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Charles Palliser

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The Quincunx (1989)


The Quincunx (1989)

British Literature

The Quincunx (1989)

On books, writers and writing


The commercial pressure would be to write another book like The Quincunx and I do feel that there are still things I want to do with that period and form. But I'd hate to be expected to produce the same kind of book. I would rather keep people guessing.

Interview with New York Times


One of the intriguing questions raised by the Sherlock Holmes stories is the nature of their instant and enduring appeal....

The stories appeal to the reader's vicarious enjoyment of an idealized safety which is then shown to be menaced by danger. Before a threat can be evoked, a sense of what is being risked must be conveyed. For that reason, American horror movies are conventionally set in a small town of comfortable suburban houses, loving parents and happy teenagers. The Sherlock Holmes stories evoke an equivalent: comfortable bachelor quarters in the West end of London, the capital from which Britain ruled, generally fairly peacefully, a quarter of the world's population.

Introduction to The Valley of Fear and Selected Cases


This novel [Rustication] took seven or eight years to write. I had not expected that. To make it interesting and worth doing, writing a novel has to be a leap into the unknown. I have to be unsure if I can write it, otherwise I won't want to. For me, it would be pointless to write a novel that I knew I could complete within a specific length of time. I could do that only by repeating something I had done before, and I've never wanted to do that.

Interview with Publishers Weekly

I like the obvious writers of the 19th century: Austen, Dickens, all three Brontës, Eliot, Hardy, James, and Conrad, if he counts as Victorian. I've never got on with Trollope and can’t read Meredith at all. I find most of Thackeray fairly uninteresting with the astonishing exception of Vanity Fair, which is utterly brilliant. I find Scott pretty dull but he has some wonderful characters and scenes.

Twenty years ago it might have been surprising to mention Wilkie Collins but he has, thankfully, undergone a revival. At his best, he is wonderful. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are easily his most successful books, and can teach all writers a great deal about constructing an ingenious narrative, as well as using multiple narrators to mislead and finally enlighten readers. But No Name is also pretty good and Armadale, though often absurd, has many good things.

Interview with Society Nineteen


Critique • Works • Views and quotes

See also:

Charles Dickens

Nevil Shute

John Irving

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The Quincunx

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