Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sarah Caudwell

I mentioned Sarah Caudwell in relation to her ‘forgotten book’, Thus Was Adonis Murdered. In fact, Sarah was someone whom I came to know slightly and I found her a fascinating companion.

We came across each other when I was asked by the ‘New Law Journal’ to write an article about her work – the commission came because we were two of the very few British lawyers writing crime fiction in those days, the others including Frances Fyfield and my long-time hero Michael Gilbert. I enjoyed talking to Sarah over the phone –she was a very charismatic, off-beat individual. Later, we met in London, and had a drink at the bar in the heart of the city which she had fictionalised as a watering place frequented by her barrister characters.

In person, she was striking to say the latest – the only woman I can recall socialising with who ever smoked a pipe, which she did incessantly (and since she died of lung cancer, it may be that, sadly, it proved to be the death of her.) She was fiercely intelligent, and very witty indeed. I wish she'd written more short stories, for 'An Acquaintance with Mr Collins' is superb, a modern classic of the short mystery form

I have the feeling she was a deeply complex, and very private, character, but her outward demeanour was jovial and gregarious. We met again a few times, for example at the 1995 Bouchercon, when a historical play she had written was performed, but I hardly saw her after that as she struggled with writer’s block, or possibly with some other demons.

Sarah Caudwell was a one-off, both as a person and a writer. I certainly won’t forget her.

3 comments:

Dave Lull said...

One of her three half-brothers, Alexander Cockburn, wrote about her and her mother anecdotally a year or so after her death, mentioning her pipe and providing a specimen of her verse:

"A few weeks ago I found myself at a small theater in SoHo ..." (You have to scroll down six paragraphs.)

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Dave. That is a terrific link, which I'm sure others will find very interesting. Quite a family. Many thanks.

Maxine said...

Hi Martin, maybe you can help Mack Lundy with a research project. See: http://ff.im/g9nj9 . He is looking for Rumpole-like books to help a student with a project.