Delaware mystery writer Caroline Todd, 86, passed away on August 28. She was well-known in the area for her books and for readings she gave at the Newark Free Library.
Charles Todd, her son and literary partner, is currently polishing the final two books they have written together.
It’s challenging. Charles remarked, “It’s like you’ve got one arm tied behind your back.”
Charles has found working on his mother’s final projects to be cathartic in a strange manner since her passing.
“It’s fantastic to be working and working on a project I know was dear to her heart,” Charles added. It makes me feel like I’m helping her out.
In the 1990s, when Charles’ employment required frequent travel, the two began writing together to make use of his downtime.
Two years were spent figuring out novel structure, and the result was “A Test of Wills,” the first book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. After sending the manuscript to editor Ruth Caven and hearing nothing back from her for three months, they concluded she had rejected the piece.
Charles Todd related, “Out of the blue, a phone call arrived from Ruth Caven asking if the book was still for sale.”
More than 30 novels, including the Ian Rutledge series and another series centred around detective Bess Crawford, were released during the next 25 years.
An Irish Hostage,” the most current, came out in July. The following book in the Rutledge series, “Game of Fear,” and the third book in the Crawford series are both currently in the works.
The pair placed a premium on thorough research, and they placed particular emphasis on acquiring regionally specialised knowledge of British accents.
A British veteran of World War I, Ian Rutledge is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing the voice of a dead soldier named “Hamish.”
For their works, the Todds frequently visited various parts of Great Britain. To avoid offending the people they made along the way, they avoided using the actual names of cities and towns when writing about them.
The last thing you want to do after getting to know the locals of a place and becoming friends is to stage a murder, Charles remarked.
The tragedy of World War I was felt by the people of Britain, and the Todds gained insight into this by frequently asking individuals about any injured relatives. One interviewee related how their grandfather had a hard time dealing with bright lights and loud noises and would often hide away.
Since Caroline was located near Wilmington and Charles in Florida, the two have always had to collaborate from different states.
So that they were both familiar with the same information, Charles said that if he came across a book that he thought would be useful for their project, he would buy two copies and Caroline would do the same.
Both writers contributed equally to the final product. As a team, they would tackle the first chapter, and then break it down scene by scene, with Charles focusing in the mornings and Caroline later in the day.
“Working with her, I began to grasp that it’s a flow, and the capacity to let your characters be themselves and go where they take you, not paper figures you move around a board,” Charles remarked. “We believed that gave it genuineness and a sense of independence.”
When Charles was a child, his mother Caroline reportedly encouraged his interest in literature by reading him works by notable authors.
“I knew Macbeth as a bedtime story, and it got me in trouble when I got to college and was taking classes on Shakespeare,” Charles remarked.
One day, Caroline helped the 3-year-old Charles memorise the Rudyard Kipling poem “If.”
When asked what he learned from Caroline, Charles replied, “There was so much in that poem, those were the teachings of life.” As for everything else, “to work hard, to be good, and to be kind to your fellow man.”
Charles mentioned that his mother was a superb painter in addition to being a good teacher of French.
Even though the Todds were famous all over the world, Judith Taggart, head of the Friends of the Newark Free Library, said that every January, when a new Rutledge novel came out, Caroline Todd would come to Newark to read from it.
Taggart remarked, “A lot of authors won’t do that for a modest library.”
She said Todd’s level of research came over in the books, with detailed details about the environment that helped the reader imagine the places.
“She was simply incredibly lovely and sharing of her time,” Taggart added.
A few days before she passed away, Charles and his mother had a conversation in which they discussed Charles’s intentions to begin writing the next Rutledge novel after the success of “Game of Fear.”
After finishing the final two novels in his mother’s series, Charles said he wasn’t sure if he would continue the series.
Now, Charles is concentrating on making sure the next two novels are as perfect as they can be in honour of his mom’s efforts.