Friday, January 23, 2009



I’ve been friends with author Gerald Hammond for many years. We’ve exchanged letters and now e-mails for years, shared writing problems, created plots together, and generally enjoyed each others company.

Living in Scotland, where he retired from his profession as an architect to write full time, Gerald has been very prolific since his first novel, Fred In Situ was published in 1965. Since then he has seen 67 novels published with several more on the way (Well And Good is due out in early 2009).

He is best known for his two mystery series characters, gunsmith Keith Calder, and Three Oaks dog kennel owner John Cunningham. Both series allow Gerald to indulge in his passions for guns, dogs, bird hunting, fly fishing, and all things outdoors in the Scottish countryside.

Now in his eighties, and up and down in health, Gerald has mostly left his series work behind him. He has focused instead on stand alone novels, most of which are mysteries, but also others featuring Formula One racing (Fine Tune), gliding (Into The Blue), and other excitements or passions catch his fancy.

In the 23 Keith Calder novels and the 11 Three Oaks novels, Hammond has created enduring characters with strong family ties who have all aged appropriately as the series have continued. Often, Hammond has let one of the secondary characters take center stage if the plot revolves around something specific to their personality or situation.

The Calder series started with Dead Game in 1979:

Keith Calder is an itinerant gunsmith and shooting instructor. He is also a rascal with total disregard for the law, a skilled and dedicated poacher of birds of both feathers.

Calder is the guest at a shoot in the Scottish Borders when one of the syndicate members dies – apparently by accident. However, a bullet is found in his body. Yet only shotguns were carried on the shoot. Was he killed by a sniper or by a stray bullet? Or is there some other explanation?

Calder has a personal and very secret interest in the case, but his involvement deepens when the brother of his current girlfriend, Molly, is arrested and charged with the murder – especially as there is no love lost between the two men.

Molly asks Keith to use his expertise on her brother’s behalf. But in agreeing to make his own inquiries, Calder finds he is trying to save himself, and his activities lead him and Molly into violent personal danger.

Gerald Hammond, with his expert knowledge of guns and his love of the Scottish countryside, has created a marvelous background against which he has set a puzzling, credible, and thoroughly entertaining whodunit.

I have enjoyed each of the books in both series and continue to read and savor each new Hammond novel as it arrives. These aren’t long tedious, padded, thrillers. Instead they are almost of another age, ingenious plots, characters with whom you want to spend time, and a world to which you eagerly anticipate returning.



pattinase (abbott) said...

Almost picked up the Spenser book. Oops.

Barrie said...

Your review makes me want to try one of these books.