Edith here, delighted to welcome the talented and delightful Catriona McPherson back to the blog! Her new Dandy Gilver book is out, so let’s hear about …
They grow up so fast! When I wrote the first book about Dandy Gilver and her family, back in 2001 (or 1922, depending on how you look at it) Donald and Teddy were still climbing trees and clamouring to go on picnics. In A Step So Grave (Quercus US, 5th Nov) it’s Donald’s wedding.
I was chuffed to bits when I thought of writing a book leading up to a wedding, actually. I had written one about a theatrical production and found that the build-up towards opening night was a perfect fit for the mounting tension of a crime novel. I guessed – rightly, it turned out – that the same would be true of the build-up here: families meeting, engagement party, negotiating presents/outfits/old feuds, and finally the big day
Also, I love a wedding: Scottish, California, fictional . . . they’re all great.
Scottish weddings are dear to me of course, not least because they usually lack a stressful element for female guests at weddings elsewhere. If there’s a bride or a groom involved – and, running through all the possibilities now that love is love is love (yayyyy!), I think there would be – then, at a Scottish wedding, you’ve got either wedding dresses or men in kilts and usually both. So no one cares what random female attendees are wearing. Takes the pressure off wonderfully.
I love the ceremony – handfasting, religious, civil, whatever – the endless photographs while everyone freezes and grumbles, the food (thank you, Mum and Dad, for bringing me up to eat whatever’s put in front of me), the speeches – longer the better, if you ask me; and of course I love the dancing. An English pal once shared her surprise that normal-looking 21st century Scottish people, who download apps and go to yoga, suddenly reveal their Braveheart roots at weddings. We all know the steps and we all howl like blue-painted banshees at Bannockburn. Apparently that howl is unsettling when you’re not expecting it.
Still, the first time I was invited to a wedding in California, I was more excited than I’d ever been. It was outside – so glamorous, just like in the movies – at a butterfly farm. I couldn’t wait to see if they did that weird walking thing that looks as if there’s a scratch on the videotape (they did) and if the groom would smash cake into the bride’s face and not get a punch in the neck for messing her dress up (he did and he didn’t – so strange). I didn’t know about the bells, though. Maybe it’s because it would mess up the sound in a movie, but I’d never seen guests being given “tinkle sticks” to jingle at the happy couple, who’re supposed to kiss every time they hear the jingling.
That’s what led me to my slight faux pas. When the usher (groomsman?) handed me my stick en route to my seat, I thought he said “tickle stick”. So I did what you’d do. I said “woo-hoo-hoooo!” and goosed him with it. Only under his arm, thankfully, but I still got a hell of a look. It took me doing it another three times before someone stepped in.
Thank God for Neil, in his kilt, advertising that we were new here and had to be given a bit of leeway. He almost didn’t wear it, since summer in California plus nine pounds of wool round your waist isn’t an obvious match.
Readers: I’d love to hear about your wedding traditions – tinkle sticks, cake smashing, funny walks – or (even better) the faux pas you might have made, that could make me feel better about mine!
Catriona McPherson is the national best-selling and multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series of preposterous detective stories, set in her native Scotland in the 1930s. She also writes darker contemporary suspense novels, of which STRANGERS AT THE GATE is the latest. Also, eight years after immigrating to the US and settling in California, Catriona began the Last Ditch series, written about a completely fictional Scottish woman who moves to a completely fictional west-coast college town.
Catriona is a member of MWA, CWA and SoA, and a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime, committed to advancing equity and inclusion for women, writers of colour, LGBTQ+ writers and writers with disability in the mystery community.