With the conference less than two weeks away, it’s time for the final instalment of my mini series on Shropshire literary connections. I’ve saved my favourite until last and chosen a writer who’s had a huge influence on my writing. Thanks to her, I discovered the plots, battles and blood feuds of Welsh history. Thanks to her I was inspired to take one of the most memorable holidays of my life and travel to the mountains of Slovakia. Thanks to her, every time I visit Shrewsbury I can’t help but imagine a twelfth-century monk browsing the river banks for herbs and hunting for clues that will guide him to a murderer.
You’ve probably worked out by now that I’m talking about Edith Pargeter, who also wrote as Ellis Peters. She was born and lived in Dawley—now part of Telford—and wrote and published over 70 books. She is probably best known for her books featuring Brother Cadfael, the medieval monk-turned-detective, which arguably kicked off a whole sub genre of historical crime fiction.
A lesser-known fact is Edith Pargeter’s lifelong interest in what was then Czechoslovakia. She taught herself Czech (having two Czech sisters-in-law, I’ve studied Czech myself, and it’s flipping difficult, let me tell you!) and in addition to her own fiction is internationally recognised for her translations of Czech poetry and prose into English. In 1966 she published a crime novel, The Piper on the Mountain - one of a series featuring Inspector George Felse and his family. Set mostly in the High And Low Tatras of Slovakia, it features George Felse’s son, Dominic, who solves a murder involving a plot to sell secrets to the Soviets and still manages to get the girl. It’s great fun and inspired my own trip to the High Tatras.
However, the first books of hers that I read were the four books comprising The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet: Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset and Afterglow and Nightfall. It introduced me to Welsh history and I was hooked from the start, drawn in by the struggles of Prince Llewelyn to overcome his scheming brothers and build a Gwynedd—and, ultimately, Wales—that might be strong enough to stand against the Norman threat. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend them. As an added incentive, they also feature my first literary crush: Llewelyn’s conflicted, treacherous brother, David. The ultimate bad boy!
Hopefully this has whetted your appetite for the conference. Of course, there are many more writers associated with Shropshire. If you have your own favourites, I’d love to hear about them.k here to edit.
My writing, research and any other randomness that seems like a good idea at the time.