Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Rhys Bowen Serves up "The Twelve Clues of Christmas"
HALLIE EPHRON: I know we've just cleared Halloween but at Jungle Red, it's lookin' a lot like Christmas with Rhys Bowen's newest A Royal Spyness mystery, "The Twelve Clues of Christmas," launching this week! The series featuring impoverished minor royal Georgina has the fun of a 1930's English manor house with the challenge of an intricately plotted mystery, all wrapped up with a good old fashioned love story, and served with a side of roasted chestnuts.
Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch, flat broke and getting by on charm an sheer guts, is such a fun character. What fresh hell is she facing in The Twelve Clues of Christmas? (And PS, congratulations on your **starred** review in Publisher's Weekly!)
RHYS BOWEN: Actually Georgie feels that she has fallen on her feet this time. She has managed to escape from her beastly sister-in-law and the drafty Scottish castle to assist the hostess of a posh Christmas house party in a pretty village in Devonshire. Plenty to eat and drink and those she loves best in the neighborhood too (including a certain dark and dashing Irishman).
What she hadn't counted on was a prison break from bleak Dartmoor prison and a series of mysterious accidents that may not be accidents at all. And the village has more than its fair share of folk law, including the Lovey Curse and the local witch. Georgie will need all her detecting skills to sort out this complicated puzzle (and stay alive).
HALLIE: I love the name of the village where the book's manor house takes place: Tiddleton-Under-Lovey. Tell us you made that up. And what other names did you consider?
RHYS: Of course the name Tiddleton-Under-Lovey is a made up name. But England is full of weird and wonderful place names, even funnier than this. How about Giggleswick or Fudgepack-Upon-Humber, or Steeple Bumpstead and next door Helion's Bumpstead. Then there's Aindersby Quernhow and Burton-le-Coggles. Chipping Sodbury is not far from Upton Snodbury. I also like Nether Wallop and Bishop's Itchington. Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are close to Stow-on-the-Wold and Burton-on-the-Water. Do any British readers have a favorite place name they'd like to share?
HALLIE: Chipping Sodbury sounds like something you could get for lunch at a pub. When we were training about near York I loved the names New Earswick which is near Nether Poppleton.
Rhys, what are the requirements of a traditional British Christmas, and what are we Americans missing?
RHYS: Christmas pudding for starters, traditionally with silver charms inside, and each charm with a meaning. If you find a boot in your slice you are going to travel, a pig and you're a glutton, a button and you'll remain a bachelor for life.
Then there are crackers (not the dry kind you eat with cheese but paper tubes you pull). They snap with a small explosion and contain a paper hat, a small prize and a riddle (usually bad although we liked last year's Where do you find the Andies? Answer: On the end of the Wristies.)
HALLIE: (Which reminds me of my favorite ever joke -- as in the only one I can remember: Where does the king keep his army? Answer: Up his sleevie.)
RHYS: Christmas of my childhood included going around the village singing carols door to door, being invited in for mince pies and hot sausage rolls, playing silly family games like charades. As a child I really enjoyed getting a snow-house--a cardboard house decorated with cotton wool snow and containing little presents that one pulled out through the windows.
I guess I could sum up the traditional Christmas with one word NON-COMMERCIAL. Nobody expected a Lexus under the tree.
HALLIE: Sounds perfectly lovely.
Okay, shopping list please. If I want to recreate a traditional English Christmas, what should I go about procuring?
RHYS: You can buy good Christmas puddings, although the traditional kind were made on pudding Sunday, first sunday of November then laced with brandy or rum to help them mature. Jars of mince meat for little mince pies. Sausage meat for the sausage rolls. You can find crackers in places like Cost Plus. Then get a CD of the choir boys from Kings College Cambridge singing all those old traditional carols, have a big yule log roaring in the fireplace and heat up a good wassail punch.
Actually this book comes with a compendium of recipes, games, traditions in the back. All you'd need to recreate the Olde English Christmas.
HALLIE: Any clues on where your book tour will be taking you, and will you be home in time for Christmas?
RHYS: All in place and ready to go, Hallie. You can find the schedule on my website, www.rhysbowen.com.
I start off with a launch party at Book Passage in Corte Madera (which you know very well!), then on to Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Murder by the Book in Houston, two stores and a TV show in Seattle (where I have to demonstrate sausage rolls and silly games on camera!) Then Powells in Portland and several more stores in the greater Bay Area. And yes, I'll be home for Christmas, and making those mince pies and other goodies while I sing along with my favorite carols.
HALLIE: Thanks, Rhys! Hoping everyone's perfect Christmas includes a copy of "The Twelve Clues of Christmas" under their tree.
So, Reds, what do you miss most about the Christmas memories of your childhood? Rhys is giving away a copy of the new book to the best commenter of the day.