Thursday, 4 August 2011

Nostalgic Reads - Mary Stewart


I’ve always loved romantic suspense novels and very few writers wrote contemporary romance as well as Mary Stewart. The photo above shows just some of her well-loved novels that have been in my bookcase for a very long time. Born in England, Mary Stewart married a Scot and has lived most of her married life in Scotland.

Although she also wrote the acclaimed Arthurian novels, it was the romantic suspense that kept me turning the pages desperate to know the ending of each story. Exotic locations, independent heroines, danger, and often nail-biting suspense combined to make an irresistible read. An added attraction was the interesting information and knowledge painlessly absorbed along with a good story. It was in Airs Above the Ground, set in Austria, that I first learned of the famous Lipizzaner horses and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. And when I watched them myself a few years ago, I suddenly remembered Mary Stewart's book - such was its impact on me in the days before I travelled to Europe.

A few of my favourites were:

Wildfire at Midnight (1956) – Ritual murder and suspicion on the island of Skye
Nine Coaches Waiting (1958) – Danger in a chateau in the French Alps
Thunder on the Right (1957) – Intrigue and dangerous mystery in the Pyrenees
The Gabriel Hounds (1967) – Mystery and suspense in Damascus
This Rough Magic (1964) – Dolphins and danger on a Greek island
The Moon-spinners (1962) – thrilling danger in Greece (made into a film)

One of her slightly more modern novels, Touch Not the Cat (1976), seemed different in some ways from the others, yet it still had that necessary suspense and danger to keep readers turning the pages. An even later novel, Thornyhold (1988), is still in my bookcase (in hardback) and I really must read it again one day as I don’t think it ever grabbed me as much as her earlier works.

I know I’m not the only modern writer who devoured Mary Stewart’s novels from my own romance-seeking adolescence, and her stories are no doubt the inspiration of many a romantic suspense novelist ever since. Mary Stewart is truly an iconic author.

Rosemary

17 comments:

kitdomino said...

Always enjoyed Mary Stewart novels, particularly her historicals, although my favourite is her romantic suspense "Rose Cottage", one of the few hardbacks I still have on my sagging bookshelves.

Paula Martin said...

Used to love Mary Stewart novels, especially the Merlin ones. Thanks for the memory, must read some of hers again!

Michael Malone said...

It was the Merlin ones that did it for me. The others didn't make it on to my radar. But as a teen I LOVED the crystal cave etc.

Bill Kirton said...

It seems the more I read, the more I realise that there are yawning gaps in my reader CV. I'm ashamed to say I've never come across Mary, so which one should I start with?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Kit - thanks for your comment. Rose Cottage is about the only one I've never read - must put that right!

Hello Paula - thanks for that. I really must read the Merlin books again one of these days as I neglected those.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Michael - I can fully appreciate why the Merlin books were the only MS novels you read. I don't expect romantic suspense was high on your list at the time (or now!).

Hi Bill - thanks for the comment. I'm not suprised that you hadn't read any MS books, unless you were unusual for a man in enjoying romantic suspense, although I'm sure you would have liked their intelligence. But see Michael's comment above - the Merlin books are an excellent read.

Her first suspense was 'Madame, Will You Talk?' - but all of them are enjoyable.

GillyF said...

I'm also in the Merlin camp - I was a great lover of all things Arthurian when I was a kid (even Arthur of the Britons on the telly though I suspect that had more to do with Oliver Tobias than the content...)Mary Stewart's Merlin books were beyond wonderful. I haven't read many of the others either - but after reading your post, I think I'll have to go and hunt some of them out.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Gilly - thanks for commenting! I remember Oliver Tobias being very watchable. I'm wondering if I'd still enjoy the other books as much at this age!

26and1 said...

My favourite book by Mary Stewart was 'Touch Not the Cat'. My mother had a copy which I read when I was younger - and then I kept rereading it every couple of years until it fell apart. Eventually I had to buy another copy. I haven't read it for a few years now, but you have reminded me how much I liked it. I might just have to dig it out and re-read it.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi 26and1 - thanks for visiting! I know what you mean about well-loved books falling apart.

Angela Ackerman said...

There are so many books I'm nostalgic about. I've saved them from when I was a girl, and some I've read until the covers are barely holding together. I think that a book that can stand the test of time and still be special read after read and year after year is an amazing thing. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Angela - thanks for that comment. I'm in complete agreement - I have so many that I want to read again and I just can't get rid of them from the shelves!

Myra Duffy said...

I'm in the 'never having read' camp but the comments here are tempting me to try her. My teen years were spent reading science fiction -I don't think I read any romance at all.It's never too late?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Course it's not too late, Myra - her romantic suspense novels are very good!

Lorna F said...

My favourites were the Arthurian novels, This Rough Magic and Touch Not the Cat. Want to dash off and read them all again right now!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Lorna - I enjoyed Touch Not the cat but wasn't so into the Arthurian novels!

Becca McCallum said...

I read bits of the Arthur ones when I was quite young - the bit I remember most is the bit when he's a young boy. I should maybe go back and read them again. The copies I read were so old they were falling to bits though.