Monday, 29 March 2010


Two veterans (I must be careful with that word, but here it carries not a smidgeon of denigration) entertained a large audience (another extra chairs job) in Headingley Library on Friday evening - for Headingley's Female Sleuth.

Frances McNeil, whose pseudonym is Frances Brody, is the author of four novels and the winner of the Elizabeth Elgin Award for best new saga of the millennium for Somewhere Behind the Morning. She has written many stories and plays for BBC Radio, and scripts for television. She concentrated mainly on Dying in the Wool (ISBN 0 780749 94 1871), her first crime novel, for this event, because the female sleuth is in it - Kate Shackleton. Her research for this period piece included interviews with textile chemists, retired police officers and experts at Armley Mills Museum. Does this not sound authentic?

He took over the entire house with his inventions and experiments. She wondered they weren't poisoned after he used her pots and pans for God knows what type of dyeing mix. He'd stir the dye stuff in with water, using her wooden spoon, boiling it up to dissolve it, more than once causing an explosion.He claimed the fastest green dye in England. He dyed her grey cape forest green and insisted she wash it. It was her fault when the tub turned emerald. Then it was a new type of gas-fired machine for close-cropping the cloth...

"I came to Headingley specially to find a house for her," Frances, a denizen of Crossgates, told those present. "I found a beautiful one as well, just right for someone who has to make frequent journeys to the city centre.

Murder, mystery and family secrets have always fascinated me and featured strongly in my writing. Kate Shackleton sprang to life from our family album, circa 1920. She came carrying her camera, looking at me, looking at her."

Maggie Mash is the audio reader for Frances, and a trained actress who knows about this side of things, in depth. In addition to dramatic readings, she explained that audio books are not just for people with sight problems, but that they are increasingly popular for people to use while working at home or driving a car. She talked about the accents she can do and not do, giving the example of Geordie, which she can maintain for only a limited period. Norfolk is not problematic for Maggie: on one occasion she was pulled into an adjacent studio to add the real thing after an American reader had made embarrassingly bad attempts at it. American actors rarely get accents from England right (Ain't that a fact, Gor Blimey Mary Poppins?) and, of course, vice versa.

Here, the reliable Fairtrade and green indie bookshop Radish must be mentioned - they supplied a selection of titles afterwards. Dying in the Wool sold out.

Below, pictured with two bottles of Domaine Romanée-Conti 1976

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to reading about Kate Shackleton over Easter - especially as 'Dying in the Wool' begins in 1922 at this time of year. Also, intrigued to track down where Kate lived - somewhere on Headingley Hill?