This one is called ‘A Much Arranged Marriage’
In this story Benor is asked to help warn off a blackmailer who appears to be threatening a young girl's chances of marriage. But the deeper he digs, the more dangerous things become.
If you were writing a Land of the Three Seas tourist guide, what would you tell us about Port Naain?
The tourist guide waxes lyrical.
“Sun-kissed Port Naain, the jewel of Partann, cultural capital of the Land of the Three Seas, home of scholars, poets, merchants and fine dining. Enjoy the quaint houses of the Sump, marvel at the architectural wonder that is the Insane Asylum, explore the quaint passages and ginnels of the Warrens.”
After reading from Benor Dorfinngil’s guide written for travelling merchants one might gain a somewhat different picture.
“Port Naain is situated on the Paraeba Estuary. When the wind is coming from the wrong direction it stinks. When the wind is stronger it’s raining. Much of the city, the Ropewalk, the Docks, is perfectly safe for travellers. The Northern suburbs and Dilbrook; plus the southern suburbs of Saskadil and Roskadil on the south side of the estuary are also salubrious enough. (Although travellers of a squeamish disposition might find tastes a little strong in Dilbrook so make friends with care.)
The Warrens is a seething anthill of human degradation and depravity, do not go there, the locals do eat people. The Sump is less bad, but still not a place where the innocent should lightly wander abroad on their own.”
It's the way he tells 'em! Your wonderful and resourceful character, Benor Dorfinngil, first appeared as a gentleman of mature years. What was it about him that made you want to tell these prequel stories?
I have travelled with Benor for a number of years and we get along well and I know how he thinks and how he will react. The problem is, in the last book he featured in, Dead Man Riding East, he ended up happily married with one child and another probably on the way. This isn’t conducive to the sort of adventuring he did get up to. I wondered about it and realised that there was a huge amount of Benor’s story not told. The ‘Cartographer’s Apprentice’ merely picked up on throw-away lines about his past in the other books. I enjoyed writing it and people enjoyed reading it so I decided that there was time for Benor to spend a year or two exploring Port Naain, ‘Because it was there.’ It’s been great fun, Benor is still Benor, perhaps cockier because he’s younger, but then he might wear his heart on his sleeve more as well.
Also at some point I full intend to go back to writing about Benor’s later adventures. His lady wife is a character worth exploring in her own right and I can see myself having an awful lot of fun letting them out to play together.
You do write excellent female characters. You also write science fiction as well as fantasy. What's your own favourite genre to read?
Here I hold up my hands and confess. I read far more non-fiction than I do fiction. The vast majority of my library is history and most of it about the world pre-1400AD.
I like to know how things work, how they hang together and how one situation leads into another. I like to think this is one reason why my Land of the Three Seas works so well.
But having dodged your question, I’ll dodge it again. I’m a great lover of the work of the late, great, Jack Vance. He wrote Fantasy and Science Fiction and wasn’t ashamed to set books on that broad fuzzy borderland between the two genres. So for me there is really only one genre. At one end is the very hard SF, seriously technical, and at the other end there’s the really high fantasy, probably with elves and hobbitsess and magic rings. I can enjoy books at both extremes.
And in the middle there is an ocean of fabulous books and I’m not going to let arbitrary labels stop me enjoying them.
And finally, the place you have created for Benor and his friends to live out their adventures is credible and very compelling to read about. Would you personally like to live there? Why, or maybe, why not?
Certainly I could live quite happily in the Land of the Three Seas. Admittedly some areas are perhaps less pleasant than others but I think I could cheerfully spend years wandering round seeing what the places I created were actually like. Probably under an assumed name, just in case people felt that I was in any way to blame.
As a rule I think writers ought to be able to live in their creations. After all, one day we might have to.
Now there's a thought! thanks Jim. You can find Jim's latest story, A Much Arranged Marriage, on his amazon author page here.