belief, for what it is worth. It is in a man's actions that has far more sway with me. What a man leaves behind, his legacy, can be material, but far greater can be his mark upon the world by his actions. This is the intangible, that which cannot be measured on a scale or in a money pouch.
When I consider myself in this scheme, I naturally do not see a legacy of coins to leave behind, or even an estate. That was forfeit long ago. No, what I see is a bit of myself...in Jack Tucker's eyes. Perhaps he shall be my legacy. Perhaps the name of Crispin Guest will not be spat upon the street in words of reproach, but in the whispered tone of respect and admiration. Here was a man, they might say, that rose above his past, his lot. Here was a man whose footsteps led to justice; who righted wrongs; who helped his fellow man...
Ah, but then. I look into the eyes of the sheriff, into the eyes of my fellow man, and I see only disdain and bitterness. These dark streets of London do not hold redemption for me. They hold only the stink of man's hatred for himself. His noble bearing straightens only so that he might kick a lowlier man. He looks away from the hunger and despair lying mere steps away in the bleak shadows. He uses his opportunity not to give charitably but to snip a money pouch or slit a throat, whichever is easiest.
My legacy, then, is a secret one. I will do what I must. And I will see no indulgence granted to me. No lessening of my Purgatory here on the Shambles. If God grants me peace, it shall be the long sleep in the cold ground of a London graveyard. If I am lucky, my name might be etched upon a stone paid for by the few friends I have managed to acquire. If not, well. Perhaps Jack Tucker will grow to his majority a man who once knew a former knight; a knight who taught him a bit of a rusty code that he took into his manhood like the blunted blade that hangs at his hip; used it when he could, and perhaps invoked the name of Crispin Guest not as a curse, but as a brief blessing.
Okay, readers, fire away! What would you like to know from a medieval former knight? Something about daily life in those times, about court politics, the code of the knight, or what? And if you have a question for Jeri, I'm sure Crispin will let her butt in, too. Please visit Jeri's website to read excerpts from her books and watch her really cool series book trailer.