Saturday, April 16, 2016

Guest slot: Ruth Dudley Edwards

 Aline here. It's my privilege today to introduce you to Ruth Dudley Edwards, distinguished  British/Irish journalist, broadcaster, biographer and crime writer.  She's won the Crime Writers Association's Last Laugh Award twice for her brilliant satirical crime fiction as well as the CWA Gold Dagger for non-fiction – a unique achievement, I think.  That isn't surprising, since Ruth herself is a one-off – original, big-hearted, clever and very, very funny.  You'll enjoy meeting her here.

I had a card some time back that showed a couple tied to a railway track with a train coming towards them round the corner. “It’s your confounded optimism I can’t stand,” one was saying to the other. It was a not so subtle rebuke from a friend who had declared herself fed up with my resemblance to “Pollybloodyanna”.

Eleanor H Porter’s early 20th century heroine had been disappointed when the missionary barrel yielded a pair of crutches rather than the doll she had been hoping for, but quickly accepted her father’s recommendation that she should be glad she didn’t need them. Later, as an orphan, Pollyanna would cheer up the depressed inhabitants of a small Vermont town by teaching them “The Glad Game”.

I saw the film for the first time recently and wondered why they hadn’t strangled her, but I’d read the book as a small child and it had formed much my character, so, relentlessly, I keep on looking on the bright side while realising how annoying I can be.

In fact - though I’ve learned the hard way that when people are telling you a tale of misfortune they mostly want sympathy rather than an assurance that it’s all for the best - I don’t know how I’d get through life as a writer without a cheerful disposition.

When I’m being a journalist, I’m grateful that articles are short and deadlines therefore easy to meet. When I’m writing non-fiction, I stop myself cursing about the massive amount of reading I have to do by telling myself I’m glad I don’t have to think of a plot. And when I’m writing fiction and wondering what should happen next, I remind myself of the joy of having very little research.

The journalism often concerns terrorism and the non-fiction is often on very serious or even gloomy topics, but I get jokes in where I can and it cheers me up no end that my crime fiction is comic. My last novel, Killing the Emperors, was an all-out assault on what I regard as the massive confidence trick that is conceptual art.

Last month I published a book about the rebellion, insurrection or rising (all the words are contentious) that began in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916. The Seven: the lives and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish Republic, looks at the unusual group of men, a clique within an oath-bound secret society, who planned a doomed revolution which afterwards turned them into nationalist icons.

A composite biography, it interweaves their stories. I realised as I was writing it, and many readers have commented, that its cliffhangers reflect crime fiction. I had to shoot them all in the end, which was rather melancholy because though I thought what they did was wrong and crazy, some of them were very likeable.

But I cheered myself up by reminding myself that I can play God in the crime book I’m about to begin. Mind you, it’s called A Fleece of Lawyers, so I’ll be tempted to go in for mass executions. Even Pollyanna will struggle to play The Glad Game in the law courts.

1 comment:

Irene Bennett Brown said...

An enjoyable post and a nice outlook on the writing life via Pollyannaism.