So, you might wonder, why go to such a place of vinicultural worship?
It started at CrimeFest in May, with an invite from Sarah Williams of Crime Scene Books and The Book Consultancy. I’d seen Sarah at numerous events, but not had any great chance to talk with her until Bouchercon in North Carolina last year when, together with one of her authors, R.M. ‘Dick’ Cartmel, we were almost ‘last men standing’ in the bar on Sunday evening.
|R.M. 'Dick' Cartmel, hard at work, chiselling fresh words from the word face|
How could I resist the lure of a part of France unknown to me, as well as a chance to compare the French high-speed TGV to the Shinkansen I’d ridden in Japan?
|The TGV, displaying a magnificent insect collection|
|The countryside of the burgundy region, as seen from the TGV|
During his student years, Dick wrote an alternative-history novella, but it wasn’t until he retired from his Peterborough General Practice in June 2012 that he returned to his passion for the written word. “I set off for Nuits-Saint-Georges the following day.” He had already spent holidays for the previous five years sitting in cafés in the town with Truchaud whispering in his ear.
He conceived the stories as a trilogy from the outset, with THE RICHEBOURG AFFAIR (2014) beginning in the spring with the pruning and the first shoots of the vines, moving through the summer flowering with THE CHARLEMAGNE CONNECTION (2015) and finally on to the last installment, which will be called THE ROMANÉE VINTAGE, set in September and due for publication early next year.
Truchaud, so Dick claims, arrived almost fully formed, with his name and signature trenchcoat intact. “That was probably something to do with Columbo,” he admits. “I’ve done all sorts of unspeakable things to that trench coat.”
Truchaud himself is rather shy, and uncomfortable with women – especially those with whom he has some kind of romantic attachment. Dick has spent some time with the local gendarmerie, asking questions, but the books have allowed him to indulge in his other passion, which is wine in general and the wines of the burgundy region in particular.
As well as help on the forensics side from pathologist Nick Marquez-Grant, Dick also has a “vinicultural editor, David Clark,” who advises on any technical matters beyond Dick’s range of knowledge.
However, Dick likes to be hands-on in his research, spending most of September 2014 picking and sorting grapes alongside experts with years of experience. A crop of bonnes mares and musigny grapes were saved almost by instinct before a violent storm would have ruined that year’s crop. “The musigny grapes are used to make a wine that is described as slipping down your throat like little Jesus in velvet trousers.”
Beaune and Nuits-Saint-Georges are certainly
beautiful French towns, the soft sandstone buildings contrasting with the sharp
rooflines, and the serried rows of vines standing squat and orderly in the vast
roadside vineyards. I can understand the quiet fascination it holds for Dick,
even without quite his level of practiced appreciation of the wine itself.
Indeed, if the much-vaunted ‘Brexit’ is voted for next week, he may well be
moving out here more permanently.
This week’s Word of the Week is viniculture, meaning the science, study
and cultivation of grapes specifically for making wine, as opposed to viticulture which simply means the
science, study and cultivation of grapes in general.
|One of the premier vineyards of the area. Each vine is possibly a hundred years old and worth a lot of money.|
|Second in the trilogy|