Oline Cogdill

We get so caught up in trying to stay on top of the new novels that are published that we seldom get a chance to revisit the old masters.

The authors who came before–Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and others–laid the foundation on which contemporary authors continue to build.

Boy, that was kinda deep, wasn’t it?

One of my all-time favorite authors who I used to reread regularly is Josephine Tey.

And it’s wonderful that Tey is being introduced to a new generation of readers by British author Nicola Upson who made the author as the heroine of her series. The latest Two for Sorrow has Tey involved with a killer as she researches a novel based on a decades-old crime. Upson takes the classic detective and updates her for a contemporary audience.

Upson’s series is quite good as are the original Tey novels.

Josephine Tey is one of the pseudonyms of Scottish author Elizabeth Mackintosh.

I am by no means an expert on Tey – many of you readers know much more. She wrote dozens of plays under the name of Gordon Daviot, but only four were produced during her lifetime. Her best known was Richard of Bordeaux, which ran for 14 months in England and made a name for a young John Gielgud, who was its leading man and director.

tey_daughteroftimeSo much has been made of Tey’s novel The Daughter of Time, the last of her books published in her lifetime. In The Daughter of Time, her leading character Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is in the hospital. As a diversion, he has his friends help with research so he can figure out if King Richard III of England murdered his nephews, those infamous princes in the Tower of London, back in the 1480s.

OK, I know it was a different time–1951–when The Daughter of Time was published and maybe that debate about King Richard III had more bearing than it does now. At least to me. While I am fascinated by history and am a fan of historical mysteries, The Daughter of Time is not my favorite Tey novel.

For me it was Brat Farrar, published in 1949. As someone who grew up on a farm seven miles from my small hometown of 5,000, I couldn’t really relate to this family of aristocrats.

But what struck me when I read this book when I was about 12 years old was the family made their living breeding, selling and training horses and giving riding lessons. I had just gotten my first horse about that time and the idea of riding all day, of making your living from a horse farm sounded like heaven. That my father was a farmer and made his living off the land also has a resonated with me. That Brat Farrar was an outsider also hit a chord. (I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read it.)

Economically and culturally, Ashby family and mine were miles apart. But on another level, we could have lived next door.