Gilbert & Sullivan

As I mentioned last week, after two relatively solemn outings for Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, I wanted this novel to be funny.  Or at least, light-hearted, since an overtly comic novel might be beyond my particular skill set.

Personally, I find the Russell stories funny, whenever I’ve had reason to re-read them, although they have never (yet!) been nominated for any of the comic awards.  However, I’ll admit that my own sense of humor is a bit twisted, and in any event, comedy is not easy to write—rather, bad comedy is easy; easy comedy is hard.

I wished to aim at light-hearted.  To exalt the ridiculous.  To welcome silliness.  To polish my sense of farce.

To embrace my inner Gilbert & Sullivan.

The G&S kind of humor isn’t for everyone.  It wasn’t even particularly for Sullivan himself, who chafed at being forced to hitch his musical gifts to a cart of Gilbert’s ridiculous plots.  (Indeed, this ongoing and increasingly bitter rivalry is one of the most twistedly amusing things about the partnership.)  The 1999 film Topsy-Turvy could have used editing down, but it shows the relationship in all its complexity.

Topsy-Turvy isn’t about pirates, or even about Pirates of Penzance, although I swear that one year, Dana Stabenow, Val McDermid and I

are going to perform this song from the Mikado at BoucherCon—if you watch to the end of the excerpt, tell me you can’t just see us warbling it.

But I decided that what we needed were not Japanese ladies (Japan being a book yet to come, and probably without G&S) but pirates.  (Mark my words: Pirates are the new vampires.)  And so Pirate King was born, with many tips of the hat to Gilbert and Sullivan, and even a Major General.

Why do we like the opera?  “Because it’s got a bunch of pirates in it—with a lot of swords!”—

Finally, if you want to know just how glorious it is to be a Pirate King, that Australian Cap’n Jackish pirate explains:

And that is just how solemn this novel will be.

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  1. TheMadLibrarian on August 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    I think one of my favorite G&S tribute/spoofs came from a Aaron Sorkin series that only lasted one season, Studio 60 (on the Sunset Strip). 2 producers have been asked to take over and rejuvenate a failing late night comedy show, a la SNL. Both of the newly tapped producers have baggage, as do all the cast members, and they’re trying to invent a conceit by which they can apologize for some recent major gaffes. What they end up doing is a send-up of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General, and it’s a spectacular hoot.

  2. The Bold Flying Officer on August 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Aaah – G+S. I commend Hinge and Bracket to the American audience. They were a pair of female impersonators – Patrick Fyffe (Dame Hlda Bracket) and George Logan (Dr Evadne Hinge) – that became a big hit in the Uk from the mid-1970s through to the turn of the 1990s – on stage, on radio and TV. They performed light operatic songs (including G+S) – Dr Hinge on piano – interspersed with humerous reminiscences and catty backchat. With the death of Fyffe in 2002, the partnership dissolved. Consult Wikipedia and YouTube and enjoy. Trust me, I’m a journalist!

  3. Jessica on August 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm


    If you could have it ready for Cleveland in 2012, I am sure I would be grateful. Is that doable?

    • Laurie King on August 24, 2011 at 6:36 am

      Have what ready? The song itself is on the web site, linked in the blog post. Enjoy!

  4. Kaye Ray on August 24, 2011 at 5:00 am


    Have you read Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood. Now that will channel your inner Gilbert & Sullivan and funny to boot.

    • Laurie King on August 24, 2011 at 6:34 am

      Yes, I love Kerry Greenwood.

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