The life of Golden Age murder mystery author Dorothy L. Sayers mirrored some of the events in her books — the hypocritical lover, the hidden illegitimate son, raised as a nephew. She was a rare talent — witty, fun, literate, and an excellent writer. And her sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey is, if I may so, a dear, lovely man. Yes, I fell for him.
About Dorothy L. Sayers
Born in 1893, Dorothy spent her first few years in Oxford, which was then an unmodernized, charming, and inconvenient medieval town. She was the only child of a doting vicar and progressive mother. When she was four, her father took a position in the bleak Fens in eastern England (see The Nine Tailors), where the extended family had an uncomfortable but charming mansion as a rectory, and where she was treated much as if she’d been a boy — well-educated by her parents and nurses, and allowed to roam.
Highly intelligent and a hard worker, though lots of fun, Sayers received a masters in modern languages from Oxford, and went on to work as a copywriter in London for nine years (see Murder Must Advertise). She liked reading detective novels and set to work writing them, having identified the genre as the best way for her to make a living with her writing.
Around 1925, she bought a motorcycle — and apparently had a fling with the charming salesman, as she found herself pregnant about the time she was writing her third mystery novel, Clouds of Witness. She took eight weeks off work, ostensibly to finish the book, and secretly gave birth to a son, whom her cousin Ivy raised, while Dorothy wrote like a whirlwind to support him. It wasn’t until 1927 that women were even granted parental rights to their illegitimate children, so Dorothy’s decision to hide her child was due not only to wanting to spare her parents the upset, and to keep interference with her writing to a minimum, but also for the child’s own benefit.
Of course, there is more to that drama, and Sayers was just getting started on her illustrious career. You can read more in Maker and Craftsman: The Story of Dorothy L. Sayers.
Books by Dorothy L. Sayers
- Links that say “Borrow” will take you to the Internet Archive where you may borrow the book. (You’ll need to sign up for the Internet Archive if you haven’t already done so; it’s free and simple.) Once you borrow a book, you’ll be able to read a scanned copy of the book online, or download a pdf of the scanned book, or download an epub file (readable only with Adobe Digital Editions, which you’ll be prompted to download for free).
- Links that say “Buy” will take you to the book’s main page on Amazon. *As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
- If you’re up for buying something, we like Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries: Harriet Vane Collection DVD Box Set — BBC adaptations (each a mini-series about two and a half hours long) of Strong Poison,Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night.
Lord Peter Wimsey Books
- Whose Body? (1923) — Download for free (public domain). — Borrow.
- Clouds of Witness (1926) — Borrow.
- Unnatural Death (1927) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- Strong Poison (1930) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- The Five Red Herrings / Suspicious Characters (U.S.) (1931) — Borrow.
- Have His Carcase (1932) — Borrow.
- Murder Must Advertise (1933) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- The Nine Tailors (1934) Borrow. — Buy.*
- Gaudy Night (1935) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- Busman’s Honeymoon (1937) — Borrow. — Buy.*
Books with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, written by Jill Patton Walsh, continuing for Dorothy L. Sayers
- Thrones, Dominations (1998) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- A Presumption of Death (2002) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- The Attenbury Emeralds (2010) — Borrow. — Buy.*
- The Late Scholar (2013) — Buy.*
Standalone Books by Dorothy L. Sayers
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.