I’ve often heard Georgette Heyer called a writer’s writer, and I think she deserves the title. This isn’t faint praise. Her books, when I read them as a reader, were a lot of good fun, but when I read them as a writer, it’s all rather amazing to see how she pulls it all together. One of her great strengths, as the publisher’s blurb says on the back of the book, is her “sparkling characterization.”
Heyer is the grandmother of the Regency, but she also wrote contemporary (for her) mysteries. This week I read Envious Casca, which is a murder mystery set in a country house before WWII.
One thing I admire is the way she makes me want to read more about the characters in her book. None of them are adorable or perky or kickass. In fact, they are a rather miserable bunch of aristocrats without much sympathy. But with a few words, she draws pictures of people with their own motivations and desires and she makes them very readable.
One character that made me sit up and take notice was Sturry, the very formal butler in the story. He arrives to announce dinner after the murder, and here’s what happens:
“Ah, here is our good Sturry,” said Joseph (the murdered man’s brother), drawing him into the family circle by this affectionate address.
Sturry would not be so drawn. He stood immovable, despising people who did not know their places. “You rang, sir?” he asked frigidly.
One sharp phrase, and we know exactly what kind of butler Sturry is.
If you haven’t read Heyer before, I recommend that you give her a try – in fact, give her three tries. I wasn’t entranced with my first Heyer (The Talisman Ring), but she grew on me, and by the time I read my third Heyer, I was scouring Amazon for the cheapest in-print books. She’s a dependable story-teller, a great drawer of character, and she has stood the test of time.
Got any recommendations for writers who helped you grow as a writer? What lessons have you learned from reading a good book?