Authors: M.C. Beaton
The Agatha Raisin series
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE VICIOUS VET
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE POTTED GARDENER
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WALKERS OF DEMBLEY
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE MURDEROUS MARRIAGE
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE TERRIBLE TOURIST
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WELLSPRING OF DEATH
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WIZARD OF EVESHAM
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE WITCH OF WYCKHADDEN
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE FAIRIES OF FRYFAM
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE LOVE FROM HELL
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE DAY THE FLOODS CAME
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE CURIOUS CURATE
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE HAUNTED HOUSE
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE DEADLY DANCE
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE PERFECT PARAGON
AGATHA RAISIN AND LOVE, LIES AND LIQUOR
AGATHA RAISIN AND KISSING CHRISTMAS GOODBYE
AGATHA RAISIN AND A SPOONFUL OF POISON
AGATHA RAISIN: THERE GOES THE BRIDE
AGATHA RAISIN AND THE BUSY BODY
Constable & Robinson Ltd
3 The Lanchesters
162 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9ER
First published in the UK by Constable,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson, 2010
Copyright © Alison Maloney
and Introduction © M.C. Beaton, 2010
Illustrations by Alice Tate
The right of Alison Maloney to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any
form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
UK ISBN: 978-1-84901-319-2
Printed and bound in the EU
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
The writing road leading to Agatha Raisin is a long one.
When I left school, I became a fiction buyer for John Smith & Son Ltd in St Vincent Street, Glasgow, the oldest bookshop in Britain – alas, now closed. Those were the days when
bookselling was a profession and one had to know something about every book in the shop.
I developed an eye for what sort of book a customer might want and could, for example, spot an arriving request for a leather-bound pocket-sized edition of Omar Khayyám at a hundred
Mills &Boon romances were rather frowned on and were kept at the back of the fiction stand to be ready for ladies who asked me for ‘a book with nothing, you know,
As staff were allowed to borrow books, I was able to feed my addiction for detective and spy stories. As a child, my first love had been Richard Hannay in John Buchan’s
Then, on my eleventh birthday, I was given a copy of Dorothy Sayers’
Lord Peter Views the Body
and read everything
by that author I could get. After
that came, courtesy of the bookshop, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey Gladys Mitchell, Eric Ambler, Agatha Christie and very many more.
But I was desperate to write. I even offered my services free in Renfrew to a local paper, sure they would want me, as they appeared to have not very high standards, along with some terrible
typos. I remember seeing, ‘The Provost and his wife entered the gaily decorated hell.’ I was particularly fond of the description of a wedding: ‘The marriage of Miss Blank and Mr
Bloggs was consummated at the altar to the sound of the organ.’
Having read Dorothy Sayers’
Murder Must Advertise,
I then decided to become a copywriter and sent my résumé to all the advertising agencies in Glasgow. I only got one
interview, with the boss of some agency whose name I forget. He looked me over from my Harris tweed coat to my high heels and said, ‘I was curious to see you and to give you a bit of advice.
Never, my dear, say you edited the school magazine. Never say you’ve had nothing published. Lie. Say you’ve been published in
or anything you can
think of. Come back in a couple of years and I’ll think about it.’
A pretty young actress, Jill Lubbock, who was ‘resting’, came to work in the bookshop and often took me over to the Citizens Theatre where I met the actors. I was
stage-struck. The actress moved on. A bookseller, who started work in the second-hand
department, seemed to me rather grand and I was anxious to impress her. I told her I
often went backstage at the Citizens Theatre and went for coffee with the actors, and I offered to take her. I took her to a performance of
Henry IV Part Two.
We went backstage and met
Fulton Mackay and John Grieve. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘union meeting tonight. We’re not going for coffee.’
I was disappointed but I said to my new friend that we would go to the café next door anyway. We had only been there a few minutes when all the actors walked in, carefully avoiding
looking at me. The hard fact was that, without my pretty actress friend, I was nobody. I writhed with humiliation as only a teenager can.
Bookselling was a very genteel job. We were not allowed to call each other by our first names. I was given half an hour in the morning to go out for coffee, an hour and a half
for lunch, and half an hour in the afternoon for tea.
I was having coffee one morning, when I was joined by a customer, Mary Kavanagh, who recognized me. She said she was features editor of the Glasgow edition of the
and wanted a
reporter to cover a production of
at the Rutherglen Rep that evening, because the editor’s nephew was acting as one of the Ugly Sisters, but all the reporters refused to
‘I’ll go,’ I said eagerly.
She looked at me doubtfully. ‘Have you had anything published?’
‘Oh, yes,’ I said, lying in my teeth.
‘Punch, The Listener,
things like that.’
‘Well, it’s only fifty words,’ she said doubtfully. ‘All right.’ And that was the start. I rose up through vaudeville and then became lead theatre critic at the age
After that, I became fashion editor of
magazine and then moved to the
Scottish Daily Express
as Scotland’s new emergent writer and proceeded to submerge. The
news editor gave me a try-out to save me from being sacked and I became a crime reporter.
People often ask if this experience was to help me in the future with writing detective stories. Yes, but not in the way they think. The crime in Glasgow was awful: razor gangs, axe men,
reporting stories in filthy gaslit tenements where the stair lavatory had broken, and so, as an escape, I kept making up stories in my head which had nothing to do with reality. It all became too
much for me and I got a transfer to the
in Fleet Street, London, where I found to my dismay that I was back in the fashion department, running around shows in hot salons,
pinning up models’ dresses in studios and feeling diminished.
It took me three months to get back to reporting. It was that terrible winter of 1963. I was living with a friend of my mother’s in the Vale of Health on Hampstead Heath. There
were power cuts and gas cuts and then the water pipes in the road burst and I had to trudge up to the standpipe in Hampstead High Street to fetch water.
Women on the newspaper were not allowed to wear boots or trousers, and high heels were a must. Flat heels could get you sent home. I can vividly remember the awful cold of that winter. Come late
spring and I was called into the newsroom and told to visit the home of John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, get his wife aside, and ask her what she thought of her husband shacking up
with a cabinet whore. I had a sinking feeling I had got the job because I was considered expendable.
When the polite butler told me that they were out visiting the constituency, I could have kissed him, I felt so relieved. I subsequently met Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. Christine
Keeler photographed like a dream but was not so attractive in real life whereas Mandy was pretty. If you remember, the scandal was that Christine was also sleeping with the Russian military
attaché at the same time as John Profumo.