Bridging a Knowledge Gap

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Jessie: In New Hampshire where the snow is finally getting to me. 

playing-cards-1252374_1920I love writing historical mysteries and I think some of that love might be because I have always loved reading books written during the golden age of mysteries. With their sprawling English manors, tidy cottage gardens and house parties in the country, their charms never seem to fade for me.

I envsion the afternoon teas, croquet on the lawn, flamboyant hats and the sound of motorcar tires crunching on the gravel drives all in vivid detail. I smell the scent of roses wafting through the French doors on a warm afternoon. I feel a silk scarf flutter out behind me as I steer down a country lane in an antique automobile. These sorts of book have always transported me to places and times with ease except for one thing. Bridge.

I can see a table with four players seated round it. I can see cards on the table. And that is where things get fuzzy. I know score is kept and I believe it is written on paper but I am not sure if any old pad will do or if there are special bridge score sheets. I am fairly certain it is played in pairs and that the teammates sit opposite each other.

I’ve read enough Agatha Chrisite mysteries and E.F. Benson novels to know that someone plays “dummy” and that the game is somehow divided into rubbers. I realise betting on games makes things more exciting and that there are tricks and there are trumps. Beyond that, I am at a loss.

I feel like this is a gap in my knowledge and I am wondering if I need to correct it. I must confess, I am not an eager gamer in any way. I don’t generally play board games or card games or even sports. I feel a bit daunted about trying to learn the game from lessons on Youtube or the internet but I don’t know that I know anyone who plays.

Despite my lack of experience with Bridge my latestest characters, Beryl and Edwina have expressed an enthusiasm for it. They play for low stakes and without a cut throat attitude but they seem determined to do so in each book. I am not sure how it keeps happening but they insist on inviting friends and acquaintances over for an evening of bridge and cocktails. They have gotten me in over my head.

So readers, I am wondering if any of you play Bridge and if so, would you be willing to give me a few pointers about what I need to include in my books in order to write convincingly without needing to spend countless hours online? Beryl and Edwina would be very grateful!

45 Thoughts

  1. Alas, I come from a family of card players, my parents held bridge and pinochle games galore when I was growing up, cribbage (does that have to do with cards? I don’t even know), hearts, poker, and other games as well – I made the coffee. My knowledge of cards ended with go fish and old maid! Bridge does sound so delightfully sophisticated though. If you learn, I’ll help with the cocktails!

    1. Thanks, Kait! I do already have a number of cocktails in my repertoire. I guess I am halfway there! But if I need backup I’ll be sure to let you know!

  2. I know poker, euchre, and gin rummy. Sorry. I’m clueless about the others.

    1. That’s what I keep hearing from people, Annette! They know lots of card games but not bridge! I suggested Beryl and Edwina might rather be rummy players but they weren’t having it!

  3. I can’t help with the rules, but I can assure you that you have a lovely source of narrative conflict there. My mother advised me never to learn the game, because most of the family’s quarrels began over bridge games. Beryl and Edwina may not have a cutthroat attitude, but if so, they are unique.

    1. Good to know, Heidi! Perhaps things willl get a little ugly in book 3! They are inviting some suspects over for a game so that could work well!

  4. You need a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Card Games (If that’s not the title, it’s close). I used to have a copy. I’ll see if I can find it.

  5. My mom still plays Bridge every week at the age of 91. She would answer any questions you have. We played lots of card games growing up but I never learned to play Bridge.

  6. I play bridge several times a month, Jessie, and I’d be glad to help you.

  7. I used to play hearts and euchre. I have forgotten most of euchre (hearts sticks in my head although I’m horrible at it). I can never remember what beats what in poker. But bridge? Total mystery. My knowledge is about the same as yours.

    1. Euchre is another one of those games that I know exist and use cards but I have no idea what they involve. WHich probably means I will have characters that insist on playing it!

  8. Sorry I can’t help you, Jessie – Go Fish and War and rummy are more my speed. It was more Scrabble at our house. Funny how your characters lead you into uncharted waters….
    And I’m so with you – tired of the snow!

  9. Hah! I see we have the same level of “knowledge” about bridge. I hasn’t hurt my ability to read and understand mysteries where bridge is concerned except once when the solution depended on it. I just gave that book up as a lost cause. Too much detail will only confuse the average reader. I love your historical mysteries just the way they are!

  10. I’ve never played bridge before, so I’m not any help. We play board games once or twice a year when a lot of the family gets together.

  11. Of all the games I’ve learned to play, Bridge is not one of them. However, if you want to talk Canasta, I’m all yours.

  12. I played way too much bridge in college, but haven’t played much since then and could not advise you about strategy. My mother and grandmother played in weekly games their entire lives, daily for my grandmother when she finally went into assisted living. She said it kept her mind sharp.

  13. I have enough trouble keeping up with email and ARCs. when it comes to Bridge, deal me out (as in DON’T include me in the game [a recent ARC seem to imply the opposite was meant by the phrase and I am awaiting a reply from the author]).

  14. Seriously, I’m the only mystery writer who also knows how to play bridge? That must explain why all the bridge players I know are in the senior citizen category. It is a dying game in this century. However, I agree that it isn’t just a source of frustration as a game, it’s also a way to keep your brain sharp. Strategy is involved!

  15. Sorry, I’m clueless. I’ve played bridge exactly once in my life, when a couple coworkers and I tried to learn from another coworker of ours. None of us understood what was going on, so that first time we played was also the last! But I did want to mention that there might be some online games out there that you can play for free, either against others or a computer. I think it’s hard to understand any game unless you actually play it yourself.

    1. I think you are right about trying it out to be better able to write about it. What a good suggesto to look for online games to try! Thanks!

  16. I’ve played a lot of bridge in my life and I really like the game, but I bow to Susan to assist with the rules. I’d love to see you play up the differences in Beryl’s and Edwina’s styles/personalities as they engage. One aggressive, the other conservative; one comfortable losing the first three tricks to make four hearts; the other horrified at the thought of losing the hand. Have fun!!

    1. Really fun suggestions Kate and exactly the sort of depth I have been afraid I was missing through my lack of knowledge! I will noodle on the sorts of possibilites you mention. Great fun!

  17. My brother took bridge lessons when he retired. He played with a bridge club but also on line. Dean James wrote some bridge mysteries as Honor Hartman or something like that.

  18. Can’t help you I don’t know anything about bridge. My uncle used to play but I never got into it. My wife and her mother and Red’s aunt used to play hearts and I liked that. Unfortunately Aunt Lillian was a card shark and ate me alive!!!😂🐾🐾🐾

  19. Hi,
    I’m a bridge player here. I agree you should start with Hoyle. You also need a deck of regular cards. I’ve never seen a H, B, or V in a bridge deck. American decks have A-Ace, K-King, Q-Queen, and J-Jack in the corners. Your hand also seems to be missing the suit of hearts.
    Good Luck, Merrily

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