Jeri Westerson Interview
October 14, 2010
the author of The Demon's Parchment
Contributor Susan Gillmor had some intriguing questions on October 14, 2010, for Jeri Westerson, author of the "medieval noir" mystery The Demon's Parchment. This novel, #3 in the Crispin Guest series, is set in the mean streets of fourteenth-century London and features a disgraced former knight as sleuth.
Reading The Demon's Parchment, I often felt I was walking through 1384 London. How did you uncover details like the many different church bells with their different timbres?
I have several maps from the period delineating where which church was, so it was a fun little tidbit that leant an air of reality to the proceedings. Based on the kind of church—large or small—I just extrapolated what kind of sounds the bells would make (and from my own observations of the sounds of real church bells).
Crispin's superstitious attitude about Jews reflects the prevailing sensibilities of his day. How difficult was it to stay in medieval mode in this characterization?
It wasn’t difficult but it was certainly interesting. I’m Jewish so I’m familiar with the prejudices about Jews that were rampant then and persist to this day. Crispin is a worldly man and has seen a lot. He was well educated and lived with the duke of Lancaster, a man who supported religious reformers (like John Wycliffe), so even though Crispin has the same prejudices as most of his peers and acquaintances, he can also form his own opinion based on observing the facts. I’d like to think that this is what makes him a good detective as well. It was a bit of fun, really, giving him those attitudes and making him growl about them.
The first two Crispin Guest novels revolve around Christian relics, and The Demon's Parchment introduces a Jewish document. Will forthcoming Crispin Guest novels also turn on religious objects?
Yes, they will all be tied in some way or another to a religious or mythological relic. It’s my McGuffin, my pivot point for my plots. But don’t look for something formulaic. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a relic is vitally important to the mystery and the plot, and sometimes it’s just a distraction.
Review of The Demon's Parchment by Jeri Westerson
See listing for The Demon's Parchment at Powell's Books
See listing for The Demon's Parchment at Amazon.com
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