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The Nine Tailors: Lord Peter Wimsey

Dorothy Sayers - The Nine Tailors - Lord Peter Wimsey 01
Dorothy Sayers - The Nine Tailors - Lord Peter Wimsey 01
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The Nine Tailors: Lord Peter Wimsey
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The Nine Tailors: Lord Peter Wimsey

The Nine Tailors, published in 1934, may well be Dorothy Sayers’ masterpiece. The murder method in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery was unique. The idea came from a sixpenny pamphlet that explained bell-ringing.

The novel’s title refers to the nine strokes of the passing bell, rung for the deceased. The story begins when Wimsey’s car breaks down in the small English village of Fenchurch St. Paul on New Year’s Eve. Wimsey is asked to fill in as a bell ringer for the church’s nine-hour peal, a traditional ringing of the church bells.

The plot takes a sinister turn when a body is found in a newly dug grave. Wimsey is drawn into a decades-old mystery, including a missing emerald necklace and a cryptic code within the church’s ancient bell-ringing patterns.

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Weigh In: Share your thoughts about Lord Peter Wimsey and The Nine Tailors.

Learn about our guest, Dan Drake, here.

Check out the transcript below!

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Podcast Transcript: The Nine Tailors: Lord Peter Wimsey

Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters 0:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic, …

Sarah Harrison 0:40
… but not a toxin …

Carolyn Daughters 0:44
And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.

Sarah Harrison 0:57
Carolyn, I’m so excited today.

Carolyn Daughters 0:59
Sarah, we have a really amazing combo. We have The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayer, and we have Dan Drake talking about The Nine Tailors, Dorothy Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey.

Sarah Harrison 1:11
We’ve met Dan through the most interesting means, and I’m so excited that he’s joining us today. But before we get into our conversation with Dan, we do have a fabulous sponsor.

Carolyn Daughters 1:25
Our sponsor is Grace Sigma. I love this sponsor. Grace Sigma is a boutique process engineering consultancy run by Sarah Harrison. Grace Sigma works nationally in such industries as finance, telecom, and government. They use lean methods to assist in data dashboarding, storytelling, training, process visualization, and project management. Whether you’re a small business looking to scale or a large company whose processes have become tangled, Grace Sigma can help. You can learn more at gracesigma.com.

Sarah Harrison 2:03
You can and you should.

Carolyn Daughters 2:21
We also have a listener award to give out today. It’s Sharon Bially from Natick, Massachusetts.

Sarah Harrison 2:38
And you can win an amazing sticker.

Carolyn Daughters 2:43
All you have to do is comment on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. You can share your thoughts on our website or on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. You can give the podcast five stars on whatever platform you’re listening on. We’re on all of them, as I understand it. And we’ll give you a shout out on the air.

Sarah Harrison 3:21
I’m excited to introduce our guest today. 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. When he learned about the Peter Wimsey Companion, he gave up his production of notes on the Lord Peter 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. 

Today, Dan lives in Mill Valley, California, under redwood trees on a steep hillside, with his wife of many years. He has two adult children. Dan, did we get all that correct?

Dan Drake 5:42
Yes, I think that’s 100% right.

Sarah Harrison 5:45
Awesome. You’ve had a fascinating life. Today, Dan is joining us to talk about The Nine Tailors. Before we jump in, I want to read a short synopsis. If you haven’t read The Nine Tailors, honestly, you really should. It is a fantastic book. 

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers is the 9th mystery novel featuring her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. The novel’s title refers to the nine strokes of the passing bell, rung for the deceased. The story begins when Wimsey’s car breaks down in the small English village of Fenchurch St. Paul on New Year’s Eve. Wimsey is asked to fill in as a bell ringer for the church’s nine-hour peal, a traditional ringing of the church bells.

The plot takes a sinister turn when a body is found in a newly dug grave. Lord Peter Wimsey is drawn into a decades-old mystery, including a missing emerald necklace and a cryptic code within the church’s ancient bell-ringing patterns.

Dorothy Sayers’ novel The Nine Tailors is a quintessential example of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and is celebrated for its compelling plot, richly drawn characters, and its unique incorporation of the art of bell ringing into a murder mystery.

Today, we’re excited to talk about The Nine Tailors. It’s our final book selection of 2023. You can find more information about all our 2023 and 2024 book selections at teatonicandtoxin.com or on our Instagram page @teatonicandtoxin and Facebook page @teatonicandtoxin. And be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode! Welcome, Dan. So glad to have you.

Dan Drake 7:52
I’m glad to be on your podcast. I look forward to it.

Sarah Harrison 7:57
I gotta tell our listeners how I found you because I’m still a little bit in disbelief. If our listeners recall the episode on Whose Body?, I felt like I was missing a lot of the references. And I was Googling, trying to figure out what does Lord Peter Wimsey mean when he says this? What is he referring to? And I came across this website, and it had exactly what I was looking for. It was going through Whose Body and taking all the quippy things chapter by chapter and all the references and explaining them in the context of the time. It was absolutely the best resource I could find. Even though it wasn’t updated since, I think, 2003, down at the bottom of the page it had an email address of the person posting, Dan Drake. And so I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it — what if we got this guy? So I reached out to you, Dan, and you replied. Even better! I’ll post the website in the show notes so people can check it out. Especially any Lord Peter Wimsey fans who want to see some of these references from some of the books. But yeah, Dan, tell me a little bit about this website project and if you’re ever going to take it up again.

Dan Drake 9:37
Difficult question, some of them. I got very involved obviously with Dorothy Sayers. I had a reasonable background, if only from Sherlock Holmes but also about English stuff in general. Some background in slang and whatnot, but I started following my inclination to look up stuff. I started putting information up, just for the fun of it, on the website. It pays to be early. My web domain is named after me, and I’ve had occasional emails saying asking if I’m using it. There are a surprising number of other people with the name Dan Drake. Anyway, I started posting this information about Dorothy Sayers. And then I heard about the the Lord Peter group, which is a discussion group, a news group as it was in those days. So I started following that. And then I realized that there’s a comprehensive book called the Lord Peter Wimsey companion, which had vast amounts of information, much of it very esoteric, lots of stuff that I didn’t have. Though it was not entirely in the explanatory detail that I was doing. It also was a remarkably expensive book, a second edition, which is even remarkably expensiver. It can be found on abebooks.com, if you want to search for it. Sure. Since that existed, I carried on for a little while, and to had a thread on the discussion group called Notes and Queries. I gave it up because I thought that this very comprehensive book seemed to make the work I was doing rather superfluous. My name is in the Lord Peter world is Cousin Matthew, an impoverished cousin of Lord Peter. He’s a sinecure, taking care of the updating his family records. Anyway, I decided to do it. And I got involved in other things and decided I wouldn’t spend time on it anymore. It was flattering to hear this this request. In fact, the if you go to the website groups.io. And doing enough searching around it, you can find that they have a group called Lord Peter. It’s still there, but it’s not very active. In fact, I put up little announcement on Lord Peter announcing this session was coming up.

Sarah Harrison  14:25
Wonderful.

Carolyn Daughters 14:42
I think you came to Whose Body first of Dorothy Sayers work, which is her first Lord Peter Wimsey. And then you were fortunate enough to follow the books more or less in chronological order. Now, with some series, let’s say Hercule Poirot, chronology is great, but it’s really not essential. What is the chronology doing for Dorothy Sayers books. Why would that be important to follow that that chronology?

Dan Drake 15:12
That’s a good question. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis fans. In the Narnia stories, there’s a long-standing debate of whether you survey them in the publication order or the order in which the events took place in Narnia. The party I favor is the publication order party, because they developed in that way. That’s even more so in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. There’s a lot of character development for a couple of the main characters, and it’s fun to watch that. If you haven’t read the books in the right order, you’ll get into things that have a lot of background. Because the Harriet Vane main character was introduced in Strong Poison as a repeating character, and a very vexed one. It’s easier to understand what’s going on with her if you read the books in order, because they have a progress.

Sarah Harrison 16:41
Yeah, I appreciated that tip. The very first Dorothy Sayers novel I read was Gaudy Night, and indeed I was puzzled by Harriet Vane and what was going on with her. So I love your tip to go back and read the earlier books. Listeners, we’re going to post all the different things that Dan is referring to in our show notes. So look those up. I will say, I looked up that Lord Peter Wimsey book that you were referring to, and you’re right, it was $200 or $300 to purchase it on eBay. It was out of print. I was able to look through a library copy. It is amazing. But it is a little prohibitive if you don’t own the book to try to reference some of these things, especially as it’s not organized by book. It’s just alphabetical.

Dan Drake 17:41
It’s organized by reference.

Sarah Harrison 17:47
I mean, it makes sense, right, if references are used in multiple books, but I did love your organization, where I could look up references by book, and then read your explanations. It was so helpful, so contextual. I was wondering as well. Your whole family, your parents, were Sherlock fans. And then you got into Dorothy Sayers. Can you tell us a little bit about that and your family culture of mystery? How did you come to Dorothy Sayers instead of becoming a Sherlock Holmes fan?

Dan Drake 18:37
It came about gradually. I was a Sherlock Holmes reader in my teens. I occasionally played this game with my mother where one of us would read a passage from the Sherlock Holmes canon, and the other would identify it.

Sarah Harrison 18:58
Oh, wow.

Dan Drake 19:02
That’s a game that was introduced by the Baker Street Irregulars. They had that habit of quizzing each other with, of course, the most obscure references they could find. It was fun I had a pretty good mastery of all the books and read them all, mostly more than once. And I ran into some reference to Dorothy Sayers. I was in England for a while on a long vacation, and I read a lot of books that I picked up there. One was about 20th century English history. And it talked about popular things like detective stories, including Agatha Christie, and for people more sophisticated than that, Dorothy L Sayers. Eventually when I was home again, I said, Well, why don’t I just looked it up and found myself at Whose Body? And then I also found a copy of Documents in the Case, which is not a Lord Peter Wimsey case, but it’s an interesting book. And then I was in a bookstore, of which there’s an abundance in Berkeley, I would look to see if anything was on the shelves by Sayers. And that’s the process I followed for a long time.

Sarah Harrison 20:38
That’s awesome.

Dan Drake 20:40
Yes, full sets you can buy now from the from paperback publishers were not available at the time.

Carolyn Daughters 21:01
In our conversations before we recorded, we asked you a bunch of questions, and one of them was what drew you to Lord Peter Wimsey. What drew you to Dorothy Sayers? I’ll say, from my perspective, what draws me to The Nine Tailors is the setting. I was immersed. And I’m blown away by the campanology about the art of bell ringing. I’m learning, and the more I learn, as I’m reading, the more I’m aware of how much I don’t know. And then in Whose Body?, another thing that really resonated with me was that the PTSD presentation felt really real to me, as somebody who has experienced PTSD. I saw it on the page and thought, wow, I can really connect with this. Sarah, what draws you, and then I want to hear Dan from you.

Sarah Harrison 22:05
A couple of things, especially in The Nine Tailors. I have a background in loving sci fi. One aspect of sci fi is called world building, where you develop these elaborate worlds with all the details, think Dune or Foundation. The depth of detail that Sayers went into in The Nine Tailors felt like that, only it was all real, it wasn’t sci fi at all. It was almost this archaic history that still was so foreign. The other thing about Sayers is I could tell she was dropping a lot of jokes. Lord Peter Wimsey was making a lot of witty comments, but it was going over my head. It happens a few times in The Simpsons, where Lisa Simpson is dropping a joke, and I’m like, I know that’s a joke, but I don’t get the reference. My tendency is to look it up, and figure out what Lisa was joking about. It’s the same thing with Lord Peter. He was saying a lot of jokes, there were a lot of references being dropped, but I could feel that I wasn’t fully getting them, I could just get that it was a joke. That’s actually what led me to Dan Drake’s website in the first place.

Carolyn Daughters 23:37
And this is the first time I think that Dorothy Sayers has been compared to Matt Groening, I’m guessing.

Sarah Harrison 23:46
Maybe it is. That’s probably true.

Carolyn Daughters 23:51
Dan, you picked up Whose Body, you read it, and then you wanted more. You’ve really built this incredible body of knowledge. What is it about Dorothy Sayers, what is it about Lord Peter Wimsey?

Dan Drake 24:06
Well, it’s pretty much there’s a similarity here. There is so much so much in it. Any Holmes fan is likely to be interested in London of 50 years later, which is what we’re doing in this. And plainly the fact that great learning is quite unmistakable in the pages of the book. My first exposure to Lord Peter Wimsey was in Whose Body? was this very strange introduction, in which he fields a telephone call from his mother about a dead body, and he expresses a delight. We’ve got a body of a bath, he’s saying. All very strange. I found that that appealing, and, of course, Sayers took the trouble of giving Lord Peter Wimsey a serious handicap, both a great facility for making money remarks, a great Bertie Wooster facade, and a lot of suffering. There’s lots of possibilities there. The earned atmosphere of the thing does appeal to me. I had intellectual parents, and it rubbed off.

Sarah Harrison 25:55
You’ve mentioned Sherlock Holmes, and you’ve mentioned Agatha Christie, as well. And those two in particular, I’ve noticed, still have a lot of their stories coming out in movies, TV series, etcetera. I don’t see the same with Dorothy Sayers. She tends to be much more obscure. Carolyn and I have theorized back and forth about why that is, but I’d love to hear your opinion on why she’s not more known in modern times like some of these other mystery greats.

Dan Drake 26:30
I don’t know if I can explain that very well. Dorothy L Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey don’t have as broad an appeal. Dorothy Sayers is a person who will stick a letter in French and not apologize for using Latin and Greek as needed. You have to not be put off by that kind of thing. By the way, her French sounds very good to me, but I’ve seen comments that her French was not really very idiomatic. I know a good bit of French myself, but I couldn’t tell the difference.. Her books have much less broad appeal if you start putting Latin quotations in. There’s an old publishing rule that the first footnote in a book will cost you half your buyers. The first mathematical equation you put in will lose the next half. Plus, most people don’t like reading that kind of stuff. It really tends to require a degree of education. I certainly do not have anything approaching a 19th-century education in the classics, but I kinda know what they are. And usually I know Latin phrases, and I can look up something in Greek. I think a lot of that is kind of off-putting to a good segment of the population. I think there’s a critical mass thing here. If you get enough people who want to follow it, then you’ve got a lot long, string of revivals, and if you don’t, then revivals are going to be thin.

Carolyn Daughters 28:40
It might help with The Nine Tailors to know you might have to work for it a little bit, but the reward is immense. In The Nine Tailor, section I is a Short Touch of Kent Treble Bob Major (Two Courses), then you turn the page and you get a number 704 by the course ends 64352. And so forth. Then you get the first course, which is the first chapter in section I. Right off the bat, you’re destabilized as a reader. What is happening here? For those of us who are not familiar with bell ringing, you’re entering this foreign world. I found that for myself that it helped to just embrace that right out of the gate. Okay, I’ve already read Whose Body? starring Lord Peter Wimsey. I enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy The Nail Tailors as well. So I have to immerse myself in this world. I have to follow wherever she leads me, and I’ll figure it out as I go. She will show me what I need to know as I need to know it.

Dan Drake 29:55
That’s true. And I see great Oh, I never really understood the bell-ringing things at all. I never acquired any real knowledge of it. Physically, I appreciate the large number of ways in which you can ring a certain number of bells. That’s elementary math. I simply try to imagine the difficulties of sitting with a bunch of people in some cold upstairs bell room and pealing your bell right in rhythm at the time that your particular bell is needed. There’s a whole science to this business. You could spend a lot of time studying it and ringing the bells with the proper guidance from the person making the calls. But I wouldn’t understand any of the calls. My tendency has been to realize that the bell ring is there. Interesting dialogue here. But I’m not going to be become an expert on it. I slide past it and still got great enjoyment out of reading The Nine Tailors.

Carolyn Daughters 31:13
And then ring those bells for nine hours straight.

Sarah Harrison 31:17
That blew me away that their New Year’s peal was nine hours straight. That’s more than most work days, with no break. Well, there were some breaks, 15 minutes here and there where the rector would come relieve them.

Dan Drake 31:31
That’s problematic, too. What I have read in the Lord Peter Wimsey group is that it’s not really legitimate to have any reliefs. You would continuously go through that set of changes. And it’s not really done to have any replacements.

Sarah Harrison 32:04
Really? So it’s unlikely that they would have had a replacement. Is a nine-hour peal an actual thing? Or was that unlikely?

Dan Drake 32:13
I think it is. I, too, find the whole thing very difficult to imagine. Especially some old geezer who’s still pulling the giant bell. Keeping track of that for that long. I can tell you, that’s hard to believe.

Sarah Harrison 32:31
I was amazed to read about. I was impressed with how Dorothy L Sayers was presenting Lord Peter Wimsey in that light. He had had a history with bell ringing and grew up learning it and was able to step in at the last minute and fill in for this guy who had the flu.

Carolyn Daughters 32:54
When I first came to The Nine Tailors, I expected people who were going to mend clothing.

Sarah Harrison 33:09
I was like, “Why do all the covers have bells on them?”

Carolyn Daughters 33:11
It’s so weirdly similarly thematic and yet nonsensical. Why are all these bells on every cover of these Lord Peter Wimsey novels?

Sarah Harrison 33:19
Yeah, that’s one of the very fascinating things you learn.

Carolyn Daughters 33:23
There’s an old tradition in small parishes of ringing a church bell to announce a death. The old saying is “nine tailors maketh the man.” Nine tailors is nine rings of the bell, six for a woman, and three for a child. After a person passes in a small parish, for example, say a man has died, they would ring the bell nine times. Then they would pause, and they would count out the years of the person who died at half-minute intervals. And depending on the size of the village, there’s a good chance you would know who had passed by dissecting this information. You would know it was a man, and you would know he was 36 or 72 or 57 or what have. I had never heard of anything like this before. I thought this was so interesting. I also thought it was interesting how much of The Nine Tailors is focused on the village and the church and the bells and not always about Lord Peter Wimsey.

Sarah Harrison 34:18
It was interesting. The whole aspect of the bells and the way they communicated with the whole village about everything, weddings, funerals, deaths, even at the end when the whole parishes flooded. They had a special ring that called everyone in for emergency procedures so they could bunker down in the church during the flood. They had practiced that, it sounds like, during the war. When you were living in England, did you get to hear any of these bells, Dan?

Dan Drake 34:52
I never heard a formal peal like they describe. I’ve heard bells ringing, but I couldn’t tell one kind of peal from another just from hearing it. I don’t have enough knowledge. One time when I was in England for a period of time, I walked by Westminster Abbey, and there was a long ringing of bells for a long period. I realized it was All Saints Day. I went into Westminster Abbey and sat in the outside visitors section through an All Saints Day celebration, which was interesting. It was fun also to sing. There’s the Anglican hymn, which is to the tune of “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.” It’s a good tune. That’s really the extent of it. I’ve heard people ringing the bells, and sometimes very clearly just the same peal over and over again. It’s not a Kent Treble Bob Major.

Sarah Harrison 36:13
Right. Well, there aren’t many bell ringers. I’d heard a bell concert here in Denver once. I looked it up to see if they were doing change ringing. They weren’t. There’s no change ringing in the state of Colorado. There are some chapters throughout the country, but I think in the entirety of North America, there are only 61 chapters. And a lot of those are handbells, so it’s definitely a dying art, which makes me sad. Whenever I find out about these archaic art forms, I want them to continue.

Dan Drake 36:57
Sure. I share the feeling, but it’s certainly not heard on the West coast either.

Sarah Harrison 37:02
No, there were two in California, but they are, I think, just handbells. They aren’t the major change ringing groups.

Carolyn Daughters 37:17
This Nine Tailors is fairly complex at times. There’s a lot about the art and mathematical science behind change ringing. There’s a quote in the book by an English campanologist, “The playing of tunes is considered to be a childish game, only fit for foreigners. The proper use of bells is to work out mathematical permutations and combinations.” And I thought, Oh, this sounds like Dorothy Sayers, which I’m increasingly loving. There’s also a cipher that Lord Peter Wimsey is going to solve in the story, which I thought was fun, because I love cryptograms and puzzles. Dan, you have read all of Sayers novels, and mostly in order. Are these kinds of ciphers common in her books? Have you found that she explores a topic so deeply that we’re learning a new subject matter along with her? Does she have cryptic puzzles in many of her books? Or is The Nine Tailors an outlier? Is it different than the rest of her books?

Dan Drake 38:39
It varies. In Have His Carcase, there is a cryptogram. Lord Peter Wimsey figures out what was used to encode this message and gives us an introduction to how to make and solve a Playfair cipher. And gives us a reasonable run through of how you would decipher such a thing. Dorothy L Sayers tended to pick up on something and squeeze a lot of mystery and whatnot on one subject or another. It’s, of course, one of the interests of her books, and it’s also one that does not transcribe very well into movies. And it does not transcribe very well to people who don’t want these complexities.

Carolyn Daughters 40:09
I hadn’t even thought about that. But the ability to translate something into film really can help with the staying power of some of these books. You see that with Dashiell Hammett, where he was so cinematic in his writing, and his movies have really come to life on the screen.

Sarah Harrison 40:29
Yeah, that’s true. Dashiell Hammett is almost always just dialogue and action, which you can see and hear. There’s not a lot of internal monologue. That’s a good point. You mentioned the cryptography. I’d almost forgotten that. Man, before the digital age, the way people would design these codes, it was fascinating. Dorothy L Sayers is using that as a plot point, she’s using the change ringing as a plot point. She’s using civil engineering and all kinds of the dikes and sluices in this part of the country as a major plot point. She was even using the bottling of beer as a complete clue. Historically, the first beer to be bottled was Bass beer, and you could only get it at this one place in town. So Lord Peter Wimsey was able to track that clue. The level of detail was blowing me away. It was really fascinating.

Carolyn Daughters 41:38
And the geography The geography is incredible in this book. And the weather. There’s almost a biblical story happening here. We see at the beginning of the book, when Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter are caught in this storm. And then, of course, the storm rages at the end of the book. So basically, anytime Wimsey comes into town, there’s terrible weather. But yeah, it’s incredible, the bells come to life to me, as if they’re characters. The weather seems almost larger than life. It’s really fascinating. At times, Lord Peter Wimsey almost takes a backseat to the setting of the book and to the bells, which I think is really interesting. There are parts of the book where he just disappears. We don’t really hear from him or see him. And then he reemerges, but the story is strong enough to hold tight even when he’s not on the page.

Dan Drake 42:50
Yes, that’s true. On one occasion, Dorothy L Sayers set out to create a classic train timetable. It’s not one of her most popular ones. The Scottish scenery that she paints in it is in good fun. She’s making fun of the Scots in a good-humored way. In fact, that book has one of these author thumbing her nose at you. Saying, “Do you know what Lord Peter Wimsey detected the lack of?” It’s the only time I’ve answered such a question and realized what it was. I don’t want to give a spoiler for that.

Sarah Harrison 44:05
No, no, don’t spoil it.

Dan Drake 44:08
When it comes to classic train timetables, I have no patience for that. I just let Lord Peter Wimsey figure it out. The solutions are always clever and entertaining and acted out in a nice way as they are in that story.

Sarah Harrison 44:37
Well, that surprised me, though, about you, Dan. Given that you have such a mathematical background, when Sayers gets mathematical like that, you’re like eh … I’m super interested in that. How does your mathematical and scientific background intersect with your love of mystery and Sayers in particular? Or does it?

Dan Drake 45:06
Actually some my diligence and looking things up and so on comes out of the non-mathematical part of my education. Reed College is famous for smart kids, radical and unruly and frequently writing kids. They had a scandal, I think, in the past year about that. It’s a liberal arts college with a whole lot of very strong science. But you all take the freshman humanities course. Other people call it Western Civ, though it has changed somewhat in its nature now. That’s an introduction to serious scholarship. And scholarship is useful, regardless of your field. I learned respect for going to original sources. You can’t do on Wikipedia. You do original research, and they knock you off. But there are reasons for that. So I got a taste for that kind of thing. Plus was my father had two careers. His first one was as a financial analyst, at which he was successful, and then a professorship in the history of science at a respectable university. An unusual midlife career change. He spent all his spare time researching stuff in his field, and got himself to such an expert level that he could get a job at it. That was an interesting thing to see. So I have that inquisitive nature of picking up on sources, etc.

Sarah Harrison 47:13
In our conversations before the podcast, Dan, you dropped so many little gems about Dorothy L Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey, and all the things that you’re involved with in this Sayers world. I want to jump into that a bit more. We are almost at time for this episode, unbelievably. But hopefully, Dan, you’ll be able to join us for a second episode, and we’ll get to talk more about your deep involvement in the Dorothy L Sayers world.

Dan Drake 47:45
I would be very pleased to be able to do that. Very enjoyable.

Carolyn Daughters 47:50
You can learn more about The Nine Tailors, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Dorothy Sayers on our website teatonicandtoxin.com. You can share your thoughts on our website or on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

Sarah Harrison 47:52
Well, cool. Listeners, stay tuned for our next episode. We are going to ask Dan Drake a lot more questions about Dorothy Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey and get his expertise. Until then, stay mysterious.

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Rex Stout: Nero Wolfe in The League of Frightened Men

Rex Stout: Nero Wolfe in The League of Frightened Men

Okay, so we said we love Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, but what we really meant is that we like Nero and love Archie! Rex Stout, you created a gem of a character in Archie. We talk all about it with Ira Brad Matetsky (The Wolfe Pack), who joins Sarah and Carolyn on a second episode!

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Nero Wolfe Mystery Series: The League of Frightened Men

Nero Wolfe Mystery Series: The League of Frightened Men

Ira Brad Matetsky (Werowance, The Wolfe Pack) joins Sarah and Carolyn to talk all things Nero Wolfe and never once asks how in creation they’ve never read a Nero Wolfe novel before now. It’s a mystery, folks, all the more so because we LOVE Nero and Archie Goodwin!

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Bearskin Novel by James A. Laughlin

Bearskin Novel by James A. Laughlin

James A. McLaughlin is the author of Panther Gap and Bearskin, which won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and roughly a million more awards. The book’s a marvel, folks, and we’re still thinking about it long after reading. Listen in (no spoilers, so it’s safe!) and then get the book!

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2 comments

  1. throughly enjoyable! Recently, I bought a copy of The Nine Tailers in a thrift store and found it a marvelous read although I didn’t understand the science of the bell ringing. It was still a fabulous read and one I’ll read again.

    1. We definitely don’t understand the science of bell ringing, but we love Sayers’ smarts. We’re thinking of reading Strong Poison next — it’s the one that introduces Harriet Vane. 🙂

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