I am delighted to welcome to the blog
Guy, welcome to jaffareadstoo can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
I write a variety of very different books, ranging from finance and investment, through history, to fiction. My economic history book “The Mess We’re In” was nominated for the Orwell Prize. I trained and practised originally as a solicitor, but now work in investment, as well as teaching part-time at Cass Business School, where I am a Senior Fellow.
Your Mapp and Lucia novels are based on the stories by E F Benson – why did you choose to continue with this traditional series?
I discovered the E.F. Benson originals when I was in my teens and fell in love with them. I suppose I have always carried the characters around with me in my head, and writing a continuation had always been a dream of mine. After all, the only criticism anyone ever makes of the originals is that aren’t enough of them!
The original stories were written in the 1920s and 1930s and can appear a little dated – how did you ensure that your books would appeal to a more contemporary audience?
That’s a difficult one. If you try to update the feel of the books even a little then you face instant criticism from the die-hard Benson fans! I suppose all I have really done is to make them a teeny bit more sexually overt. That’s more in keeping with how a modern audience would see things, and for those who say that Benson did not deal with physical passion in his books I would refer them to “Autumn Sowing”, where he describes very powerful physical longing. Apart from that I like to think that I have preserved his wonderful off-hand bitchiness, and that the dialogue is appropriate to the period.
What can you tell us about Mapp and Lucia which will pique the reader’s interest?
They are two simply dreadful women who vie with each other for social supremacy in a charming seaside town which is Rye in real life. Stratagems, schemes and downright untruths laced with massive doses of snobbery make for a thoroughly entertaining mix. BBC TV is currently filming a whole new series of the stories, which will be aired next year.
When researching the books did anything surprise you?
Not really, but the research is really important because you owe it to your readers to get the period detail right and I do also blend in quite a few real life characters, from actors to politicians and they are meticulously based on fact.
Your latest book Au Reservoir completes your trilogy of Mapp and Lucia novels – of the three books which has been your personal favourite?
I think “Lucia on Holiday” because I love Italy and it gave me a chance to recreate some real life scenes which I had experienced myself in places like Venice and Bellagio. It was also an experiment on taking some of the characters out of their usual surroundings and letting them strut their stuff in a different environment. I think it worked quite well, but it’s not really for me to say.
What’s next for you – any more novels?
I am currently writing what will hopefully be the first in a series of detective stories called “The Hampstead Murders”. I am doing this under a pseudonym which has yet to be chosen.
I am also in discussions about writing a book about the Bloomsbury Group and, should anyone be interested, I do have an unpublished narrative history of the Plantagenets!
The Mapp and Lucia Books by Guy Fraser- Sampson are available from all good bookshops
and on Kindle from Amazon.co.uk
My Thoughts on Au Reservoir
I first discovered this series when I was asked to review Lucia on Holiday in 2012. I was completely unaware of the E F Benson stories and so with no prior knowledge I could comfortably enjoy the books quite simply on their own merit, without having to resort to comparisons with the original. Now on completing the trilogy, what is obvious is the loving care and fine attention to detail which the author has infused into the stories. The social satire is brilliantly observed, the characterisation is cleverly achieved and the warmth and wit which permeates throughout the stories is a real joy to read.
Au Reservoir now completes the trilogy which first in began in 2008 with Major Benjy, and once again sees Lucia Pillson and Elizabeth Mapp-Flint in direct competition with each other to the detriment of everyone around them. These two adversaries are quite dreadful characters and yet their sparring is a real joy to read and adds a real frisson of excitement to the stories, as it’s never obvious who will have the upper hand. As with all good fiction, there are times when you have to suspend belief and question whether two gentile ladies really would have acted with such vindictiveness, but the great joy in reading further, is to discover that yes, they really could be utterly spiteful and cruel to those around them.
As always, I found myself laughing out loud at the improbability of their actions, completely entertained and more than a little sorry that the trilogy has now ended.
Huge thanks to Guy for giving so generously of his time to answer my questions about the Mapp and Lucia books and also to Alison Menzies at Elliot & Thompson for providing me with a review copy of Au Reservoir.
I am beyond happy to discover that the BBC will bring the books of E F Benson to life in a series being adapted for television by Steve Pemberton. More can be found on the BBC website
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