Written by Peter Guttridge


I’ve long been obsessed with the Arthurian legends. The gaudy Technicolor of Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner’s 1953 film Knights of The Round Table captivated me when I saw it as a kid on our first colour telly in the Sixties. I did a special project on the legends when I was a history student at university. I read Malory and Chretien de Troyes and Wolfram Von Eschenbach and Geoffrey of Monmouth and T H White’s The Once and Future King (which is a bloody brilliant adult novel, never mind the cartoon version of the first part, The Sword In The Stone).

I visited many ‘real’ sites, including the dense forest of Brocielande in Brittany where the ‘real’ Merlin was reputed to have lived and where, by accident, I pissed on an adder in the undergrowth and made a run for the car park convinced it was chasing me. I taught a course on Arthur and the Symbolism of the Grail when I first moved to London in the mid-seventies for a hippy outfit in Shepherds Bush called Gentle Ghost – I also did house clearances and removals for them for cash-in-hand but that’s another story.

In my twenties I wrote a deservedly unpublished literary novel, The Crowned Man Without Eyes, which was a modern retelling of the Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot triangle with a bonkers Mordred thrown in for good measure. When I stumbled into film journalism I interviewed one of my favourite directors, John Boorman. He revealed his own obsession with the Arthurian legends. (He was prepping his film Excalibur at the time.) He pointed out that in his fantastic existential thriller Point Blank there was a Merlin figure. That the last shot of Deliverance, when the arm of a murdered man comes out of the water of a flooded valley, was a sly reference to the Lady of The Lake’s hand coming out of the water to catch Excalibur when it is thrown in there.

My fourth comic crime novel, The Once and Future Con, imagined that Arthur and Guinevere’s shared grave had been found in the West Country and a theme park was going to be built around it.  

And so, thirty years later I’m camping beside a placid tarn in the Lake District and at dawn I’m watching carp leap out the water to nosh insects for their breakfast and I’m thinking about the Lady of the Lake. And I start writing.

The eponymous Lady of The Lake in the latest novel in my Brighton series is a reclusive ex-Hollywood film star who gets embroiled with my regular cast of characters in a story involving county line drug trafficking, human trafficking, a despised local landowner and, of course, several murders.

Her name is Nimue Grace, Nimue being one of the many names of the Lady of the Lake in the Arthurian legends. And she has a lake where the first murder victim is found. For this novel my regular cast of characters decamp from Brighton over the South Downs to Plumpton, which really exists, and Nimue’s lake and Big House, which are made-up.

My career as a film journalist came in very useful for collecting unlikely and sometimes frankly unbelievable Hollywood film tales. I used some of them in my debut novel, No Laughing Matter, but there were a few left over that I use in this novel, and some much more recently heard, for Nimue’s back story.

Nimue Grace is not based on a particular film actress, rather she’s an imagined composite of famous recluses from Garbo and Bardot to Bridget Fonda (whatever happened to her?) and Sean Young (ditto). Her grin though is all Julie Christie, the Sixties and early Seventies superstar from such films as Darling, Far From The Madding Crowd and Dr Zhivago.

I met Christie just the once, in the 80s, when she was doing some classic play on radio and I was freelancing for the Radio Times. Though not a recluse, she did live on a farm in a remote part of Wales, shunned the showbiz life and, usually, the press. Her acting roles by then were, by her choice, few and far between.

She’d agreed to do just one interview on her train heading back to Wales and she chose me. (Shucks.) There were bets in the Radio Times office as to which stop on the journey she’d kick me off the train as she tired of the interview. The preponderance of opinion was that it would be Watford, some 20 minutes outside London. In fact I lasted to Birmingham. We actually bumped into each other at the ticket office in London and did the interview in the dining car (remember those?). She was utterly delightful, shy and hesitant but strong in her opinions about the environment etc.

When I got off I stood on the platform to see her depart. As the train set off she gave me a vigorous wave and this huge, beautiful, irresistible grin that pretty much made my legs buckle. Thirty years on I can still see it though now it’s pasted on my character Nimue Grace’s lovely face.

As for my regular cast of characters in the Brighton series – DI Sarah Gilchrist, DS Bellamy Heap, police commissioner Bob Watts and his ex-SAS buddy Jimmy Tingley – in Lady of The Lake they are up to their usual acts of derring-do and good deeds…well, not necessarily so good in Jimmy’s case. And dealing with their own emotional problems, of course. Plus there’s a sub-plot bubbling under that suddenly takes on added significance at the end. Oh, and ostriches. And llamas. Lots of llamas.

The Lady of The Lake was, relatively speaking, an enjoyable breeze to write. (The one before, Swimming With The Dead, started easily but became gruelling to finish for me – and possibly the reader!) I hope Lady of The Lake is an equally enjoyable breeze to read.



The Lady of The Lake Severn House

29 November, 2019.

It is the 7th of Peter Guttridge’s Brighton series. Swimming With The Dead, the 6th novel, was published in April 2019.





Peter Guttridge

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