September 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Bibliomysteries: Marianne MacDonald

Our occasional series profiling bibliomystery authors continues today with Marianne MacDonald, author of the Dido Hoare series.  MacDonald's books feature Dido Hoare, an antiquarian bookseller and amateur sleuth operating in London.  The first entry in the series, Death's Autograph, was published in 1996.  The most recent entry, Faking It, was published in 2006.

mariannesmall.jpgNP: Could you tell us a bit about the Dido Hoare series?  (For example, what inspired it? What's the next entry in the series?)

MM: My then husband ran an antiquarian book business in which I was a partner. It seemed to me that there was a lot of promise in that; I wanted to write an amateur series, and the book business allowed me (or Dido, to be precise) to make use of the fact that antiquarian books are a useful area for investigation. Some  can be very obscure and very valuable, and of course with strangers wandering into a shop almost anything could happen.  I had published quite a few children's books before this, but I'd always enjoyed reading mysteries, so I thought I would go there next. And when I finished the first one, I found I'd enjoyed the writing; and my agent sold it quickly to Hodder, who wanted some more.

NP: What sort of research do you conduct for the Dido Hoare series?

MM: Well, obviously I need to research the books. That's not difficult. I have been known to turn up in bookshops to look around and ask the proprietors a lot of odd questions about the trade. For some reason, I often had the feeling that I made them a bit nervous....  But my husband, and various friends who were also in the business, could always provide information and suggestions. And I like Dido and her father. I've really enjoyed writing the series.

deaths.jpgNP: What do you think makes bibliomysteries so appealing to readers?

MM: That's easy: they are readers and so to some extent are interested in the books anyway, and prepared for the problems that come up.

NP: What do you enjoy about writing them?

MM: I simply love writing. I wrote my first published children's book, heavily influenced by Arthur Ransome, when I was still at high school in Montreal, and at university (McGill) there were two English lecturers, the poet Louis Dudek, and Edith M. Scott, who believed in what I was doing and encouraged me to try new things.

NP: Are you personally a book collector? (And if so, what do you collect?)

MM: Er...  Well, if you could see the inside of my flat, you wouldn't need to ask. Most of my walls are covered with bookshelves stretching from floor to ceiling and many of them have more than a single row of books. I like to tell myself that they are excellent insulation. I do try not to buy too many new books, if only because I've reached the point where the top of the clavichord is covered with piles of books a foot or two high. I do own a few books which could be described as collectibles, but frankly I buy books to re-read because I love them.  A first edition of The Lord of the Rings would be the most valuable thing of all, except that I read it seventeen times when it came out, and that valuable first edition of Volume 3 is barely holding together.

You can find out more about Marianne on her website.  Her books can be found in the usual spots.