I recently saw a wonderful video featuring Zainab Alema*, who is one of the Red Roses (the England women’s rugby team). She was talking about being one of the few muslim female players and turning a well-used phrase on its head. We’ve all heard “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it” in connection with increasing diversity and participation but Zainab took the point of view that if you couldn’t see it, you should go and be it. Take the step, be the pioneer.
I rather like that, especially as it chimes with one of the reasons I started to write.
I was reading what has become one of my favourite books, Michael Innes’ excellent Death at the President’s Lodging, which features and incredibly slashy scene between the policeman, Inspector Appleby and one of the dons, a chap called Gott. It made me yearn for a Golden Age mystery that featured gay characters, particularly a detecting couple—a gay equivalent of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, if you like.
Could I find one? Could I fairy cakes. Clearly stories that were written in the early twentieth century don’t feature overtly gay characters, although there are plenty of ‘coded’ individuals and couples to be found. Hinch and Murgatroyd from Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced are a devoted lesbian couple, and I’m convinced, from clues in the text of the Hornung books, that Raffles and Bunny are more than just friends. The fact that the author based Raffles on a gay man is grist to my mill. But I could find no male equivalent of an Agatha Troy to knock a Roderick Alleyn type off his feet. I couldn’t even run to ground contemporarily written stories that fitted the bill. So I thought, “I’ll write me blooming own!” and so the Cambridge Fellows mysteries were born, which set me on my publishing career and opened up lots of opportunities in both the romance and crime fields.
So, here’s a thought. What can’t you see and what might you have to be/do as a result?
*You can find Zainab’s video here: https://twitter.com/EnglandRugby/status/1384570680331603969?s=20