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Just Desserts

Your 2019 Just Desserts hiatus reading assignment — The Works of Margaret Frazer

During Just Desserts’ traditional end-of-year holiday hiatus in November and December 2019, we’re going to continue to remain active…but only in a virtual sense. During these two months, although we won’t be gathering for an in-person meeting, members are encouraged to read any of the 31 novels in any of three historical mystery series by Margaret Frazer, then visit this discussion post on the Just Desserts Blog, and leave a comment on Frazer and whichever series you sampled, as a response to this post.

For those who are unfamiliar with Margaret Frazer, here’s some general background, and an overview of her three series:

Margaret Frazer, born Gail Lynn Brown (November 26, 1946 – February 4, 2013), was an American historical novelist, best known for more than twenty historical mystery novels and a variety of short stories. The pen name was originally shared by Frazer and Mary Monica Pulver Kuhfeld in their collaboration on The Novice’s Tale, the first of the Sister Frevisse books featuring the Benedictine nun Dame Frevisse. Their collaboration came to an end with The Murderer’s Tale, the sixth book in the series. Starting with the Edgar Award-nominated The Prioress’ Tale, the Margaret Frazer pen name was used exclusively by Gail Frazer. She also wrote the Player Joliffe mysteries, starring the medieval actor Joliffe, and a trio of novels in the Bishop Pecock series.

Frazer was born and grew up in Kewanee, Illinois. An actress and member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, she lived and worked in Elk River, Minnesota. Frazer died February 4, 2013 from breast cancer, aged 66

The Sister/Dame Frevisse series (21 volumes): Frevisse is a nun at the small, fictional, 15th-century Oxfordshire convent of St. Frideswide’s,[2] with its ten (more or less) nuns; the neighboring village of Prior Byfield belongs partly to the priory and partly to Lord Lovell (an historical figure). Six of the novels are set entirely at the priory and/or village; in others Frevisse leaves the convent, either to accompany another nun on some family or convent business or on business of her own. Many of the novels have the quality of “English village” murder mysteries, in which we see at close hand the everyday material life (and the intellectual and spiritual life) of various classes of people and observe the tensions within and between them; but here, the “everyday” is of the 15th century, carefully researched. Some of the later novels are primarily historical novels, in which Frevisse serves as an observer of the well-documented events and characters which brought on the Wars of the Roses, though there is always a murder for her to solve. Frevisse is related to Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, by her aunt’s marriage to Geoffrey’s son, Thomas Chaucer. Titles of the Frevisse novels follow the format of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, e.g., The Novice’s Tale, The Prioress’s Tale. Each book begins with a chapter or passage focusing on the title character; this is followed by a change to Frevisse’s perspective, which dominates the novel, though we return from time to time to the point of view of the title character. The role of the title character varies from book to book: murderer, victim, a person in power or a victim of others’ power

The Joliffe the Player series (7 volumes): Frazer’s second set of mysteries, also set in 15th-century England, feature “Joliffe the Player”, a spin-off character from the Dame Frevisse series, appearing first in The Servant’s Tale and crossing paths with Frevisse again in The Prioress’s Tale, The Bastard’s Tale, and The Traitor’s Tale. The Joliffe series is set in the mid-1430s; thus these novels sometimes feel like “prequels” to his appearances in Dame Frevisse novels set in a later decade. The first three Joliffe novels present the life of an acting troupe traveling through the English countryside, with Lord Lovell as their patron after the end of the first novel. In the fourth, A Play of Lords, Joliffe is recruited as a spy for Bishop Beaufort and becomes involved in the political intrigues leading up to the Wars of the Roses. The fifth book, A Play of Treachery, takes him away from the players to France on behalf of Bishop Beaufort. When Joliffe again crosses paths with Dame Frevisse in The Traitor’s Tale, he is employed as a spy for the Duke of York, after the death of Bishop Beaufort.

The Bishop Pecock series (3 volumes): Come down the Paternoster Passage, cross the church’s yard, and knock on the doors of Master Whittington’s Almshouse. Master Pecock, a man of the cloth and the greatest detective of 15th century London, will answer your call.

(This above description comes (mostly) from the Wikipedia entry for Margaret Frazer)

Handout with plots of all 31 novels in all 3 of Margaret Frazer’s series — distributed at the October 2019 Just Desserts meeting.

Catalog Links: The libraries own several of the novels of Margaret Frazer, starting with The Novice’s Tale (1992) through Sins of the Blood (2012). The libraries own only scattered volumes from Frazer, in both print and digital formats but they are also commonly available in the used book market, or you can borrow her titles through our InterLibrary Loan service!

Your question: Which Margaret Frazer novel did you read, and what was your opinion?

Reading Recommendations from Just Desserts members – October 2019

At the October 24th, 2019 meeting of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, following the discussion of the assigned topic of the month (The “Philip Marlowe” novels by Raymond Chandler), we held our monthly round robin in which all 17 attendees were able to share recommendations of what other books they’ve been reading recently.

Here’s the list of mystery, thriller and suspense books recommended by Just Desserts members in October 2019:

And here were some non-mystery titles some group members also recommended in October 2019:

What mysteries have you been reading lately that you’d recommend?

Just Desserts group discussion of the Philip Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler

For our final meeting of 2019, in October, the Just Desserts group looked back at one of the most classic American mystery writers of the 20th century — Raymond Chandler, and his series of novels and short stories featuring the sleuth Philip Marlowe.

Though Philip Marlowe first appeared in the 1939 novel The Big Sleep, several earlier stories written by Chandler for the pulps featured characters very much like Marlowe but with other names (like Carmady and John Dalmas). Those stories were retroactively turned into Marlowe stories when they were reprinted in book/collection form and the earlier characters were renamed “Philip Marlowe”.

Marlowe was a wise-cracking, tough-drinking, philosophical, down-on-his-luck gumshoe, the epitome of the “Noir” style of detective, as played by actor Humphrey Bogart in the film version of The Big Sleep. During the period from 1939 to 1958, Chandler finished seven Marlowe novels, and a handful of short stories. Chandler had begun work on the eighth Marlowe novel, Poodle Springs, but had only completed the first four chapters by the time he passed away in 1959. Robert B. Parker (best know for the Spenser for Hire novels) completed Poodle Springs, which eventually was published in 1989. [Note: Parker went on to write an original Marlowe novel, Perchance to Dream — one of several “authorized” books to continue the Marlowe series.]

To find out more about Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) and his Philip Marlowe novels, follow these links:

Philip Marlowe handout for Just Desserts

Philip Marlowe entry on Wikipedia

Raymond Chandler entry on www.fantasticfiction.com, with links to info on the individual books

Wikipedia entry on Raymond Chandler

Hotlink into the Lincoln City Libraries catalog for Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels (be aware this also lists Marlowe titles by authors other than Chandler)

(Here are individual links to Chandler’s Marlowe novels and/or story collections in the libraries’ online catalog: The Big Sleep (1939), Farewell My Lovely (1940), The High Window (1942), The Lady in the Lake (1943), Little Sister (1949), The Simple Art of Murder (1950 short stories & essay), Trouble is My Business (1950 short stories), The Long Goodbye (1953), and Playback (1958).)

For additional reminders about upcoming Just Desserts meetings and/or other announcements of interest to mystery fans, don’t forget to sign up for the Just Desserts e-mail list. Or, if you’re logged into your account on Facebook, you can visit the Events page for the Lincoln City Libraries, and mark whether or not you plan to attend upcoming sessions of Just Desserts – this is a great way for you to help us promote this engaging discussion group! Our selections for future meetings are usually posted there months in advance — our early-2020 meetings should be posted shortly.

So…What do you think of Raymond Chandler, and the “Philip Marlowe” series?

Join us again on January 30th, 2020 for the next meeting of Just Desserts. Assigned reading to be announced shortly. We hope to see you there!

Just Desserts members shared “Memorable Stand-Alone Mysteries” last night

At the September 26th, 2019 meeting of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, 19 group members had the opportunity to share comments about a “Memorable Stand-Alone Mystery” that they’d read. Here’s the list of titles the group members shared. This meeting was audio-recorded for eventual release as a library podcast.

Here’s the list of mystery, thriller and suspense “stand-alone” novels shared by Just Desserts members in September 2019:

What mysteries have you been reading lately that you’d recommend?

Reading Recommendations from Just Desserts members – August 2019

At the August 29th, 2019 meeting of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, following the discussion of the assigned topic of the month (The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – a.k.a. J.K. Rowling), we held our monthly round robin in which all 16 attendees were able to share recommendations of what other books they’ve been reading recently.

Here’s the list of mystery, thriller and suspense books recommended by Just Desserts members in August 2019:

And here were some non-mystery titles some group members also recommended in August 2019:

What mysteries have you been reading lately that you’d recommend?