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Diana Gabaldon and the New Series

Lord John Grey Takes Spotlight in Mystery

You know how some things just seem to snowball? For Diana Gabaldon it was a short story she was writing about Lord John Grey, a minor character from her wildly popular Outlander series. It went on to become her latest novel, LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER.

Five years ago, she bumped him up to leading-man status in "Hellfire," a story published as part of a British historical mystery anthology called Past Poisons. As always with Gabaldon's work, demand for the story was great—so great, in fact, that supply couldn't meet it. So she decided
to write a series of stories featuring Lord John that could be compiled into a volume with "Hellfire."

"Enough people heard about 'Hellfire' that they kept asking me for it," Gabaldon says. "We e-published it briefly, but the company folded, and the experiment wasn't so successful as to make it worthwhile finding another. I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to write a couple more Lord John short stories. Then they could all be printed together as a single volume, thus making 'Hellfire' easily available in print again."

But Gabaldon isn't well acquainted with the word "short," and before she knew it, her second Lord John "short" story was 85,000 words. Her agents gently explained that was the length of the average novel, and sold it to Delacorte
as part of a deal for two more Lord John books. (At the time it was known as Lord John and the Chamber Pot.)

Set in 1757, LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER follows the title character as he returns to London, where's he's confronted with personal and professional matters of the utmost importance. There's a delicate family matter that he must tend to—he's just discovered his cousin's fiancé has syphilis—and a dead comrade who may have been a spy. Cavorting around the bawdier sectors of London, Lord John hooks up with an array of colorful characters, including a Scottish whore, an Austrian transvestite and his own mum.

Also on the horizon are at least two more Outlander novels featuring Gabaldon's beloved supercouple—18th-century Scot Jamie Fraser and his 20th-century time-traveling wife, Claire—now living in pre-Revolutionary America. Next up is A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, which doesn't have a publication date yet.

Gabaldon also will be delving into the world of contemporary mysteries with RED ANT'S HEAD, a novel that's part of a two-book contract. "I seem to be getting toward a critical mass on this particular novel," she says, though this one doesn't have a publication date either. No doubt, though, it will be worth the wait.

Excerpt from LORD JOHN GREY AND THE PRIVATE MATTER

It was the sort of thing one hopes momentarily that one has not really seen—because life would be so much more convenient if one hadn't.

The thing was scarcely shocking in itself; Lord John Grey had seen worse, could see worse now, merely by stepping out of the Beefsteak into the street. The flower girl who'd sold him a bunch of violets on his way into the club had had a half-healed gash on the back of her hand, crusted and oozing.
The doorman, a veteran of the Americas, had a livid tomahawk scar that ran from hairline to jaw, bisecting the socket of a blinded eye. By contrast, the sore on the Honorable Joseph Trevelyan's privy member was quite small. Almost discreet.

"Not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a door, " Grey muttered to himself.
"But it will suffice. Damn it."

He emerged from behind the Chinese screen, lifting the violets to his nose. Their sweetness was no match for the pungent scent that followed him from the piss-pots. It was early June, and the Beefsteak, like every other establishment in London, reeked of beer and asparagus-pee.

Trevelyan had left the privacy of the Chinese screen before Lord John, unaware of the latter's discovery. The Honorable Joseph stood across the dining-room now, deep in conversation with Lord Hanley and Mr. Pitt, the very picture of taste and sober elegance. …

Lord John turned the posy critically in his hand, as though inspecting it for wilt, watching the man from beneath lowered lashes. He knew well enough how to look without appearing to do so. He wished he were not in the habit of such surreptitious inspection—if not, he wouldn't now be facing this dilemma.

The discovery that an acquantaince suffered from the French disease would normally be grounds for nothing more than distaste at worst, disinterested sympathy at best—along with a heartfelt gratitude that one was not oneself so afflicted. Unfortunately, the Honorable Joseph Trevelyan was not merely a club acquaintance; he was betrothed to Grey's cousin.


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