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

Regency Romance Mystery Novel

Death in the Stocks - Regency Romance Mystery by Georgette Heyer - Special Guest Jennifer Kloester - Check out the podcast episode from Tea, Tonic & Toxin
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
Regency Romance Mystery Novel

Death in the Stocks (Regency Romance / Mystery Novel)

When a man is found dead in a quaint English village, Inspector Hannasyde and amateur detective Giles Carrington must unravel the secrets of the eccentric family involved. In DEATH IN THE STOCKS (1935), a beloved classic, Georgette Heyer infuses the traditional mystery with her signature style of historical Regency romance. The result is pure delight.

Learn More: Check out our starter questions on Death in the Stocks.

Get Excited: Check out the 2024 book list.

Be Heard: Tell us what you’re thinking here.

TRANSCRIPT: Death in the Stocks (Regency Romance / Mystery Novel)

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

Sarah Harrison: … but not a toxin …

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

Sarah Harrison 0:54
Before we talk about today’s amazing regency romance / mystery novel, we have an amazing sponsor.

Carolyn Daughters  01:03
Today’s sponsor is Linden Botanicals, a Colorado-based company that sells the world’s healthiest herbal teas and extracts. Their team has traveled the globe to find the herbs that offer the best science-based support for stress relief, energy, memory, mood, kidney health, joint health, digestion, and inflammation. U.S. orders over $75 ship free. To learn more, visit lindenbotanicals.com and use code MYSTERY to get 15% off your first order.

Sarah, I’m excited about today’s podcast!

Sarah Harrison  01:38
I know. We’ve already been chit-chatting, and there’s so much cool stuff we can talk about.

Carolyn Daughters  01:43
Today’s book is a regency romance mystery novel called Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer (“hair”). We may spend the whole podcast just trying to pronounce her name. We also want to give a listener award for the episode and our listener. This episode is Helen Letos from Melbourne, Australia. We thought that was appropriate today because we have a guest from Melbourne, Australia. It’s a different one though. Helen Letos is not our guest today. She would probably make a lovely guest, however. So thank you, Helen, for being a fan of Tea Tonic & Toxin. We’re going to send you a very cool Tea Tonic & Toxin sticker.

Sarah Harrison  02:50
It’s gorgeous.

Carolyn Daughters  02:52
And if you’d like your own sticker and a shout out on the podcast, all you have to do is comment about the books that we’re reading. Give us suggestions on what books we should be reading. You could do that on our website. You can do it on Facebook or Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. Our website is teatonicandtoxin.com. You can do it on Twitter as well. We have a brand new Twitter page.

Sarah Harrison  03:15
Also known as X.

Carolyn Daughters  03:19
I’m not cool enough to know about that. And be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes. We’re going to have an amazing episode here today and Sarah is going to tell us all about it.

Sarah Harrison  03:36
Here’s a summary of Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer. In the dead of night, a man in evening dress is found murdered, locked in the stalks on the village green. Unfortunately for superintendent Hanasyde, the deceased is Arnold Vereker, a man hated by nearly everyone, especially his odd and unhelpful family members. The Verekers are as eccentric as they are corrupt, and it will take all of Hanasyde’s skill at detection to determine who’s telling the truth and who is pointing him in the wrong direction. The question is: Who in this family is clever enough to get away with murder? That’s a really misleading summary of this regency romance mystery novel.

Carolyn Daughters  04:21
I thought it was a little interesting. So Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer, which is as close as I’m I’m getting closer to getting closer people episode over and my tutor today who I am infinitely grateful for is Jennifer Kloester. She is the bestselling author of Georgette Heyer’s Regency World and Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller. Her most recent book Society: The Novels of Georgette Heyer: A celebration. She is a patroness of the International Heyer and a producer of the forthcoming documentary, Who the Hell Is Georgette Heyer? That’s wild.

Jennifer is a popular presenter and public speaker and in 2015 with Stephen Fry, she was delighted to speak at the unveiling of Georgia Heyer’s English Heritage blue plaque in Wimbledon. She has given talks, writing workshops, and public presentations on Heyer and the Regency in the UK, U.S., Italy, Australia, and New Zealand. Jennifer also writes fiction. Her most recent novel is Jane Austen’s Ghost, which is available on Amazon. And Jennifer — Jen — comes to us from Melbourne, Australia. She’s going to tell us all about Georgette Heyer and her regency romance novels and mystery novels, particularly Death in the Stocks.

Sarah Harrison  05:43
If you’re just listening, I’m gonna put a clip of this up. So you better go to the YouTube and look at her books. That was awesome.

Carolyn Daughters  05:51
Welcome from Melbourne, Jennifer.

Jennifer Kloester  05:54
Thank you, Carolyn and Sarah. How lovely to be here. Thank you for having me.

Carolyn Daughters  05:59
We are so excited. You are an expert on Georgette Heyer and the regency romance / mystery novel genre, obviously. I mean, you have spent a very long time learning about this author, who is completely new to Sarah and me. In our podcasts, we’re focused on the history of mystery. We started with Edgar Allan Poe, and we’re very slowly moving through time. Here we are in 1935 reading Death in the Stocks, and we came to Georgette Heyer and thought this is a book we should include. It seems different. It seems interesting. Georgette Heyer has a large fan base, and lo and behold, we found you. Tell us a little bit about how you came to Georgette Heyer. How did she come on your radar?

Jennifer Kloester  06:50
Wow. Well, it’s kind of a strange story in a way. I’ve now been doing Georgette Heyer for 25 years. I started researching back in 1999. But it began before that. My husband’s an engineer, and we went to live in the jungle in Papua, New Guinea. Living in a little tiny mining town right up on the border of Papua, New Guinea, and Irian Jaya, which is part of Indonesia. Very isolated. Fly in, fly out. But the town had this tiny YWCA library. And the library was full of Robert Ludlum, and Georgette Heyer, and other books. So that was my introduction to Georgette Heyer. And I read all of Robert Ludlum and all of Georgette Heyer. I love them both, but I became really addicted to Heyer ,most really, because I think I was just transported. So it’s not just her. She wrote 12 detective novels, but she also wrote 26 novels set in the English Regency, which is the same period in which Jane Austen lived and wrote. Heyer, of course, is writing historical fiction. And you are just transported into the world that she creates. It doesn’t matter what’s Regency or Georgian or present day. And she was part of the golden age of detective fiction. So when you read Heyer, it’s just like this delicious, wonderful, take you out of your ordinary world into the world that she creates. And that’s sort of what sent me on that. I didn’t know then.

And then some years later, we were in New Guinea for five years. We went came home to Melbourne. And then a few years later, we lived in the Middle East. And lo and behold, in the library in the town in which we were living, there were heaps of Georgette Heyer regency romance books. And so I read her again, and she became my comfort read. That’s probably the thing for which she is really, really well known. She’s a lot of people’s comfort reads. They go back to her repeatedly. I introduced a friend to her novels, and she became hooked. And we used to sit around going, what’s a barouche? What’s a Spencer? Like, what are all these amazing things? You always sort of had a sense. You knew that a barouche was a carriage, but you didn’t know what looked like. So we’d had this idea that maybe we could write a Georgette Heyer handbook. And when I came home, that’s what I got on with doing.

Sarah Harrison  09:28
That illustrated companion.

Jennifer Kloester  09:30
Yeah, it came out of one chapter of my doctorate. I did my PhD on Georgette Heyer, and history and fiction. And one chapter of it was looking at the Regency world (regency romance), and then I got a contract with Random House UK. And Georgette Heyer’s Regency World was the result, which is this guy here. [holds book up]

Sarah Harrison  09:51
Oh, that’s cool. She’s showing us her Georgette Heyer Regency World book, and it looks so fun. Did you illustrate it, too. Are you an illustrator?

Jennifer Kloester  09:59
No, I had a fabulous illustrator called Graeme Tavendale. So I commissioned all the illustrations, I would say what I wanted, and then he would fulfill the brief. It was a pretty exciting journey. And I just began when I was doing my PhD. I flew to England, and I was able to meet Georgette Heyer’s son, her only child, who was a high court justice, Sir Richard Rougier. And bit by bit, I met pretty much everyone who had ever known her. And I became really good friends with her family. And I just was going back and forth, doing more and more research. Once I finished my doctorate, I’d gathered so much new material that another book with the biography became sort of the next obvious thing to do. So that took about 10 years of research. Yeah, she was just incredibly private. So not a lot was really known about her. Jane Aiken Hodge wrote a really good biography in 1984. Jane and I became really good friends. But she only had access to material from when Georgia was about 40, 42. And I was able to decipher it. I was lucky enough to discover a lot of untapped archives of Heyer’s letters that dated back to when she was 18. And had just received her first book contract.

Sarah Harrison  11:24
No way. You make me have so many questions. I don’t know where to start. One. What was the YWCA library doing in Papua New Guinea? I’ve never seen a library from YWCA. I always see a swimming pool.

Jennifer Kloester  11:44
Okay, well, this was a library, a gorgeous library, and the upstairs of one of the little houses the company had built. Papua New Guinea is actually quite religious, because back in the day missionaries went there. And so in fact, it was sort of divided up between the Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists, and I think the Anglicans. There was quite a strong Christian element where we were living, and they’d set up a YWCA library with a childcare center downstairs.

Sarah Harrison  12:27
Question two, when did you find time to get your PhD with all of this traveling around and living in Papua New Guinea? How did you do that? Where did you do it?

Jennifer Kloester  12:37
I did my bachelor degree as an off-campus student. So I would get parcels of books sent to New Guinea. And then you get your assignments and the writing by longhand, and then you’d post everything back. And then I did the same in the Middle East. When we finally came home to Australia, I had three kids by then, I took a few years off, because I had a third child, and it was a bit too much. And so then I came back to it. And I finished my bachelor’s. I think it took me 13 years to do it one subject per semester while living in these other places and having children, as you do. We had come back from Bahrain. And I’d said to my husband, before I get a real job, I’m just going to do this little private research project. This is a bit OCD. I think it sounds a bit weird.

Anyway, I read through all of Heyer’s regency romance novels, and I marked up anything that I thought a modern reader might not know. And then I created the card index file alphabetized, and books where I had all these alphabetical entries. And then I would research what the things we’re in. Anyway, I had this lunch one day with one of my former lecturers, brilliant guy. And I told him about this little private research project. I hadn’t told anybody else what I was doing. And he sat back in his chair, and I thought he was gonna say, like, “what a waste of time. What are you crazy?” But he sat back in his chair, and he said, that it would make a fantastic PhD. And I had this epiphany, I had this moment, like, I’d never thought of such a thing of me and a puffy hat, a PhD. So I went on with his help. I did honors and I got a scholarship to do my PhD at the University of Melbourne. And for years during my PhD, which took me three and a bit years, I would refer to it as puffy hat day. My daughter grew up thinking that PhD stood for “puffy hat day.”

Carolyn Daughters  14:57
That’s amazing. That’s awesome.

Sarah Harrison  14:59
I love that whole story arc, getting your doctorate. And before you get a real job, you just have this little project that you want to do.

Carolyn Daughters  15:09
And “real” means paying, because this was obviously a lot of work. So this was a real job.

Jennifer Kloester  15:15
I wouldn’t probably have done the PhD unless I got the scholarship, and the scholarship, that was just amazing. I suffered so much from imposter syndrome. The day they opened the enrollments for the year, I got the place and I got the scholarship. I was so sure that they had the wrong person. I was first in the queue on the first day of enrollments because I thought once I was enrolled, it would make it harder for them when they realize they’ve made a mistake.

Carolyn Daughters  15:45
Oh, my goodness.

Jennifer Kloester  15:47
You know, like, what are you doing here? We didn’t mean you. I’m enrolled. Yeah, too late, enrolled, you know. And it’s just evolved from there. It has been an amazing journey. And I’ve met just incredible people. And I think one of the things that stands out to me is people’s kindness and generosity, people who’ve just been amazing through the course of this journey. So I feel very lucky.

Carolyn Daughters  16:20
This Regency period, the period in which Jane Austen lived in wrote, so when you mentioned Barouche box, I think of a scene in Pride and Prejudice, where Lady Catherine de Bourgh offers up her Barouche Box to Elizabeth Bennett for half of her journey home. She can take the Barouche Box if she’ll delay her journey by several days and so forth. It makes me wonder, is it Georgette Heyer? Or, more broadly, the period of time either a Jane Austen or somebody writing historical fiction in that Regency period. Is Georgette Heyer sort of an outlier, where you came to her books and this author, and she’s the one? Or did she lead you to other regency romance writers, historical fiction writers, or actual period writers like Jane Austen?

Jennifer Kloester  17:21
That’s a great question. Georgette Heyer created the Regency romance genre of historical fiction as we know it today. So things like Bridgerton. Julia Quinn is a Georgette Heyer reader. And so that world that we see, for instance, in Bridgerton, or in modern Regency romance fiction, is very much Heyer’s world, it’s her tropes. So she is kind of the doyen of Regency fiction. She owes a huge debt to to Jane Austen, who was her favorite author. So you’ll get lots of Austin-esque moments in the Georgette Heyer’s Regency and Georgian novels, and even in her detective fiction. I don’t think there’s anyone like her, and I think any Regency writer around now, and there many of them, and many very, very successful ones like Julia Quinn, Anne Gracie, Eloisa James, Stephanie Laurens. There are a lot of great Regency writers out there. Almost all of them would acknowledge and have in fact acknowledged their debt to Heyer.

One of the American publishers put out a series of his novels, with little foreword by these famous authors talking about her and the influence she had on their writing. She certainly introduced me to Regency history and the regency romance genre. I didn’t really know anything about it. The world she creates us feel so real. And it is a very narrow, very specifically chosen slice of that world. She does sometimes deal with some of the darker side of the period, because obviously we’ve massively romanticized the Regency. It’s all carriages and horses and balls and men, beautifully dressed and women in empire gowns. We’ve got Andrew Davies’ 1995 Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, which we all love. And Jane Austen herself didn’t really deal with the darker side, certainly not overtly, subtly. So it’s a chosen slice, but certainly Heyer herself was very meticulous.

She cared immensely about the historical accuracy of her novels, particularly the regencies, of which she wrote 26 that are set specifically within that nine-year period of 1811 to 1820, which was the English Regents, and George III was declared mad, and his son became the regent. She’s unusual in that because today, a lot of Regency writers count the Regency as anywhere between 1780, when George was Prince of Wales, through to 1830, when he was King George IV. But Heyer was very specific. And she does sometimes these days get criticized for other moments, sort of like she made an historical mistake, or this is a sort of fantasy world. Someone has called her a historical fantasist. And I take real exception to that, because people forget that the history that was available to her in her lifetime is very different to the history that’s available to us now. And the attitude toward history was completely different as well.

History was considered a subset of literature when she was growing up. It wasn’t the sort of grassroots “we need to look at who the author is” the way we do today. Today we understand the biases in history far more than she did. For her, that would never have occurred. I have a case for historical books about the Regency and the Prince Regent and carriages and all the different costume and things. She had a library of 2,000 books to do with the subject. So she certainly brought me and I think many readers to those periods in which she chose to write, because she has this incredible ability to create worlds feel real and make you want to know more.

Sarah Harrison  21:37
Interesting. Over time, the treatment of history even from The Odyssey and The Iliad was thought of entirely differently than we think of it now.

Carolyn Daughters  21:51
Even, I would say, when I was in school, it’s thought of differently now.

Sarah Harrison  21:55
That’s probably true. Tell us about that time when history was a subset of literature. How did that work?

Jennifer Kloester  22:02
Well, her father was a classics graduate of Cambridge. And he was her great mentor, gave her the run of his library very much like Jane Austen’s father gave her the run with his library. And he raised Georgette on the classics, the Greek writers, Shakespeare particularly. She was a huge Shakespearean reader. The Renaissance poets, Austen, and Dickens, in particular. Her father could recite whole chapters of Dickens by heart. And so she grew up in what I think today would be a very rarefied literary environment, which influenced the regency romance books she wrote. But also her father would have been raised on writers like Gibbons, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Froude, Carlisle, Macaulay, his great history of England. And these were books that were very much considered to be preeminent over history at that time.

It wasn’t till the late 19th century that Oxford and Cambridge introduced a tripod in history, because prior to that history was taught under the umbrella of literature. And it was considered sort of de rigeur to write literary history, history that was available to the ordinary reader. And, of course, these are white patriarchal men writing British history or the history of the French Revolution, from a very white, British, I guess, WASP point of view. And that certainly carried over.

Georgette was born in 1902. She was an Edwardian child raised by Victorian parents, when Britain was the Great Empire of the world. It would never have occurred to her to question Britain’s right to be the preeminent culture in the world as it was. And you’ve got to remember the British Empire was vast. India, right, like across the world, Australia, Canada, so many countries were influenced for hundreds of years by British culture. We only began to see the beginning of the end of that after the Great War, which, of course, she she grew up through.

And so it wasn’t really probably till even after the Second World War that you really began to see this huge shift. And, of course, America became this huge preeminent, dominant economic power. But it, too, owes a huge debt to British culture, of course, because of the founding fathers being British. Georgette grew up in an era where you didn’t question the historians. You didn’t question the history that someone like Macaulay wrote, or Froude or Carlyle or even Gibbons. You read these books and you took them as fact. It’s only really in our lifetime that this whole idea of what is fact. And the idea that you cannot get to bedrock has become fashionable. This is part of the postmodern world, the post-structuralist world. And, of course, we see it now in the very much in the post-colonial, post-imperialist era, where we’re seeing people go, “Well, this history is actually wrong, you’re not telling it from my point of view, the point of view of the Indian who grew up under British rule, or the African who was appallingly treated by the Belgians in the Congo, and you’re getting statues being ripped down, and you’re getting now revisionist history and rewriting of history, which actually is very important.

I think we need to have a much greater understanding of where the history comes from, but that wasn’t the case until the mid-20th century, that is a relatively new thing, a new understanding, a new undertaking. I actually asked her son, Sir Richard, what his mother would have thought of the history in her regency romance novels, about the writing of history. And the question would never have occurred to her. As she was writing her regency romance novels, she just would have taken it for granted that the history she was drawing from the history books was accurate and accessible.

Carolyn Daughters  26:44
Just as her books might be viewed as a slice of British culture during that period, so too the history that she was drawing from was a slice of the actual history, the depth and breadth of the full story of what was happening at that time.

Jennifer Kloester  27:05
It plays into the whole issue we have these days with cancel culture and wanting to rewrite people like Roald Dahl because elements of the books have, for many reasons, become offensive. But you’ve always got to look at context. And, unfortunately, a lot of attitudes we quite rightly find offensive today. Were just cultural, when people were writing, and so I think it’s always incredibly important to look at the history of the time in which anything is created, whether it’s books, or music, or art, or buildings, or whatever it is. The mindset of the time is enormous. You cannot escape one’s own time. And future generations will probably look back at our time and say, how could they have thought those things? How could they have said those things? But you are locked into your particular bit of the great river of time. You get dropped in here and you get plucked out there. And that’s just where it is, I think some people have accused Heyer of bigotry or antisemitism. You know, the same as Agatha Christie, or Dorothy L. Sayers, or any of these lauded, wonderful writers. And you have to look at the context of the time. None of that was, I don’t believe, deliberate by those authors. Margery Allingham, one of her books is based on the murder is based on a Mississippi, the scandal of interracial marriage. Police at the funeral is the whole reason for the murder is to hide the fact that the previous generation interracial marriage, I mean, that is appalling, but that book still in print, and no one’s raised any issue about it that I know. So you have to look at the time and the context. And it’s not to excuse these things. It’s to understand them, and to do better. That’s my take on it anyway.

Sarah Harrison  29:27
You mentioned a couple incredible libraries, book collections, and you have your own there. Can you tilt your camera so we can see all of your Heyer books?

Carolyn Daughters  29:35
I was gonna ask the exact same thing.

Sarah Harrison  29:40
I wanted to ask, you mentioned her father’s library of like, 2,000 or 3,000 books. Did those get passed down? Does her son have those now? Please tell me they didn’t sell them off.

Jennifer Kloester  29:54
Georgette’s library mostly got sold two years after she died. Because he literally didn’t have room. It was enormous. That’s what Richard told me. Sadly, Richard passed away in 2007. Same way as his mother, undiagnosed lung cancer. It was very sad. He was a really good friend and an amazing man. He gave me my first signed copy of a Heyer regency romance novel, The Unknown Ajax, which is one of my treasures.

Carolyn Daughters  30:35
Tell us about your books. What are we seeing behind you?

Jennifer Kloester  30:43
I collect Heyer first editions. And also I collect Heyer cheap, hardcover editions. She was successful as a regency romance writer from the very first. She wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, when she was 17. She got a contract when she was 18. And it was published just after her 19th birthday in 1921. And that book, 103 years later, is still selling.

Sarah Harrison  31:06

Jennifer Kloester  31:08
Pretty good for a teenage author. And it’s wild. It’s wildly readable. It’s a melodrama, it’s swashbuckling. It’s great fun. It has some kind of modern-day issues in it, but you tend to skirt over them, because it’s so well-written. That’s the one book, The Black Moth, that I have never seen the first edition cover of it. It’s incredibly rare, and the British Library didn’t start keeping first edition covers until after 1925. So it missed the first few. Cambridge library has an almost complete collection of Heyer with dust jackets.

I have a couple of facsimile dust jackets, because, for instance, her third published novel, The Transformation of Philip Jettan, was actually published under a pseudonym, Stella Martin. It’s the only novel to have been published by Mills & Boon. And this was in 1923, when Mills & Boon was still a broad general publisher. They hadn’t started to specialize in romance. They didn’t do that until the early late 30s, early 1940s. And so she was published by those who probably did not know they had published a regency romance book by Georgette Heyer. We don’t really know. And so that book is incredibly rare, because it’s a Mills & Boon.

Anyway, I do have a copy of that. It took me many years to find it. So I collect both British and American first editions, many of which have really beautiful covers. And in fact, this is the British version of Death in the Stocks, with Arnold Vereker in the stocks, the dead body, sort of with a brick wall behind it. And then when it was published in America, they changed the title because I think they thought Americans wouldn’t know what stocks were. I don’t know. Perhaps a bit like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, so they called it Merely Murder. And the little logline is, “A rare and refreshing novel of mirth and murder among the mad young Verekers.”

Carolyn Daughters  33:30
Fairly accurate?

Jennifer Kloester  33:32
Yeah, pretty good. This is the members edition. And if you take the dust jacket off, it has this wonderful skeleton.

Sarah Harrison  33:42
This is show and tell. This is fantastic.

Jennifer Kloester  33:46
So that’s pretty cool. I love that. In Britain, they would bring out the first edition. And then depending on how well it sold a year later, or maybe two years later, or six months later, they’d bring out the first cheap edition. So same cover, hardback dust jacket, but it might be instead of seven and six, that would be three and six. And one of the great things about these books is that they tell you a lot about how an author was perceived in their lifetime, rather than how they’re perceived now.

So a lot of Heyer’s regency romance covers, particularly in the later years of her life when she was this huge international bestseller and after her death are very kind of women’s — I hate the phrase “women’s fiction,” because fiction should just be fiction, but anyway. They get caught into the section that’s romance, particularly women’s fiction, which doesn’t do her justice. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. But they give you an impression that it’s just for women, and she was read by everybody. Men, women, young, old, every demographic. And so the original covers tell you a lot. For instance in her regency romance novel Beauvallet, which is a swashbuckling kind of Captain Bligh type novel, 16th century, Elizabethan, in the inside flap, where they would use to advertise other authors, all of D.H. Lawrence’s books are listed for sale inside a Georgette Heyer novel.

People have really lost perspective of how she was deceived in her own day. She’s one of 12 really well-known authors to be included in the Heinemann Lbrary. They reissued These Old Shades, 1926, a huge bestseller. In 1937, they were issued several books by famous authors, including Willa Cather and John Galsworthy and lots of others. They’re in a leather and gilt sound tradition, and Heyer is one of those. So that’s what it sort of tells you. But I also love them. I love the covers. And the Americans were particularly good at covers. Some of their covers are really, really beautiful. So most of Heyer’s own library went to Sotheby’s and was sold at auction. But Richard did keep quite a good portion of it. Some of the really special editions, her two volume leather-bound Life in London by Pierce Egan, which is one of her resources for her Regency romance novel. Books like that. And I do have one of her books.

After Richard died, his widow gave me this is Georgette’s own copy of At the Back of the North Wind from when she was a child. And so inside, in her handwriting, her name. She would have been about eight. So you get to see her signature. That’s pretty nice.

Sarah Harrison  37:17
Well, I’m wondering. So she basically invented this whole Regency romance genre. And we’re a mystery podcast, we’re reading her one of her best mysteries. Tell me a little bit about what’s with the mysteries? Why is she doing mysteries. They’re slightly romantic. It’s somewhat romantic.

Jennifer Kloester  37:41
There’s always a romance in them. Just like in Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Who doesn’t love Peter Wimsey, Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. So she does have mysteries in quite a few of her novels, her Georgian and and her Regency novels. For instance, The Quiet Gentleman has an attempted murder mystery in that, The Reluctant Widow has a murder mystery. The Talisman Ring, which is set in the late 1700s, is a regency romance with a wonderful, very funny mystery in it, you sort of know who the murderer is, but it’s great fun having him revealed or unmasked. So she really enjoyed the mystery element in her novels, I think. Later, she didn’t do it.

After sort of 1944, she stopped, she did write two more specifically detective stories in 1951 and 1953. But really, from 1944 on, she wrote mainly Regency romance novels. But some of those, as I said, do have murder mysteries in them. So she obviously liked the genre. There is a suggestion, I’ve not been able to ever find any of this, but it’s said that her father wrote detective stories under a pseudonym. And certainly in 1923, she wrote a short story called Linckes’ Great Case, which is available in Acting on Impulse, which is a compilation of her contemporary short stories that we put together. It’s in this, which you can find online, Acting on Impulse.

I spent, I don’t know, weeks at the British Library, looking for her short stories that had been forgotten from the 1920s and 30s. And I found nine unremembered on short stories. So that was very exciting. She was good at mystery, I think. And she wrote 12 detective novels, of which Death in the Stocks in some ways is the best. Death in the Stocks is her fourth murder mystery. Her first two, Footsteps in the Dark, and Why Shoot a Butler? are kind of following the Edgar Wallace style of murder mysteries. There are secret tunnels and there’s sort of a race to get the guy who’s kidnapped the heroine and that sort of thing. And then she wrote The Unfinished Clue, which is the first one that Dorothy L. Sayers reviewed. And it’s got Lola, the Mexican dancer, who’s really great fun.

This is the first book where Heyer really begin to let her own very clever sense of humor come into play, because that’s what she became really known for is one of the queens of detective fiction for her sense of humor. And she developed this reputation for having the suspect make jokes over the corpse, so to speak, and to give the detectives a really hard time. And she really enjoyed that aspect of it.

Death in the Stocks is one that she wrote without her husband. Ronald was a kind of QC. And he used to help with the howdunit of the novels. And there’s a famous story, I think, pretty much it was for No Wind of Blame, which has quite a complicated murder method. And the story goes that she’d almost finished writing it and she’d come to the last chapter, and she went to Ronald and said, Can you just tell me again, how this murder was committed?

Carolyn Daughters  41:38
That’s amazing. In this book, Death in the Stocks, there’s a murder mystery. There’s a regency romance. There’s humor. There are very witty characters. At times, it felt like they were out of a scene from an Oscar Wilde play. I felt at one point that I was reading The Importance of Being Earnest or something like that. Dorothy Sayers said, “Miss Heyer’s characters and dialogue are an abiding delight to me. I have seldom met people to whom I took so violent a fancy from the word go.” I find that so interesting, because their writing styles are completely different.

Jennifer Kloester  42:28
Well, of course, she had the benefit of a classic education. She went to Oxford. Heyer was educated at home until the Great War. And then she got to have a couple of years at school. But she was mostly educated by her parents. I think her father was very charismatic, and her mother was a graduate of the Royal College of Music. And so, she had very well educated, quite cultured parents. But it’s not the same as being able to go to college at Oxford and actually have a classical education, which Dorothy L. Sayers certainly had. But I think they were of similar intelligence and wit and cleverness. These are two highly intelligent people who just happen to be women.

Carolyn Daughters  43:30
I loved that phrase. And I loved the idea of Dorothy Sayers really appreciating regency romance mystery novels that are so very different from her own, which I mean, we can all do, right. I mean, we can like Charles Dickens, and we can like Georgette Heyer, and we can like contemporary novelists and different genres and all of that. But it interested me that Dorothy Sayers was a fan. And the humor in this book really took me by surprise at times. There’s a lot of banter, and it’s very fast paced. You can picture this almost being filmed kind of like a Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man, the characters all in one room just throwing barbs at each other nonstop. I thought I almost want to see this. I want to visualize this scene.

Jennifer Kloester  44:34
Well, that’s interesting you should say that, because this regency romance mystery novel did get made into a Broadway play. So with quite a well-known and respected playwright. He would send her drafts of the script. And she came to feel that really she should travel to New York and help with this script, because she felt that he didn’t understand her dialogue and her humor. And it may have been the difference between the American sensibility and the British, I don’t know. But in the end, she felt that he was making it more into a farce than the clever black comedy that she had actually written. And so it did open on Broadway, and it closed after three nights. I think she was probably right. She felt from the beginning, reading the draft, that it would not succeed, that he just wasn’t mastering the humor. He brought in, I think, a drunken butcher, some character that he thought would be a good idea. And this wasn’t working for her at all. And she actually said, “he’s falling between two stools.” And that it probably wasn’t going to work. And she was right.

I actually have the script. I traveled to New York on one of my research trips and went to the Billy Rose Theatre Library and was able to get the script on microfilm. I think I have it printed here in my massive archive. That’s Georgette’s life in like 26 legal folders and other archives. Jane Aiken Hodge, her first biographer, who wrote The Private World of Georgia Heyer. I had lunch with her. The first time I ever met her, it was amazing. In 2002, I went over to England for my PhD did all this research, met Sir Richard and all these different people, and went to the British Library.

I’d written to Jane, and she’d invited me to lunch. So I gone down on the train to Louis, where she lived in this wonderful Elizabethan house. And we had lunch, and we just talked Georgette Heyer the whole time. And she had said to me, when I arrived, I had my housekeeper bring down my research archive from the attic. I thought perhaps you might like to look at it. And I’m like, Are you kidding? Of course I would. Because she had been able to interview a lot of people who’d known Heyer really well who were now dead by 2002, including her publisher, and her publisher’s wife, who was one of Georgette’s friends, and lots of people. Anyway, so there were these 12 manila folders full of different things. But we just talked and talked and talked, and it was really wonderful. Jane was then in her 80s. She was an amazing woman, incredibly sharp mind. And an author herself. She was actually Conrad Aiken’s daughter, the famous American poet, and Joan Aiken sister who wrote The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Nightbirds on Nantucket.

Anyway, time ran out, and I really had only just had the moment to open the first folder, and they were photos and amazing things. And I needed to leave. and Jane said, “Look, why don’t you take it. Take the lot.” She said, “Take whatever you want out of the archives.” But as a researcher that is just like no way, because you are removing things from their provenance, and that’s really bad. So I’m like, oh, no, I couldn’t possibly take all this information about Heyer and her regency romance novels. And she just suddenly said, “Why don’t you take it, just take the lot?” I’m like, I couldn’t, like she was offering me the crown jewels. Anyway, she disappeared out of the room and came back a minute later with these bags, Swan Hellenic cabin bags. She’d obviously been on a cruise, and she proceeded to stuff these folders into the bag, zipped it up, and shoved it at me. And I kind of like grabbed it to my chest. And she ushered me to the front door and saw me off the premises.

Carolyn Daughters  49:12
And then you ran off into the night because she might have changed her mind.

Jennifer Kloester  49:16
I had that thing on the train back to London to my digs. And then I just sat on the bed and just like oh my god. I’ve still got that. It’s on the shelf behind me. And that was like a goldmine because it has all of Georgette has letters to her second to last agent, who was an American. And that’s fantastic, from 1951 to 1970. And interview notes from the people that Jane was able to interview for the biography. It filled with a lot of gaps. And a lot of things said that only became clear once I had the untapped archives of letters. A main archive, you’ll love to know this … So without the internet, which really began to be something in about 2001. The year I began my PhD, it was a lot of zeitgeist involved in my whole Heyer journey. One of my PhD supervisors … he must have used one of the library search engines back then. And it turned out there is a major archive of Georgia Heyer’s letters, dating from 1923 through to 1955. And it’s located at the McFarland Special Collections at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. And that archive was a revelation. That told us things about Heyer that we’d never known before. It’s very cool.

Sarah Harrison  51:02
It’s a surprising location.

Jennifer Kloester  51:04
I know. Well, they bought it. American libraries are fantastic at buying collections of authors’ letters and having incredible. The Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, is just an incredible place. What a repository. I mean, you guys are so lucky.

Carolyn Daughters  51:21
Austin, Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Papua New Guinea.

Jennifer Kloester  51:27
New York City Library. Fantastic. Got an amazing archives. They’ve got Austenalia. They’ve got lots of stuff. You guys have a wealth in America of just amazing, amazing literary archives. And you’re so efficient with them. Like, with a collection from Tulsa, I needed copyright permission to have access to it. So I wrote to Sir Richard, and he wrote me a copyright permission. And I sent that off to Tulsa. And within a week, I had the box with a complete photocopy of the entire 361 letters. It’s about 800 pages. Just amazing.

Sarah Harrison  52:17
That’s wild.

Carolyn Daughters  52:17
That’s incredible.

Jennifer Kloester  52:18
So I love them. McFarland Special Collections of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.

Sarah Harrison  52:26
Jen, you are a repository of knowledge about Georgette Heyer and regency romance mystery novels. We’d love to do a second episode with you since we’ve hardly even touched on Death in the Stocks yet, but we’ve learned so much.

Carolyn Daughters  52:39
We’ve been having such a fun conversation and learning so much about Georgette Heyer that we would love to talk with you some more if you’re willing.

Jennifer Kloester  52:47
Yeah, sure, love to.

Sarah Harrison  52:50
Listeners, we’re gonna have Jen back on the next episode. So listen that one, too.

Carolyn Daughters  52:59
Yes. And as a reminder, find us on teatonicandtoxin.com. Or @ teatonicandtoxin on Instagram and Facebook and our brand-new Twitter page. Twitter, as the kids are calling it.

Sarah Harrison  53:18
Jen, do you have a website or social media where folks can find you?

Jennifer Kloester  53:22
I’m jenkloester on Instagram and JenniferKloesterAuthor on Facebook and jenniferkloester.com, where you’ll find lots of Georgette Heyer material. I brought out my collected blogs that I wrote over COVID, as one did. And that’s the novels of Georgette Heyer Celebration, which has a photograph of some of my editions and the American ones on the back. Some American ones on the front, one of the beautiful American ones. They did a beautiful job with her 1937 novel of Waterloo, An Infamous Army, and the American cover is just divine. Do you want to see it?

Sarah Harrison  54:16
So she wrote you that?

Jennifer Kloester  54:19
She wrote this amazing book, really. This is the book of what she was most proud. It’s called An Infamous Army. It’s set in Brussels, and the last 10 chapters cover the Battle of Waterloo quite brilliantly. It was recommended reading at Sandhurst Military College in England. And if I take off the dust jacket, the picture on the front cover is actually embossed into the boards of the price of the actual.

Carolyn Daughters  54:47
Oh, interesting. Oh lovely.

Jennifer Kloester  54:50
It has the cross swords. Quite beautiful.

Carolyn Daughters  54:56
It’s a beautiful book.

Jennifer Kloester  54:57
Yeah, the American book. And Georgette did her hand-drawn maps of the positions of the army and of Wellington and Napoleon. Beautiful.

Carolyn Daughters: You can learn more about Death in the Stocks and all our 2024 book selections at teatonicandtoxin.com. You can also comment, weigh in, and follow along with what we’re reading and discussing @teatonicandtoxin on Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Sarah Harrison  56:28
We want to thank you for joining us on our journey through the history of mystery. We absolutely adore you. Until next time, stay mysterious.

Recent Episodes

Regency Romance Mystery Novel

Regency Romance Mystery Novel

Jennifer Kloester, expert on all things Georgette Heyer, joins Sarah and Carolyn from her home in Melbourne, Australia, to talk about regency romance mystery Death in the Stocks. Georgette and Jennifer make quite the team. We were riveted. You will want to listen in.

Listen →
Phantom Orbit by David Ignatius

Phantom Orbit by David Ignatius

David Ignatius is known for his uncanny ability to predict the next great national security headline, and his newest book, Phantom Orbit, had us on the edge of our seats. We’re talking space warfare, folks. This thriller is intriguing from start to finish. READ THIS BOOK!

Listen →
Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe & Archie

Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe & Archie

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 us on a second episode!

Listen →

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *