Take that, John Knox!

We’re starting discussion of Monstrous Regiment of Women over at the book club, for which I wrote an intro I thought I’d reproduce here:

In 1558, the Protestant John Knox wrote a treatise condemning the preponderance of female rulers in England, calling it “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.” It was aimed at the two Roman Catholic Marys, Scotland and England, but when Elizabeth came to the throne soon afterward, the anti-woman element of his treatise outweighed the anti-Roman side. One can understand her disinclination to go along with such sentiments as:

“For who can deny but it is repugnant to nature that the blind shall be appointed to lead and conduct such as do see? That the weak, the sick, and impotent persons shall nourish and keep the whole and strong? And finally, that the foolish, mad, and frenetic shall govern the discreet, and give counsel to such as be sober of mind? And such be all women, compared unto man in bearing of authority. For their sight in civil regiment is but blindness; their strength, weakness; their counsel, foolishness; and judgment, frenzy, if it be rightly considered.”

(Incidentally, Knox’s second marriage, at the age of fifty, was to a lesser Royal who was seventeen years old. He never got around to writing “The Second Blast of the Trumpet.”)

(And oddly enough, Terry Pratchett’s book Monstrous Regiment came out at about the same time as mine, although as far as I know, not too many people confused the two.)

This illustrates one of the things I love about crime fiction: it can be about anything. Anything. Bell ringing; collecting old books; flat-out insane men who dismember women in imaginative ways; a dozen idiots who decide to rob a casino; a young woman who meets a charismatic religious leader and finds a disconcerting number of dead bodies…

In any of these cases, you don’t have to make the reader believe that bell ringing, robbery, murder, or the rest are viable life choices. You merely have to make the reader see that for the character in the book, it is the only viable life choice.

Verisimilitude. It’s all in the wrist.

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  1. Sara on August 1, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I fell asleep after re-finishing BEEK, and had the following dream. (I should preface this with a disclaimer: my sanity is well intact, and would never dream of actually attempting this in reality. End small print.)

    I found myself in San Fransisco, frantically searching for LRK’s address. I really wanted her to sign my book. So I looked in the telephone book – a rectangular ad with a red bar horizontally across it held her name and address. I drove in a British door-less Jeep (I was driving on the right side of the car). As I was driving, ocean waves were building all around. The road was low over the ocean, and the waves were relentless, white crests covering gray asphalt and leaving large puddles. Undeterred, I discovered the home. It was the bottom of a sunflowery yellow building, tucked away in an alley somewhere, with a carpenter and his wife occupying the first floor (they happen to be local acquaintances of mine, quite far from the West Coast. But they had a lovely home there.) I proceeded up the stairs to a room full of windows, where I could see the waves continue their unrelenting incessance. LRK was there, along with a young woman I suspect was her daughter, and they were painting the apartment. Inexplicably, and quite incongruously, the apartment was all windows and steel, metal and glass. I was so excited to meet her, but then I looked down and realized that I didn’t have my book. It was in the car, which was by that point being pounded by waves. I was devastated. Laurie & her daughter gave me tea. No book, though.

    Um, LRK on the brain?

    Can you imagine what will occur when “A Monstrous Regiment of Women” will be the topic?

  2. marianaria sra bibliotecaria on August 9, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Re: John Knox’s much-younger bride: The San Francisco Public Library currently (August, 2007) has an exhibit about Edward Robeson Taylor, who was mayor of San Francisco starting in 1907. The exhibit includes a photo of Taylor with his first wife, who died after about 30 years of marriage, and a photo of him with his second wife. He married her when she was 24, and he was much older — probably in his sixties.

    The photo caption of him with the young wife says that when a friend asked Taylor why he had married someone so much younger, he replied that he would rather surprise a virgin than disappoint a widow.

    Could this be why so many male Hollywood stars marry women so much younger than they are?

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