Sunday, December 05, 2010

Guest blogger: Aline Templeton

Peter here. Let me introduce you to one of Scotland’s best, and bestselling, crime novelists, Aline Templeton. Aline wrote six standalone novels before embarking on her acclaimed Marjory Fleming series. DI Fleming is a modern working woman with a husband, kids, aging parents and a home to run, as well as being a Detective Inspector of police in a rural corner of south-west Scotland. Aline is a wife, and mother of two herself, and lives in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. The latest in the Marjory Fleming series, “Cradle to Grave”, was published last month by Hodder & Stoughton.

Here, in her own words, is why she was drawn to write crime:

“Why crime?  Sometimes it seems strange to dwell on the darker, bleaker side of life, when my personal pleasures come from laughter and the love of family and friends. But it seemed natural to write what I enjoyed reading, and still when I'm writing a book to some extent I'm telling the story to myself as well.  I enjoy constructing the puzzle, but that isn't my starting point, because  my plots spring from character.  I've always been fascinated by psychology – what makes people do what they do, what the secret stories are that lie beneath the surface.  There is a very dark side to human nature which  we all have to some degree, but we're also good at not showing it.  A shocking event, like murder, strips away the mask and it intrigues me to see what happens then.  It brings out evil and ugliness, but there's still idealism and integrity and warmth and affection too.”

In this week’s guest blog, Aline muses upon books old and new, as she volunteers to man (should that be woman?) a seasonal charity bookstand...

It's the Christmas Fair again and once more I'll be at my usual seat of custom behind the second-hand book stall. It's a rare and heady experience for an author to have a bookseller's power: able to promote this book, or to discourage the purchase of that one with a pursed lip and a slow shake of the head.

Our bookshelves are our lives writ large. There's the same fascination in studying the bags of books handed in, and as I sort them through I can't resist speculating. This batch of last years' best-sellers, Lee Child, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell: an efficient type, clearing space for their 2010 replacements. The faded hardbacks from years gone by: rather sad, these, since they speak of house clearance and someone who no longer needs their familiar, comforting presence to furnish a room. The JK Rowlings, Dan Browns, Steig Larssons: kindly meant, I'd say, but they'll be impossible to sell because everyone's got one already. I do wonder, though, what sort of person it is who donates a 1974 textbook with a back cover missing, and a blank diary for 1998 (yes, really!)? I'd like to think it showed such a reverence for books that they can't bear to destroy any, but I've a nasty feeling that it was easier to chuck them in a box with the others than to sort them out and put them in the bin. I keep hoping for a valuable first edition from a careless person who hasn't checked, but no luck so far..

Then this year my heart gave a little skip: a set of Marjorie Allingham, in the old elegant green Penguin series.. The classic canon. The whole set: Look to the Lady, Flowers for the Judge, Dancers in Mourning, Mystery Mile…(Ah, Magersfontein Lugg!)

I haven't abused my position by snaffling them before anyone else gets a chance, but that's only because I don't need to. I have them myself, on the top shelf of my bookcase, handled reverently now, the covers still intact but the glue on the spine drying and the yellowing pages stiff with memories. They were my father's books, kept in his study on a long shelf with the others: Freeman Wills Croft, MG Eberhart, Elizabeth Ferrars, Edmund Crispin, Ngiao Marsh. I read my way along the shelf from left to right, and when I'd finished those progressed to Dorothy Sayers. I was in love with Peter Wimsey for those of my teenage years when I wasn't in love with a second row forward in the Scottish Rugby team – and to be honest, my chances with Peter Wimsey were about as good. Better, probably..

But it's Marjorie Allingham I still go back to, despite knowing whodunit, just as, I would like to think, the one-time owner of this set did – for the sparkle of her writing, the clever characterisation, the atmospheric plots and her delicious shafts of wit.

To be a crime writer seemed to me, in my teens, the cleverest, most stylish, most interesting thing anyone could possibly be. Well, I've given it my best shot.

Visit Aline’s webiste at:


peter_may said...

It's interesting, Aline, that we shared the same experience of reading along our fathers' bookshelves. When I was about 12, my uncle came to live with us and I was tossed out of my room to spend nights on the settee in the lounge. At one end of the settee was a bookshelf groaning with books with exotic titles by writers with strange names - Eyeless in Gaza (Aldous Huxley), A Scots Quair (Lewis Grassic Gibbon), The Case of the Black-eyed Blond (Erle Stanley Gardner). After staring at them every morning for about a year, I began reading, and like you worked my way along the shelf. It was a wonderful education and introduced me to writers I might never otherwise have read.

Vicki Delany said...

When asked what books I read I often say Aline Templeton. Love the Flemming series, so it was such a delight to see her here. Thanks, Peter for inviting her, and thanks Aline for letting us know what you get up to now and again. How great to see a new book out. I know what I'm getting for Christmas.

Donis Casey said...

I, too, gained my love of books from - in my case- my mother's bookshelf. She had quite eclectic tastes. I particularly remember "How to Draw", as well as her many cookbooks, but it was Lawrence Durrell's "Justine" that got me into actual literature when I was about fifteen.

Aline Templeton said...

Perhaps there's a monograph in 'The Role of the Settee in the Lounge'in the development of literary taste> I was so amused to read your experience, Peter, because that happened to me when we stayed with my uncle! I read his entire set of Kipling and can still recite parts of the Jungle Books, by heart - always associated in my mind with the taste of Penguin biscuits and oranges, which my uncle used to bring through to me when he took tea to the lucky people in beds upstairs. Eat your heart out, Marcel Proust!
Thank you, Vicky, for your kind comments.