Managed to miss this

Posted by Tory Historian Sunday, August 17, 2008 ,

Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of one of the most prolific writers of excellent popular fiction, of which Tory Historian approves, as readers would have realized. Georgette Heyer, whose fan club maintains a very elegant website, was born on August 16, 1902 in Wimbledon, which is somehow appropriate.

She died, an immensely successful author, on July 4, 1974 in London. Known largely for her Regency novels, she also wrote highly amusing, if somewhat ridiculous detective stories, mostly about Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant, later Inspector, Hemingway. There were also other historical novels but these are not so well known. (Wikipedia lists them all.)

The Regency novels are highly entertaining and rely on very accurate information that Georgette Heyer collected assiduously. She was clearly influenced by Jane Austen and, while not being as great a writer as the latter, she is considerably better than most authors of historical romances.

The Regency world of Ms Heyer, a slightly higher one socially than that of Miss Austen, is vivid and is never merely a modern world with a few tushes and gadzookses added to them. In fact, there are very few tushes and no gadzookses at all but the details of dress, habit, behaviour, food and so on are accurate as anyone who reads contemporary accounts and diaries can see. Even professional historians have been known to recommend Ms Heyer's romances.

Her detective stories, while mostly very silly and never as popular as the romances, also give a clear picture of the upper middle class and middle class world of England some years before and some years after the Second World War. In her descriptions of post-war England she shows herself to be considerably more accurate than the more highly regarded but hopelessly outdated and nostalgic Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh.

Tory Historian finds it particularly admirable that Ms Heyer's dating and time scale in the detective stories is always accurate. To prove this, two novels, which have many of the same characters some years apart, are particularly recommended: "They Found Him Dead", published in 1937 and "Duplicate Death", published in 1951.

1 Responses to Managed to miss this

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. I was once told on reasonably good authority that An Infamous Army was in iuse at Sandhurst (presumably some decades ago now) as one of the best accounts of Waterllo available. It is certainly a very good one and an excellent novel into the bargain. On the whole the novels that Georgette Heyer took out of circulation are not anything like as good as those that go on being reprinted, although I confess to a sneaking liking for the Great Roxhythe. But she remains a good deal better than any of the historical novelists that seek to emulate her and well worth the read.

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