|M. C. Beaton|
Beaton began her career in journalism and advertising, switching to writing novels because she wanted to spend more time at home with her only son, Charles. She certainly made up for the late start.
Since her debut in 1979, Beaton authored more than a hundred sixty novels in ten series under five different aliases. Her books have sold tens of millions of copies around the world and have been translated into seventeen languages. She hated being called a "cosy writer" and once said she'd give anyone who called her that a Glasgow Kiss (a headbutt, usually resulting in a broken nose).
Her most popular protagonists were Hamish MacBeth, the local policeman in the Highland village of Lochdubh, and Agatha Raisin, the cranky yet endearing London advertising-executive-turned-private-detective in the Cotswolds. Both series have been turned into popular TV mysteries.
Confession Time. Technically speaking, Beaton wasn't a great writer. In fact, she did everything young writers are told not to do—telling instead of showing; head-hopping with abandon; writing brief or nonexistent scene transitions and often predictable plots. And yet I and millions of her fans just couldn't get enough. We read her latest book in a day, then waited impatiently for the next installment because her stories were just plain fun to read. Escapism at its finest.
I believe her secret was creating characters her readers cared about. In spite of their flaws—or maybe because of them—we simply had to know what Agatha and Hamish would get up to next.
That's part of what makes her death so painful to her fans.
Now we'll never know if Hamish's old flame, the sexually repressed Pricilla Halburton-Smythe, will ever thaw out and return to him. Or if he'll marry instead Elspeth Grant, the reporter with silver eyes and second sight. We'll never know if Agatha and the "dependably undependable" Sir Charles will realize their mutual attraction (at the same time) or if Bill Wong will find the love of his life.
Wondering about such things, of course, is like asking how many children Lady MacBeth had or if Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy went on to have a happy marriage. This is fiction. Nothing actually exists beyond the pages of the novel.
I think that's a major part of Beaton's charm. The worlds she created never change in the
In spite of occasional plotting against him by enemies in the Strathbane CID, Hamish will solve the crime and let someone else take the credit. The Currie twins will continue to get the wrong end of the stick. Hamish will reject promotion and remain ensconced in the Lochdubh police station with Lugs, the dog, and Towser, the feral cat, forever.
Peace to your memory, M.C. Beaton. Thank you for the countless hours of pleasure you brought to readers all over the globe. You were one-of-a-kind. We will never forget you—or the characters you brought to life.