What happens when an author’s characters interview him?
As I climbed out of the chauffeur driven Rolls-Royce I looked up and down St. James Street wondering exactly why I’d been brought here. This, for lack of a better word, adventure had stated at my hotel when the car picked me up. Inquiring from not only the doorman but the driver where I was being taken all I received were shrugs.
Being an author of mysteries set during the regency period I decided to take this as one which needed solving. Glancing back to the building I was standing in front of I couldn’t help but notice the large bow window on the ground floor. Peering through the glass I notice a round table with a chair.
Could this be, no for I’m an American and would never be admitted to White’s.
The front door opened presenting me with an elderly gentleman wearing clothes of the best quality.
“Mr. Downs, please come in as you are expected,” the man announced.
With a mental shake of my head, hopefully not rattling my brain greatly, I climbed the five steps and entered. Much to my surprise the man bowed as I crossed the threshold.
The mystery deepened.
Afraid to open my mouth to say anything I nodded. I then took in a breath and was about to ask who had sent for me when the man held his hand up to silence me. Much as wrote about in my novels.
“If you will follow me,” the man, now I suspect the butler, ordered.
Making my way through the building I glanced around, envisioning many of the gentlemen in write about relaxing in the chairs, discussing politics or reading a broadsheet or two. After a few moments we came to a door. My guide opened it waving me in. The door was closed behind me.
I had stepped into what could only be the dining room as it contained a long table with chairs around it. At the far end two place settings with a very familiar appearing gentleman standing behind the head chair. No introduction was made as it wasn’t necessary. I knew precisely who had sent for me. The main character from The Duke’s Bride, Simon, the Duke of Kettering. I bowed deeply as per protocol and didn’t speak until he spoke.
“Please take a seat Mr. Downs as we’ve much to discuss,” he seemingly ordered, or that was what it sounded like to me.
Doing as instructed I glanced over to the duke and watched him withdraw a piece of paper from a jacket pocket then sat.
“Your Grace, please call me Lindsay. Mr. Downs was my father.”
“Do you mean, Mr. Norton Downs, the medievalist, who taught at Trinity College in Hartford, Ct. It has or had been rumored he, on several occasions, outbid the British Museum on several Sir Walter Scott letters.”
“Yes, that is my father. I wish I could either confirm or deny your words but as he passed years ago those memories have long since faded.”
“I’m sorry for your loss but that’s not why I sent for you. Through my agents and man of business I’ve learned there is more to you than presented in this pitiful excuse for a biography.”
“I’m sorry, Your Grace, but I don’t understand. What do you believe I have left out?”
“Shall we start with your ancestor Thomas McKean. Even though, at the time he signed the Declaration of Independence, thus branding him a traitor all in my eyes he is forgiven. I understand you did a short biography of the man. In it you made mention of his ruling and I quote, “…that all court proceedings if the court be recorded on un-stamped paper. This is one of several changes in the courts and Continental Congress…”. Then later in the same document you make mention of, and again I quote “…no matter the size or population of a colony they would all get an equal vote.”
“What is your question, Your Grace?”
“Returning to your biography, why is there no mention of the man. You come from a highly intelligent family and should let people be aware of them. Also, as a side note please call me Simon.”
“Yes, Your Grace. However, that’s not me.”
“Good sir, you are so wrong on that point. It is you. You have chosen to write one of the most difficult subgenres in romance. Do you really believe you have gotten this far without him in your background?”
As Simon continued to talk, defending his statements, I started to realize what the duke was saying made sense. Was it possible my past, both recent and distant truly made up who I am today? Slowly, I came to understand it did.
“Lindsay, from your expression I am pleased to see you are beginning to believe me. Now, I do hope what I’m about to say isn’t hurtful as that’s not my intention.”
“Please continue, Simon.”
“As I said at the onset of our conversation your father was a well-respected professor. While teaching he edited two book on medieval history which were used in university classes around your country and possibly elsewhere. Also, he composed a book entitled Essays in Honor of Conyers Read.”
“Excuse me Simon, I am aware of them especially the one on Read who was an American professor specializing in English history focusing on the 15th and 16th centuries. And I again see your point. Being an author is part of my DNA and something I should embrace.”
“I’m pleased you finally understand. Now, what do you plan to do?”
“I should point out that everything we’ve discussed I have made a point of keeping the information to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not embarrassed as to my lineage of great minds. However, I sometimes prefer to keep certain facts hidden away. Someday, probably on the occasion of my passing all these will come to light.”
“No, Lindsay on that you are wrong. You are a wonderful author with many more books in you. As I said earlier, embrace what and who you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me I must return to my own time as a duchess and two babes await my return. For your comfort I’ve reserved this room for the next few hours and a footman, sorry waiter, will be bringing in your luncheon.”
I stood as Simon did and bowed then asked, “Will we ever meet again?”
“We will. As the head of the Radcliffe family we will see each other, on the rare occasion when you pen, or type, the romantic mysteries you are so famous for.”
I watched as Simon quite the room only to be replaced by several waiters, each carrying silver trays. Once the covers were removed I wasn’t surprised at the selections which, much to my pleasure didn’t include vegetables. From what I knew of White’s they weren’t, even in this day and age, very popular.
As I dined on some of the most perfectly and delicious prepared meats along with fish I continued to ponder Simon’s words.
With my meal finished I made my way to the front door, there to be met by the butler.
“Sir, your car awaits to return you to the hotel. Have a good day.”
“Thank you, I will. I’ve much to do in the few years remaining to me.”
“Trust me, sir, when I say you will have many more years than you think to write some of the most intriguing regency mysteries I and everyone I know have ever read.”
With that I quit White’s and returned to the hotel, there to start taking a new direction in my life.
The book, Essays in Honor of Conyers Read, mentioned in the above interview along with Basic Documents in Medieval History and Medieval Pageant, the other books Simon was referring to may be found here at AbeBooks.com- http://tinyurl.com/hdvqqhr
You can find Lindsay Downs online at: