Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

Autodesk Cofounder and Dorothy L Sayers Aficionado Dan Drake

Oh, those bells! Tis the season for The Nine Tailors, whose story begins on New Year’s Eve and includes an immense amount of bell-ringing. (“Tailors” are church bell strokes that announce a death.) Joining Sarah and Carolyn is Dorothy L. Sayers aficionado Dan Drake. So much holiday goodness — we almost can’t stand it!

Says Dan, “Some years ago, I was driving to San Francisco for an auction, and I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t brought my copy of the catalogue. I was fast approaching the start of the Golden Gate Bridge, and realized that I needed to take the very last exit to go home. “Oh, damn!” I said as I headed to the exit. I had the presence of mind to realize that those were the first and the last words of the body of the Peter Wimsey works, the “corpus” as we fan-persons call it.”

Check out Dan Drake’s bio and bona fides below!

Autodesk cofounder Dan Drake shares his thoughts about Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Tailors, and Lord Peter Wimsey.

About Dan Drake

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers

Dan Drake was born in Los Angeles two months after Pearl Harbor. A year or so after, his family moved to the Bay Area, where he has lived since, with notably rare exceptions – those exceptions being Portland OR, where he took a degree in biology at Reed College; UC San Diego for studies in biology; and San Diego State.

At UC Berkeley, he studied in the newly renamed Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, where he earned an MS and worked at a couple of computerish jobs. In 1982, he and some very sharp programmers started a software company for those fashionable new “personal computers.” That venture succeeded and has gone on succeeding for 40+ years under the same name, Autodesk.

Now, Dan’s parents were Sherlock Holmes fans, and Dan grew up in a home filled with Holmesiana. His father belonged to a local affiliate of the Baker Street Irregulars, for which he wrote a few pieces of Sherlockian fanfic. Dan found a book by Dorothy L Sayers called Unpopular Opinions, and then he read Whose Body? By good fortune, he read the Lord Peter Wimsey books more or less in order.

Dan eventually joined a new newsgroup dedicated to Lord Peter Wimsey. When he learned about the Peter Wimsey Companion, he gave up his production of notes on the Wimsey corpus. Dan also collects Sayersiana, and on a few occasions he has attended conventions of the Dorothy L Sayers Society in England, along with one held at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Says Dan Drake, “My parents were both pretty serious Sherlock Holmes fans, and there were many volumes of the stories and the associated literature lying around. In fact, my father (Stillman Drake – see, if you like, his entry in Wikipedia) was active in the Northern California Holmesian society called the Scowrers, and he wrote a couple of essays in that capacity. (For more information, check out dandrake.com/porlock/index.html.)

“If you wander into certain blogs, you may find comments from Porlock Junior. (Guess who!) My mother’s library included Dorothy L Sayers’ book Unpopular Opinions, presumably because it included two Sherlockian essays, which I read in high school. Many years later, after a stay in London, I lived for a while at my mother’s house and looked again into that book. I also found a copy of Whose Body, which immediately made me a fan.”

Dan agreed to join Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters on the podcast to discuss The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers. In fact, he came across our radar when Sarah located this research he had compiled on Sayers’ book Whose Body?

Says Dan, “I collect Sayersiana, and on a few occasions I have attended the conventions of the Dorothy L Sayers Society in England, and one held at Wheaton College in Illinois. At a convention a few years ago, I had the fun of presenting a pair of very short songs written for Dorothy L Sayers by a now-forgotten musician named Richard Dixon. One of these was a setting of the bit of John Donne that Lord Peter Wimsey recited in Busman’s Honeymoon; the other was a sonnet-fragment written by Lord Peter Wimsey himself in Gaudy Night.”

Today, Dan Drake lives in Mill Valley, California, under redwood trees on a steep hillside, with his wife of many years. He has two adult children.


For those who want to dig even deeper, there is the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, which surely has the world’s best collection of Dorothy L Sayers materials. Their library is open to visitors; please notify them beforehand if you want to access materials from the stacks. Their whole collection is well indexed and posted online. The Center is actually dedicated to seven English Christian authors, among whom are C. S. Lewis and J R R Tolkien. They also publish a journal called VII (Seven) for studies of those authors.

To learn more about Dan Drake and his history as a cofounder of Autodesk, check out this interview and this oral history panel transcript.

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About Tea, Tonic & Toxin

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin is a book club and podcast for people who love mysteries, thrillers, introspection, and good conversation. Each month, your hosts, Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters, will discuss a game-changing mystery or thriller from the 19th and 20th centuries. Together, we’ll see firsthand how the genre evolved.

Along the way, we’ll entertain ideas, prospects, theories, doubts, and grudges, along with the occasional guest. And we hope to entertain you, dear friend. We want you to experience the joys of reading some of the best mysteries and thrillers ever written.

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin Book Club and Podcast - Mysteries and Thrillers

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