by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have a Behind The Book mini interview with mystery author Jeri Westerson and a review of her new Medieval Noir book Troubled Bones featuring tracker Crispin Guest. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of Troubled Bones.
Lorie: How did you come up with the idea for Troubled Bones?
Jeri: I’ve had a lifelong relationship with Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales, on which Troubled Bones is based. Even as a wee child I knew who Chaucer was because we had a child’s version of The Canterbury Tales on our bookshelves at home and I’d pore over it and its weird Bosch-like illustrations. I still have the book! As a kid, I really got into the idea of medieval people sharing stories while heading to Canterbury “the holy blessed martyr there to seek.” My mother even had a record of an actor reciting the Prologue and a few stories from the tales in Middle English, the form of English in which it was written, the form of English Crispin would have been speaking. Also, as a kid, we went to a lot of museums (because in those days they were free), and one of the places we frequented was the Huntington Library which is home to the Ellesmere Chaucer, a parchment book of The Canterbury Tales commissioned not too long after Chaucer died, with beautiful calligraphy and illustrations throughout of all the pilgrims, including Chaucer himself.
So when I came up with Crispin and chose the time period that I would set these stories in, I deliberately chose Chaucer’s London and I knew that there was going to be a book with Chaucer in it. He and Crispin were both in the duke of Lancaster’s household and had become fast friends, so I’ve been waiting to write this book for a very long time.
Lorie: What kind of research did you have to do?
Jeri: I really delved into my Chaucer, that’s for sure. Because in the Tales, each pilgrim not only stands in for Everyman, but for a particular kind of moral character and the stories they told either reflected that or something of the opposite. So assuming that some of them might actually be based on real people became my job as I reinterpreted some of them to be used in the book. I didn’t use all of them—there are some thirty-four. That would have been far too many people to keep track of, so I only chose a few who had come to mean something to me when I read them over the years.
I also delved into Chaucer’s life as well. He died before he finished the Tales, and so these events had to happen prior to his writing them down, naturally. It is my conceit that he actually went on this journey and then later wrote the Tales based on this experience.
I also looked into general information about medieval Canterbury, the cathedral, St. Thomas Becket and his murderers, and…a few other things I can’t mention that might give the game away.
Lorie: What was the most fun about putting this one together?
Jeri: Definitely writing scenes with Chaucer and trying to get into his personality based on research about him…and his relationship with Crispin. They are so different. Crispin is so serious and Chaucer is so lively that they just love taunting each other. And because they truly do love each other like brothers, they also fight like them, too. Also, I included some of the pilgrims from the Tales and had to figure out who they could really be, as well as give them the correct sort of names, as some of them didn’t have them in the Tales.
Lori: Will readers be seeing more of Alyson?
Jeri: No, this one is a one-of. Alyson, including her name, is straight out of the Tales as the Wife of Bath, though she is also modeled somewhat after yours truly. I had to put myself in the books at some point and what better way than that!
Lorie: What’s up next for Crispin?
Jeri: The fifth book will be coming out October 16 and is called Blood Lance. Chaucer returns! But is he working with Spanish spies while Lancaster is away in Spain? And what is the relic that another old friend of Crispin, a knight, wishes for Crispin to find that will set him on a deadly trial to save a man’s honor? There’s fierce jousting in this one, so you won’t want to miss it.
Check out an earlier more in depth interview with Jeri right here at KRL.
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson
Jeri Westerson’s series featuring tracker Crispin Guest puts a different twist on the mystery story by being set in Medieval times. Crispin has become a “tracker”, which is kind of like a Medieval Private Investigator, after being disgraced as a knight and stripped of all of his wealth and position.
In Troubled Bones, Crispin is hired by the Archbishop of Canterbury to protect the bones of saint and martyr Thomas Beckett from a possible traitor in the monastery. Upon his arrival, Crispin meets up with an old friend, court poet Geoffrey Chaucer who just “happens” to be there and who has ties with those considered to be enemies of the Church. Almost immediately, the bones are stolen and a young woman murdered. Crispin is troubled by the fact that he suspects his old friend Geoffrey and even more troubled by such a horrible murder taking place in the church. Crispin’s young apprentice Jack goes undercover in this book at the monastery to try and help discover the culprit.
I very much enjoy this different setting for a mystery. I’ve always loved knights and castles so adding to this a private detective of sorts is a lot of fun for me. Crispin is an interesting character and the mystery is filled with twists and turns, and I get to learn little bits of history along with it. In this book, Crispin even takes a lover, who I am anxious to learn whether she will turn up in future books (see above for the answer to that).
If like me you enjoy Medieval times, and good mysteries, don’t miss out on Troubled Bones.
To enter to win a copy of Troubled Bones, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Bones”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 21, 2012. U.S. residents only.