.

.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Wildfire at Midnight - Mary Stewart - My 1st Classics Club Selection

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

First Paragraph(s):

In the first place, I suppose, it was my parents' fault for giving me a silly name like Gianetta.  It is a pretty enough name in itself, but it conjures up pictures of delectable and slightly overblown ladies in Titian's less respectable canvases, and, though I admit I have the sort of colouring that might have interested that Venetian master, I happen to be the rather inhibited product of an English country rectory.  And if there is anything further removed than that from the bagnio Venuses of Titian's middle period, I don't know what it is.

My Thoughts:

I've tried to remember when it was that I first read a book written by Mary Stewart.  I'm pretty sure it was in my high school days - probably early 1970's.  I'm not sure this one was my first - think that goes to NINE COACHES WAITING.  However, I do now realize that my fascination with Scotland and especially the Hebrides likely comes from my first reading of WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT - set on the Isle of Skye.  The descriptions of the mountains are beautiful, painting a stunning picture.  The story itself is a sort of 'locked room' mystery - a hotel with a limited number of people - a murder and then another and another.  I had forgotten how spare many of the books were, written over 60 years ago.  Most of our novels now top 300 pages or more.  This one was only 224 pages.  And yet, there was enough to take the reader deep into the Scottish mountains and into the mind of a mad person.  A few things were a bit dated - everyone smoked - a lot.  The book takes place in 1953, right at the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation (June 2nd) and also the first successful climb of Mt. Everest (May 29th).  Raise your hand if you knew those two things happened within 4 days of each other.  All in all, this was a great book to begin my Classics Club challenge.  I enjoyed it thoroughly again.  I have another of this author's books on that Classics list - THIS ROUGH MAGIC.  I'll save it for later.     

Blurb:

First published in 1956, this haunting novel of suspense and romance set in the Scottish Hebrides blends pungent description with sheer terror as only Mary Stewart can. Most visitors to the Isle of Skye are there to climb the jagged peaks of Blaven or fish the many sparkling streams, but Gianetta Brooke came to forget Nicholas Drury—the husband she had painfully divorced. Upon arrival, however, Gianetta realizes that this won’t be a typical vacation when she discovers that Nicholas is numbered among the guests at the small inn. Then, upon the treacherous slopes of Blaven, a murder is committed, and although Gianetta missed the first act of an eerie, unearthly crime, the murderer is set to strike again and again before a thrilling finale that pits Gianetta face-to-face with a madman.

The Author:

Mary, Lady Stewart was born in 1916 and died in 2014 at the age of 97.  She lived in Scotland with her husband, Sir Frederick Stewart, a geologist.  They had met at a VE Day Dance in 1945 and married 3 months later.  Mary Stewart was a born storyteller and her romantic suspense books were set in some very vivid and exotic locations - Scotland, France, Damascus, Austria, and the Greek Isles.  THE MOON-SPINNERS, one of her books, was made into a film by Disney.  She also wrote a series of books about Merlin, the first of which was, THE CRYSTAL CAVE.  Perhaps some of you have read it.  I was delighted to find this interview with Mary Stewart and share it below.  It runs over 20 minutes, but I thought it was interesting and informative.  And fun to hear this favorite author in her own words.  Enjoy!   






38 comments:

  1. This sounds wonderful, Kay... especially the setting. I've only read one Mary Stewart novel (The Ivy Tree) and am tempted by amazon. Most of her ebooks are specially priced now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so glad when her books finally came to e-book status. These old ones are a bit hard to find these days. And they are definitely priced right.

      Delete
  2. I haven't read any Mary Stewart books in years, but enjoyed them thoroughly when I was young. Couldn't get enough of them. I like the idea that you are rereading them as classics. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To me, they are classics - Gothic suspense classics.

      Delete
  3. I used to read Mary Stewart books from the library in the early-mid '70s. My favorite, though sadly I can't remember why, was The Moon Spinners. I did read this title you have, also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think The Moon Spinners was as much of a favorite of mine. Can't remember why. I ought to read it again and find out. LOL

      Delete
  4. I'm not familiar with that author or book but I have a feeling my mom would love her work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, if you Mom is a reader, I bet she read these back in the day.

      Delete
  5. I, also, read Mary Stewart somewhere in the 60's and 70's. The authors back in the 60's-80's seemed to write concise books a little over 200 pages. Two exceptions that pop in my mind are Leon Uris and James Mitchner books. I'm sure there are more but I have reading a book right now from that time period that is 246 pages. Today they are all over 300 pages and sometimes seem padded to me to reach the 300 page book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, my post for next Tuesday mentions James Mitchener and the length of his well-researched books. :-)

      Delete
  6. I've read a few books by Mary Stewart though I'd like to read more and reread the ones I've read. This sounds wonderful and the bio you included makes me want to read her books even more. I read Thornyhold not that long ago and really liked it though the cover made it look decidedly creepy and it was really a sweet story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I ever read Thornyhold. I think I stopped at Touch Not the Cat. I ought to make a point of reading all her books in the next couple of years.

      Delete
  7. That first paragraph is beautifully written. Can't believe I haven't read this author, given my Scottish roots. I've just placed a hold on her first book (Madam, Will You Talk?) and await its arrival.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These were favorites back in 'oldie' days, Catherine. I remember liking Madam, Will You Talk? as well.

      Delete
  8. I went to Youtube so that I could watch the interview and was so impressed. Most interviews with authors leave me a little cold. They seem tired of answering the same questions and often the questions are not interesting. Also, it often feels like the interviewer has a set number of questions to ask and is eager to get through them.

    I loved the way this interview played out. Stewart gave genuine thought to each question and her responses were so interesting. Thanks for the link, Kay!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wasn't that a good interview? I loved it and enjoyed hearing about her writing with her own words. So glad I found it.

      Delete
  9. Oooh, I love a locked-room mystery and one set in the Hebrides? Count me in, even if it is a little old-fashioned. I'll definitely give this one a go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it would be a little old fashioned because it was written 62-ish years ago. I had fun with it though, marveling at the smoking especially. Ha!

      Delete
  10. I need to read a Mary Stewart book one of these days! What a great start to your Classics challenge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was fun. Now to decide what will be the book for February.

      Delete
  11. from Japan ;Thank Thank you as always nice newsletter.
    Ryoma.
    ps;https://ryoma2sakamoto.word...

    ReplyDelete
  12. So tempting! I hope to read more of Mary Stewart's books - I was enchanted by her Merlin books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never read those. I ought to at some point.

      Delete
  13. I'm ashamed to say I don't think I've ever read any of Mary Stewart's books - I think I thought they were pure romance. This sounds very appealing, and I love the lean-ness of old crime novels - it's why I'm constantly complaining about contemporary novels dragging. Great choice for your first Classics Club book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the good words! No, Mary Stewart's books are mostly 'Gothic' suspense, but she also has that quartet of fantasy books about Merlin and Arthur. She was a literature professor I believe.

      Delete
  14. I haven't yet read this one but I'm definitely going to remedy that! I really enjoyed Nine Coaches Waiting and This Rough Magic - that one I'm going to be looking forward to your thoughts on! At this point I kind of want to read everything she has written because I've enjoyed her books so much. Great review Kay!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sam! I really enjoyed revisiting this one again.

      Delete
  15. Yay for classics club selections! I haven't tried anything by Mary Stewart. I am glad you enjoyed this one again. It's always nice when books hold up over multiple readings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, especially when it had been such a long time since I read this one. I enjoyed it very much!

      Delete
  16. Oh the nostalgia Kay - our library had a stack of Mary Stewart books which I read in my teens and adored and yet, I'd almost forgotten all about her. I'm kicking myself for not putting her on my Classic's Club list - well done on getting your first read under your belt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am very nostalgic at times. Think it's my reaction to reading all the 'new' things and then I seem to want to turn back the clock and read all the things I enjoyed in past years. You can always keep Mary Stewart's books in mind for your Classics reads. And I was excited to read this one, so read it quickly. There are several like that for me and I'll likely read them first. You may see several Classics reads as I sort through them.

      Delete
  17. Mary Stewart was one of my favorites when I was in high school. I think I still have a book or two of hers I mean to go back and read. Seemed like there were less to choose from back then. Either they came to the house with my mother's Doubleday subscription or I would go up to the store and pick out whatever new mystery was out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've talked about Mary Stewart. And I do think there were fewer books to choose from. Now, way too many almost, right? LOL

      Delete
  18. Read this one, Kay. Like Mary Stewart very much. Thanks for the interview video!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome. I thought the video was great!

      Delete

Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!