Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Books of a Lifetime by Jeri Westerson

We are pleased to have Jeri Westerson guest posting for us today as part of the blog tour associated with the release of The Demon's Parchment, the third Crispin Guest novel.


I was influenced by books early on in childhood. First it was picture books with fantastic and illustrative images. I loved WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE not only for the fantastical beasts but because Max’s room becomes some other place, and didn’t my room always take me somewhere else in my imagination? Sometimes that translated into my own crayon efforts of writing and illustrating. The beginnings of narrative. I still have one of my very first efforts, probably from when I was about five. I illustrated it and dictated it to my sister who wrote down my narrative. It was about Choppy, a monster who had big chomping teeth and how he chopped down trees to build his house. Not a Bob Crais thriller by a long shot, but it was later, possibly when I was eight, that I began to work on an unfinished historical masterpiece wherein a cat narrates his journeys to treasure islands with Elizabethan mercenaries involving cannibals and volcano eruptions and all manner of violence. I don’t think “precocious” covers it.

In my early reading years, it began with Dr. Suess and quickly escalated to Greek mythology and the Big Golden Book of THE CANTERBURY TALES. My parents were very big into medieval history and so our bookshelves groaned with textbooks and historical fiction by such authors as Thomas B. Costain, Nora Lofts, and Anya Seton. There was also Shakespeare and I became a Shakespeare groupie quite early, aiming as I was for a career on the stage. My mother got me interested in Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter series with its 1930’s sensibilities masking a darker backdrop of a never forgotten War to End All Wars.

But it wasn’t until high school that I discovered something so amazing, so all-encompassing, as to transcend the Nathaniel Hawthorns and Alexander Dumases I had devoured. I had discovered THE LORD OF THE RINGS right at the time that it had been rediscovered by everyone else in the early seventies. I never knew such works existed, that such world-building could be achieved. And so I started writing my own Tolkeinesque stories and finished my first novel when I was about sixteen. Others followed and I became an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, of such authors as Asimov and Piers Anthony and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ann McCaffery.

After college I branched out to Chandler and Hammett and James M. Cain and Ross McDonald. Dorothy Hughes came late to the game. Generally, I left no bookcase unturned. I met Brother Cadfael even later and discovered, yes, there were such things as “medieval mysteries,” never imagining that some sixteen or so years later, one of my medieval mysteries would be on bookshelves right beside it.


Jeri keeps reading and keeps writing her Medieval Noir series, with her ex-knight turned detective Crispin Guest. Her latest THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT is now in bookstores. Read the first chapter on here website http://www.jeriwesterson.com/.


  1. As a writer of people who in a way tell their own stories, I love Canterbury Tales as well, and it's amazing that you enjoyed even a modern English version of it when you were so young!

  2. And the funny thing is, Shelly, my mother also had a record of an actor reading parts of it in Middle English. I heard it so often, I was probably one of the only kindergartners in South Central Los Angeles who could recite part of the prologue...in Middle English!