I have to admit I approached Jeri Westerson's series of books with some skepticism but I was ultimately, pleasantly, surprised. Sometimes the hook for a series is too good to be true. Here's the hook: We have a female author writing about a male protagonist adventure's in 14th century London. And since every great idea needs a good label there was this: it was dubbed "medieval noir."
A mystery book discussion I belong to in Austin decided to read the first book in this series and we all, frankly, loved it. By the time I was halfway through the book I had decided I was not only going to encourage others to check out this series but I would also see about interviewing the author. Added bonus: The author lives and works in Menifee, Calif., less than an hour from where I was born and grew up and did much of my early newspaper work.
I was sent a copy of her latest novel, Troubled Bones: A Medieval Noir, and the most recent before that, The Demon's Parchment, and she consented to the interview that follows.
I'll let her describe the protagonist more fully (this comes from her website):
"I’m Jeri Westerson and I write medieval mysteries with an enigmatic, flawed, sexy, and very different protagonist. His name is Crispin Guest and he’s an ex-knight turned detective on the mean streets of fourteenth century London. You might want to think of him as a 'Medieval Sam Spade,' and these mysteries as Medieval Noir. That’s what makes my detective and these novels so different. They’re full of hard-hitting action and characters with dirty little secrets."
How did you develop the idea to have a series of books in what you and others have been calling medieval noir? Was it always your hope to write it as a series?
Once I had switched from writing historical novels that I couldn’t manage to get published at a time when the historical novel was declared dead by Publisher’s Weekly — we’re talking the 1990s here — I knew I was going to be writing medieval mysteries instead. Mysteries were an easier sell, or so I’d been told, but my heart was still in an historical setting and my research was strictly medieval. I enjoyed the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, but I felt I wanted to write something just a bit different from that. I had also been a big fan of Raymond Chandler’s sleuth Philip Marlowe as well as Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and the whole hardboiled milieu, and I began to think that someone who really was a detective — not just a monk or a nun who was asked to investigate a murder — would be a lot of fun to write while styling him after those hardboiled mugs of yesteryear. That was a book I wanted to read! Keeping it medieval would be the challenge but also the fun part, and so “medieval noir” was born.