The Novels of Michael Reidy

 

  

 

A beach. A house. A girl.

The power of place combined with the experience of love is a potent mix. For the young Nick Lucas, Fulmar Point House was a castle occupied by a reluctant princess. Was she trapped? Did she need rescuing? Was he the person to do it?

From the 1960s until the new millennium, events of The Rock Pool draw on memories, good and bad, and explores relationships and love.

While maintaining his focus on a tight group of characters, the scope of The Rock Pool is Reidy's widest to date and offers wry observations on historical events and social mores.

"A beautiful, touching story."


 

1920s Paris. Art. Music. Dance. Russians. Murder.

Set against the glamour and excitement of 1920s Paris, the events of Lost Lady shadows the life of a young émigré to reveal a microcosm of Russian history.

Natasha ekes out a living as an artist's model, sewing costumes for the ballet and playing the piano for Mme Duflot's notorious establishment. Befriended by the young Charles Boivet, still finding his feet after the Great War, the girl he knows only as Natasha draws him out and introduces him to the cultural life of les années folles. However, the complex social and political entanglements of the Russian communities threaten her safety and his.

Intrigue, conspiracies and rivalries begin to dominate Natasha's life in this sub-culture and Charles can only watch as she is sucked in.

Lost Lady received a Chill with a Book Readers' Award in January 2020.


 

The three entertainments contained in Entrusted in Confidence relate incidents in the lives of Bill Bradley and the countess (now Mrs Bradley) at points in their lives after the events of The Countess Comes Home. These are more pendant pieces than sequels as they stand on their own, though knowing the characters’ full background will augment enjoyment.

"The Countess’s Secret" relates most directly to unfinished business before the countess’s arrival in London. "The Brentano Affair" shows Bradley’s continuing work for MI7 and the curious activities that agency performs. "Bill Bradley Rides Again" takes the Bradleys out of their retirement to help discover the whereabouts of their daughter’s missing fiancé. As with Reidy’s other books, personal, moral and ethical dilemmas are wittily explored, if not resolved.


 

What do you really know about the person sitting next to you? She may look ordinary enough, but are you certain?

Did the ticket clerk look at you just a bit too long? Were you comfortable with the way the barista repeated your name and wrote it on the cup? And that waitress; isn't she handling that knife with a dexterity you wouldn't expect from someone her age?

The the tales in Undivulged Crimes encompass the ghostly, satiric, romantic and the plain disturbing. Set in the United States and Europe over two centuries, these stories explore secrets of the dark side of ordinary lives, from an historical curse to fraud, deceit and murder.

Undivulged Crimes received a Chill with a Book Readers' Award in August 2019.


 

"There's nothing like murder to bring two people close." On the Edge of Dreams and Nightmares is a civilised tale of abuse, incest, madness and murder. Sir Nigel has a quiet, orderly life as a successful portrait painter. His life is defined by his set in Albany, his studio in Southwark, the Royal Academy of Arts and his club in Mount Street Gardens. Until Ligeia Gordon arrives. A successful actress with a past that includes Sir Nigel. . . .

 

8 February 2019: On the Edge of Dreams and Nightmares received a Chill with a Book PREMIER Readers' Award. A Premier Readers' Award is only honoured to books that receive exceptional high praise from Chill Readers.


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Portland Place (2018) was writen in 2016. Whit Stillman's Love and Friendship had come out, and I re-read some early Jane Austen. I'd always been a big fan of Northanger Abbey and find it a very modern book. Austen blends talking to the reader with talking about the novel. While that follows the tradition of the free-wheeling 18th century novelists, Jane Austen's handling of it has a new dimension.

It's the same technique that John Fowles used in The French Lieutenant's Woman, 150 years later. Stillman drew on several earlier Jane Austen works and put together an engaging and amusing story that, for the most part, has a pretty convincing effect.

While leafing through Austen's early works, I was struck by the fact that no foreigners figure in any significant way in the oeuvre, nor do her plots ever take heroines to London. Then, seeing the gap in her writing following her father's death, the elements for Portland Place began to coalesce.


 

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The Countess Comes Home (2018) began life as a short radio play called "Dark and Stormy" in which Osgood and Bradley discuss matters of secrecy in one of the unnamed government agencies. While the subject matter of their discussion (preferred ways of binding reports) is frivolous, the manner of their conversation displays contempt for the entire government intelligence establishment. This play was part of the Radio Noir series, several of which were produced in Ireland.

The next iteration was in the form of a longer radio play entitled The Countess Comes Home, and had the basic plot of the novel version.

The notion to turn the story into a novel resulted from neither the plot nor the characters going away. I knew there was more to be done. The persistence of Osgood, Bradley and the Countess later led to the writing of the as yet unpublished pendant piece, Entrusted in Confidence, which deals with a later incident when Bradley is working for Osgood at MI7.


 

The persistence of an idea that is easily disproved fascinated me. That the notion that there are no camels in the Qur'an was so clearly wrong has done nothing to diminish its acceptance. This is simply because Jorge Luis Borges is more widely read in the West than anything (non-political) relating to Islam.

While it is hard to believe that Borges would have been wrong, I decided to try to find out how such a mistake could have been made by him. During that search (which took only a few hours) many other questions and fascinating facts revealed themselves, and the germ of the novel began to develop.

In the second half of the 19th century, the first elements of the international novel began. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun was probably the first major book to explore cultural clashes among reasonable, intelligent people. See my blog post for more on the international novel.

 


 

The first draft of Nantucket Summer (2017)was finished in 1996. At that time, the period of the late 1960s and the Vietnam War had faded from public consciousness. As the 50th anniversary of the US withdrawal approaches, this period is being revisited in books, films and on television. As someone whose draft number was 16, the looming draft was a very real spectre hovering over my life. It threw into sharp contrast the last care-free summers and gave them a poignancy that I was aware of at the time.

Since the publication of Nantucket Summer, I have explained many times that while blessed with a comfortable upbringing, it was certainly not on the scale enjoyed by the book's characters. While the cost of a holiday on Nantucket wasn't bargain basement, it was affordable to many more people than it is today. Taking a car to the island in 1969 cost about $17.00, compared to the $250.00 today.

Summers at the beach is the subject of a novel in preparation entitled The Rock Pool.


 

Mount Wachusett has always figured in my life. Long before the ski area was opened, I'd visit it with family, for supper at The Bowling Alley, or to walk through the woods to the summit. Although barely a mountain, it never ceased to surprise with undiscovered areas, lush woods, and spectacular views. On each subsequent trip, I would have a better sense of what I was looking at, whether Mount Monadnock, the Boston skyline, Quabbin Reservoir, or Mount Greylock.

Then, there was the fascinating history of the resort hotels which had been so popular, but were now almost gone. Several cellar holes remain, and the odd bit of metal work can be found, but for the most part, there is no trace.

Writing an historical novel posed all sorts of problems in the pre-internet days. Finding out when and what people ate and drank; how they illuminated their rooms; and how much it cost to stay is now easily possible, but when I was writing this in the 1980s (the first draft was completed in 1989), it took trips to the library to try to piece things together.

Apart from trying to recreate the resort age of Mount Wachusett, I became interested in the juxtaposition of the Centennial celebrations and the news of Custer's defeat, an event with the impact on the American psyche of Pearl Harbor, or 9/11.

 

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Non-fiction

Stephen Bates

David G Muller Jr

Kerry R Scott

 

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