Top Five Sources of Inspiration for M.C. Beaton
I am often asked what inspired me to write and because my first book was
a Regency romance, people often assume I was inspired by Jane Austen.
Alas, genius is never inspiring. It was the bad imitators of
Georgette Heyer following her death who led me to complain to my
husband, Harry Scott Gibbons, that everything about them was wrong. “So
why don’t you write one?” said Harry. I had been a journalist most of my
working life and so, encouraged by Harry who also found me an agent, the
charismatic Barbara Lowenstein, I wrote my first book, Regency Gold. However,
after writing over one hundred of them, I was beginning to long to get
out of 1811 to 1820.
Now, the brain is like a computer: you can only put out what you put in,
and my first love has always been detective stories (which makes sense
since I was a crime reporter before becoming an author). Hope Dellon, the
famous St. Martin’s Press editor, gave me my first break as a detective
writer and Hamish Macbeth was born, followed a few years later by Agatha
I like whodunits rather than whydunnits. I particularly like the
“between the wars” detective writers: Josephine Tey, Nicholas Blake,
Gladys Mitchell, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers.
I like comfort reading. Some television adaptations of Agatha Christie’s
books miss the point when they try to modernize them. The period setting
is the attraction: the squire, the colonel, tennis parties, tea on the
lawn, a little world under aspic.
Hope Dellon once said a good detective story should be a combination of
romance, P. G. Wodehouse, and crossword.
Geography shapes my detectives. We had a small farm with sheep in
Sutherland, the northernmost county in the British Isles. It is a wild
and wonderful place, dotted with Neolithic ruins, lochs, soaring great
mountains, and some of the oldest rock in the world. Hamish is represented
as the best type of Highlander: clever, lazy, intuitive, and very
attractive. The worst type of Highlander is the type who hates anyone who
is successful and will maliciously try to ruin his business. I could
manage to cope with the latter type by killing them off…on paper, of
Order Death of a Nurse From the Strand!
Agatha Raisin is as out of place in a Cotswold village as I was when I
But we have both settled in!
The first Agatha Raisin plot was based on something I did myself. My son,
Charles, was at school in London. His housemaster asked me to contribute
some home baking to sell at a charity sale. I wasn’t going to let my son
down by saying I couldn’t bake anything, so I bought a spinach quiche and
put my own homemade wrappings on it, and it was a great success. So, in the
first Agatha book, she does the same but in a quiche baking competition,
and the judge drops dead of cowbane poisoning. Agatha is exposed as a
fraud and so turns detective to clear her name. The book is called The
Quiche of Death.
The latest Hamish Macbeth is titled Death of a Nurse. In it Hamish falls
for a pretty nurse, suggests a date, and appears to have been stood up.
But Gloria, the nurse, could not meet him because she was stone-cold
dead. Hope my readers enjoy it.