Margaret Doody interview

Mrs Doody, how did you get the idea to write mystery novels set in ancient times? And the choice of Aristotle as main character playing the role of a detective?

 One evening I was re-reading Aristotle’s RHETORIC in order to discuss it with an MA student, and then I crawled into bed with a mystery story. then it struck me that Aristotle, with his lack of illusions about human nature –and the Athenian way  of life–would make a great Sherlock Holmes. The idea took root, as I realized that nobody else was going to write the story I began to think of. Classical colleagues  kindly encouraged me and the result was ARISTOTLE DETECTIVE.  ( My first idea for a title was ARISTOTLE’S RHETORIC, as I thought that would  make a nice puzzle for librarians.

 You wrote your first novel, Aristotle Detective, in the 70’s, but it was published in Italy only in 1999. Why all this delay?

 An Italian version  was published (in 1980 I think) in a gialli series by Mondadori, but much abbreviated and cut up. Later, Beppe Benvenuto read the whole novel in English, and encouraged Sellerio to publish it.  I was fortuante indeed in my wonderful translator, Rosalia Coci.

 Your books have been published also in Greece. Can you tell us your feelings in seeing your novels written in the “language of Aristotle”?

 Certainly   I am  happy that the  series is now coming out in Greek; I know how  much trouble the editor went to  in order to find the right translator. It is thrilling to see it in Aristotle’s own language. I try to get to Greece at least once a year.

 Are you working on something new right now?

 In the summer and autumn of 2009 I wrote a new “Aristotle” book, Aristotle and the egyptian murders. I  have just singed a contract with Sellerio to publish this novel. It was wonderful working with the Egyptian setting; I had visited Egypt in 1996, and took some summer courses in hieroglyphics at the University of London in 2000 and 2001. One of my many sources was the Nilotic mosaic in Palestrina.

 Do you know Italy? Have you ever visited it? What is your favourite Italian dish?

 I adore Italy, and have visited it constantly, though my last trip was in the summer of 2007 ( colloquium in Roma)..  Many of my visits have been to Venezia–my last published non-fiction book is a book about that amazing city and its people, Tropic of Venice. I like Venetian seafood and squid with polenta.

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