Farthing was published by Tor in 2006. It was my fifth published novel. It has also been published in Japanese, Spanish, Hungarian, French and German. It won a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award in 2007 and was nominated for the Nebula, Locus. John W. Campbell Memorial, Quill, Seiun and Sideways awards. It was published in the UK by Corsair in February 2014.
Farthing is an alternate history mystery, first in the Small Change trilogy. My all time favourite description of the book is “a stiletto wrapped in a buttered crumpet”. It’s a cosy mystery — a country house murder of the Agatha Christie style, where somebody is killed in an absurd way and everyone is a suspect and a detective arrives. But it’s set in 1949 in a world where Britain made peace with the Third Reich in May of 1941, and Hitler holds everything up to the Channel and fascism is creeping closer on the British side. The division point is the Hess mission, which in that world succeeded, because Churchill had a slightly different cabinet which insisted on considering the terms. Britain alone could not have won WWII from May of 1941, and there was no indication of US help, which probably would never have been forthcoming without the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Keeping on fighting in the circumstances was quite extraordinary.
The novel alternates between two points of view — the first person of Lucy Kahn and the third person of Inspector Carmichael, the series’s continuing Scotland Yard detective, who has secrets of his own. Lucy is a daughter of the aristocracy but married to a Jew. She seems at first to be an idiot, but as the book goes on we get to see her core of solid good sense.
I had the idea for it when reading Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar and wondering what year it was supposed to be set.
I wrote it between April 29th and May 17th 2004, in nineteen continuous writing days with no breaks at all. This remains my record for speed at writing a novel.
Sherwood Smith on SF Site.
Adrienne Martini at Baltimore City Paper.
Publishers’ Weekly. Starred review.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q 1. Aren’t there too many gay people? And bi people? Non-straight people that is?
A.1. There are lots of gay people in it? I didn’t notice.
A.2. There are fewer GLBT people than on my Livejournal friendslist. But my son pointed out that my f-list isn’t a randomly selected population. I pointed out that the people in the book aren’t randomly selected either.
A. 3. “Too many” is an interesting expression. How many non-straight people are allowed to be in a text, do you think?
A.4. Well, maybe it will make up for all the books that have no non-straight people at all. They can kind of even out.
A.5. I don’t think so.
Q 2. Do Lucy and David get away to Canada?
A.1. I stopped the book where I did for a reason.
A.2. Sure they did, they live down the road from us, I see them all the time at the bus stop.
A.3. The presumption in Ha’Penny, which takes place a week or so later, is that they did. They haven’t been captured, and we hear that Solomon Kahn, David’s father, is moving money to Canada. How nice Canada is in that 1949 hasn’t been examined anywhere though. In Half a Crown it is confirmed that they are in Canada, and that bad things are happening here too.
Q 3 Is the turning point that the US didn’t come into the war?
A. No. The US didn’t come into WWII until December 7th 1941 “the day that will live in infamy” (though it clearly hasn’t if you’tre asking this question) when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In Farthing, the change point came six months earlier, in May of 1941, only eighteen months after WWII began.
Q 4 Why did you pick the Hess mission as the change point?
I wanted there to have been a Blitz and a brief war but without the social changes the real war brought, and that was the best point for that. WWII is full of potential change points and everyone has their favourites.
Q 5 What do you think of Philip Roth’s The Plor Againat America?
I haven’t read it.
Q 6 What do you think about Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle?
I haven’t read that either.
Q 7 Why haven’t you read them?
I’ve read other things I didn’t much enjoy by those authors.
Q 8 Can you recommend any non-fiction about WWII that’s gripping and readable?
Orwell’s Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism. Churchill’s History of the Second World War. William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diary, Peter Gay’s My German Question, and Anne de Courcy’s Debs in the War.
Q 9 Where can I find Josephine Tey?
Some of her books are in print in Britain, and for those of you in Australia most of them are on Gutenberg Australia, as they went out of copyright there in 2002, 50 years after her death.
Q 10: Why are you so mean to Carmichael?
Mean? Me? At one point in this book he gets a whole night at home with Jack and we don’t even follow him and intrude.