‘A Fine Summer’s Day’ by Charles Todd


VOICEOVER: And now, an Eight original production.

VOICEOVER: "Books & Co." is made possible by the Department of English at Arizona State University. And by the friends of Eight, members of Eight, Arizona PBS, who give additional gifts to support original programs. Thank you.

ALBERTO RIOS: Welcome to "Books & Co." Bienvenidos todos. I'm your host, Alberto Rios, and we're joined today by Caroline and Charles Todd, who together write under the name Charles Todd. Talking about their latest Ian Rutledge inspector Ian Rutledge mystery called "A Fine Summer's Day." Welcome both of you.

CAROLINE TODD: Thank you so much.

CHARLES TODD: Thank you. Good to be here.

ALBERTO RIOS: When I say welcome you, this is a new experience for the show, because we normally have one author. And this is, I can't wait to talk about this, how you work as a team. But I'm going to start by talking about the book. I hope that's all right.

CAROLINE TODD: That's fine.

ALBERTO RIOS: Ian Rutledge, this is a -- This is the 17th entry in this series.

CAROLINE TODD: Absolutely.

ALBERTO RIOS: Maybe you can give us an overview of what happens in this series.

CAROLINE TODD: We started out with a book called "A Test of Wills." It was published in 1996, it told a story of a man who had been an inspector at Scotland Yard, very successful, and like so many young men of his generation, he went to France to fight for king and country.

ALBERTO RIOS: This would have been --

CAROLINE TODD: 1914. To 1918. The Great War. And he came home from there, shell shocked, which we now call PTSD, and uncertain whether he could go back to the kind of work that he had done before. So we follow him from a test of wills for 16 books. Several of them just a month or six weeks apart. So you see the development of his return. And then we thought it might be time for a new experience, and that was when we wrote "A Fine Summer's Day."

ALBERTO RIOS: "A Fine Summer's Day" goes backward in time.

CAROLINE TODD: Absolutely.

ALBERTO RIOS: Relative to this series. Maybe you can tell us about this book now.

CHARLES TODD: It goes back to Rutledge on the fine summer's day in July when nobody had any foreshadowing of what was going to happen in very short period of time. It was the end of July when the archduke Ferdinand -- June, I'm sorry, when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, and then ultimately the invasion of France and the declaration of war between Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, and Great Britain. And so in July they had a feeling there might be some problems, but nobody, even in the high command, had any real concept of the kind of war that was coming around the corner. So Rutledge was enjoying a fine start to a very successful career, he had met a wonderful young lady that he was getting ready to propose marriage to, and everybody thought, well, there might be this little war, but it won't last long. The last real European war had been the Franco-Prussian war, and it didn't Lang lost, this will be like that, a chance to go get some medals and wear the uniform.

ALBERTO RIOS: And people were excited to enlist.

CAROLINE TODD: Absolutely.

ALBERTO RIOS: You describe that frenzy, it was patriotic, but people just were almost thrilled to get this chance to go to war, which seems so odd to say.

CHARLES TODD: But it could make careers. If you -- People after wars are still referred to in England by their rank, captain so-and-so, or major, the colonel. And Knighthoods, and all kinds of various decorations that people are able to receive, and it was an opportunity for career advancement as well. So this was an opportunity to go off and get a jump ahead in your future.

ALBERTO RIOS: Reading through this, I came upon one word that went a long way for explaining -- It's your word, I hope you'll remember it, that went a long way toward explaining how World War I started to happen. It was the morganatic wedding. Do you remember that word?

CAROLINE TODD: The archduke wanted to marry a Czech countess, and the house of France Joseph decided she was not really material. The only way he could marry her was to accept a morganatic wedding, which meant she could never be queen. He was not happy with that, but it was the only choice he had so. So he was happy to go to Sarajevo, where she would be treated as an equal to him rather than look down upon as the court.

ALBERTO RIOS: That explains that sort of odd circumstance, all these things coming together.

CHARLES TODD: The odd thing was, the France Josephs in particular didn't particularly like the Archduke Ferdinand. And the battleship war between Germany and Great Britain and the arms race, was starting to slow down. There were a lot of people thinking that they had already passed the point where any real chance of serious war had passed. And that's why even though the archduke was assassinated; they didn't even think the Austrians would be upset, much less anybody else.

CAROLINE TODD: They didn't even gift man a state funeral. It was a rather hasty burial compared to what the heir to the throne should have received.

ALBERTO RIOS: This is all in the background as we watch now Ian Rutledge kind of -- We have these vague inklings, the young man trying to sell newspapers outside of the police building, saying "something is happening! Something is happening!" And Ian Rutledge is a little bothered by it, he reads it but doesn't think much of it.

CAROLINE TODD: They didn't have radio and T.V., so this is the only news you could get.

ALBERTO RIOS: So he -- So what made you invent Ian Rutledge? Let's start with that question.

CAROLINE TODD: It's interesting, we wanted several things. We wanted to talk about the Great War, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings had talked about it in their books on the 20th century saying this was the pivotal event. If you look at things that are happening in the Middle East, and in other parts of the world, Africa, their result of the treaty of Versailles ended the war. And so we thought it would be a great idea to go with that theory and find three things -- The period is accessible to people today, they had telephones, not many, they had cars, not many, but they were people we could recognize. Secondly, forensics were in its infancy, they knew something about it, but here was a man who had to solve the mystery by himself. He didn't have CSI coming in and saying, the DNA, or the blood spatters, or whatever. His own --

CHARLES TODD: battle of the wits.

CAROLINE TODD: absolutely. A test of wills.

CHARLES TODD: The key, the test of wills was Rutledge's starting out before the war as a promising young inspector, going off to war, and killing people himself and then coming back and coming to terms with his experience, coming to terms with how it had changed England. So much between the -- There was the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the modern era for Great Britain, and you didn't see that much in the United States. Wilson didn't ask for a declaration of war until April 1917, and the war was over in November of 1918. We lost roughly 230,000 casualties in World War I, Great Britain lost 5 million in World War I.

CAROLINE TODD: Which is why we had to go with England as a setting, rather than here, where we could absorb the casualties and England could not, they lost a generation. Everyone -- They describe in their studies of the period.

CHARLES TODD: On the East Coast of the United States you go to towns and you see the Civil War monuments, in Great Britain every town you go to today has a great war memorial or stone, or statue, surrounded in poppies, well maintained, and loving care. You can tell, you go into the town churches and you see on the walls and the bell tower the lists of people who died during World War I, and the Spanish influenza that came right after.

ALBERTO RIOS: And the story as it progresses becomes a microcosm of what's happening on a larger scale. So if Britain lost a generation, in the story, there is -- There are let's just say multiple murders. And one might conceive that as being a generational loss. There's -- I don't want to give any plot points away, but a jury, let's say, which could be thought of in grander terms, is lost. And we watch Rutledge working the microcosm of what's happening out there every step of the way.

CAROLINE TODD: And he's trying to persuade Scotland yard, and the locals that there is a connection between these crimes, and yet everyone wants to solve it very quickly and very easily, suicide, or a murder by someone in the village. And he is really at a loss as to how he can explain the feeling that there is more at stake than just six murders in small villages.

CHARLES TODD: And his future bride-to-be is pressuring him to go get some of that glory, and --

ALBERTO RIOS: big-time.

CAROLINE TODD: Yes.

ALBERTO RIOS: Every conversation.

CHARLES TODD: And the medals, everybody is pushing that. Scotland Yard is wanting to clear the decks, and yet Rutledge has this sense that if this isn't stopped, and properly stopped, quickly, it's going to spread and get much worse. So he's torn.

ALBERTO RIOS: But he doesn't lose focus, and what is interesting, you're mentioning later he goes on to become a soldier.

CAROLINE TODD: Yes.

ALBERTO RIOS: But right now he says, I'm a policeman, not a soldier. I don't kill people. I arrest those who do. This sets up the whole series, right?

CAROLINE TODD: Exactly right.

ALBERTO RIOS: What he was doing right there. In that moment, it's so clear to him what his job is. That I think it only devolves afterward, it becomes less and less clear to him.

CAROLINE TODD: Yes. Because he thought that if the war was only going to last until Christmas, it really was ridiculous to leave a case unsolved and go marching off to glory. Unfortunately Christmas came and the stalemate resulted in the trench warfare that we have.

CHARLES TODD: So which do you pick, your responsibility to your job, or your duty to king and country?

ALBERTO RIOS: There you go. I'd like to take a moment to remind our viewers that you're watching "Books & Co.," I'm your host Alberto Rios, we're joined today by best-selling authors Caroline and Charles Todd, who together write under the name Charles Todd. And we're talking about the inspector Ian Rutledge series, we're talking about now the 17th in this journey that explains this man and in some ways speaks to the world. What was happening in the world. What's wonderful to me are the frustrations and maybe not the solutions. We know the solutions, books work that way. We read books because we know they're going to in some fashion solve something or give us answers. But the impediments are often as perhaps more delicious than the solutions, and I was reading this, one of the funniest ones, as you mentioned earlier, he has a hard time finding a phone.

CAROLINE TODD: Yes. We don't think about that. We think, he has a cell phone in his pocket, why -- What is he stressing so?

ALBERTO RIOS: On top of that, you are intimating the future, he has this wonderful frustration where he says, and after dinner he asked her, I think this was his sister, how would you go about finding an old friend from India if you didn't know where she was living now? It's called Facebook!

CAROLINE TODD: Absolutely! [laughter]

ALBERTO RIOS: But it didn't exist, and it tells us something about a world, you were talking about solving by wits.

CAROLINE TODD: Yes.

ALBERTO RIOS: He had to be the internet. He had to be the telephone.

CAROLINE TODD: He had to understand people to a very, very fine degree. Because you listen to suspects, you talk about their secrets, but then not every secret leads to murder. So which secret was important enough? We have often said that war is the breakdown of national relationships. And yet murder is the breakdown of human relationships. And so what has driven a perfectly ordinary person to decide that murder was the only possible way to get out of a situation? Whether it's greed, or hate, or love, or money. It doesn't matter. It's what drives that one person to take life and death into his own hands.

ALBERTO RIOS: And more intriguing even that it does haven't to make sense to the rest of us.

CAROLINE TODD: That's right. For them it's very important.

CHARLES TODD: It is the old saying goes in sane society, surely the sane person must appear insane. But one of the reasons we like the idea of Scotland Yard, but we didn't want to do a Scotland Yard inspector in London. It had been done, done extremely well, and we didn't want to deal with particularly irrational crime. A jack the ripper type of murder mystery. But the opportunity in each book to go out to a different location in England and a new set of characters, a new set of culture and history that he had to take into account, and each time that he's investigating a different crime. But I think you're absolutely right about the solution not being patronizing, but I think mystery readers are very smart people. Because of the emails when they say we got something wrong.

ALBERTO RIOS: I than only imagine.

CHARLES TODD: They're puzzle people. We don't, as human beings, like things out of place. It's like a jigsaw puzzle. We're driven to put all the pieces together to see the final picture. And have a certain sense of satisfaction that all is well with the world because all the pieces are where they're supposed to be. And that is or goal, our favorite email from our friends is, I hate you, I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, I had an 8:00 meeting, but I couldn't put it down for the last two chapters.

ALBERTO RIOS: It's wonderful. I know what you mean. When I was reading this and I was thinking through -- I'm going to call it the roughness of that life, that is to say it didn't have telephones that were easily accessible, didn't have cell phones certainly or all the other things, it felt to me that Ian Rutledge, the man the detective, he was hearing two songs, he was hearing this big war thing that was starting to happen, and he was starting to hear these common plot points, somebody was murdered here, somebody was murdered here, he was creating almost a ballet or a large piece of music, not a single song. It wasn't like --

CAROLINE TODD: absolutely.

ALBERTO RIOS: A hit song, it wasn't a pop song. It was a large piece of music and he was starting to connect these threads.

CHARLES TODD: Almost a symphony.

ALBERTO RIOS: absolutely, is how it felt to me. He was starting to write or create or see, really, he was seeing it that way. And it became almost musical every time he made a connection.

CAROLINE TODD: And yet most of the people around him wanted just one song, a lullaby, or --

ALBERTO RIOS: almost every single one of them except his one ally. Well, all that said now, let me ask you about the writing process itself, how you work as a team. I'm sure you get asked this all the time. What do you do?

CAROLINE TODD: We didn't want people to be distracted I think Caroline wrote that, that sounds like Charles. We wanted it to be a unified story. And so we work on everything together. We work on the research; we work on the writing, with send emails and instant messages, and telephone calls back and forth.

ALBERTO RIOS: Do you live in the same city?

CAROLINE TODD: No, we can't even work in the same room!

CHARLES TODD: Even when we're -- As we are now, I'll come up to Philadelphia, so we fly out together, it's just a lot simpler than trying -- Triangulating -- But we draw on the mutual level of conversation of mother and son, with the experience of I went to college, left home, had a successful career, my own set of life experiences on my own, she went on and had her life experiences. And so it's kind of a mix of the two. And when we're in the same room together, A, we get off on tangents and interruptions, and when we go through scene by scene, to me, writing is like seeing a movie in your mind, trying to put it down on paper, in such a way that a reader can pick it up and eventually stop seeing letters on the page turning and see the movie that we were trying to communicate. And so that process, I'll get her information, and I need a minute to step back and look at it and consider it and not just go on my first instinct. I can say to myself, she must be crazy, and --

ALBERTO RIOS: you have to learn this patience, don't you?

CHARLES TODD: Unfortunately they didn't have collaboration for dummies, when we started this process.

ALBERTO RIOS: Well, who breaks the tie?

CAROLINE TODD: The characters.

ALBERTO RIOS: Rutledge.

ALBERTO RIOS: Okay, the character. I think that's an excellent answer.

CHARLES TODD: In our Bess Crawford series, it's Bess that breaks the tie, but it's got to be best for the book.

CAROLINE TODD: We don't have characters that jump to our tune. We set them free. Whatever is best for them makes a better book than if we narrow everything down to what we had -- We don't even outline.

ALBERTO RIOS: That's an exciting thought. You are prepared and welcoming to whatever presence itself. That's an audacious and wonderful way --

CHARLES TODD: especially when we want to try and kill them too early.

CAROLINE TODD: Every once in a while we have a character who rebels and we have to go back and find out why and straighten out his situation so he goes on to the rest of the story.

ALBERTO RIOS: And when you write, again, as the 17th book in the series you have a lot to go on now. So you're right, I think he has a say in all things.

CAROLINE TODD: And we had to make sure that what he says here is what he was before the war, and not what we know about him after the war. It's -- It was a narrow and very interesting road to follow.

CHARLES TODD: And yet it's been interesting to us with the Vietnam vets, and the World War II veterans and things, we have people that say to us, either thank you for writing this, I didn't know how to say it, or, I understand my father or my grandfather a lot better now.

ALBERTO RIOS: It's got to be a pretty dramatic thing to hear.

CAROLINE TODD: It is, because this is a responsibility, it's not just a literary technique.

ALBERTO RIOS: You have a lot of characters, and you have all of World War I to work with, really. Working through this.

CAROLINE TODD: Rich material.

ALBERTO RIOS: It's rich material, but finding the heart in the middle of all of that, what's called the war to end all walls, and the stories of mustard gas, and no anesthesia, the way we think of it, all those things, that's a rough juxtaposition.

CAROLINE TODD: But it makes writing each book special, because we think of each book as a standalone in the sense that what happens there is pertinent to that book. So you can pick up the series anywhere, and go back or go forward as you choose.

ALBERTO RIOS: And there's -- This idea of letting the character decide, I mentioned the word morganatic wedding, it was an important word for me, there's another important word that speaks to this idea of Ian Rutledge deciding or somebody deciding beyond the authors. It's a very simple word and it's the word know. K-N-O-W. He turned to go but Mrs. Hadley said, if you find out who did this to my husband or why, will you come back at once and tell me? I need to know. And you have that italicized. And right afterward his sister says, surprised to see him, Rutledge, she said, if you're here to beg lunch you'll have to take me out to dine. This is Holly has found ants in the pantry, and she says, it's a certain sign of heavy rain. Ants know, she says. Two instances of "know." And what you're saying, something about the characters starts to take --

CAROLINE TODD: It's the knowledge they possess inside themselves.

ALBERTO RIOS: And it is transcendent. And very simple. We don't need a fancy -- Morganatic is a word we might not be familiar with, know is is a word we overuse yet it's so grounding in this moment when these characters both speak to that idea of just, I need --

CAROLINE TODD: that's a very good point.

ALBERTO RIOS: I thought it was exciting. It was a redefinition of that, and you helped me along by italicizing it.

CAROLINE TODD: You opened the door of interest for us, too.

ALBERTO RIOS: It's a simple idea, and it's speaking beyond the overview, it's getting into the characters needing something. That's different than saying here's what you're going to do. It's a character saying, I need something.

CHARLES TODD: That was a new challenge when we started the Bess Crawford series, because it's in first person. And this is in third person. And it's interesting how you can shape the perspective of the novel and the plot depending on the voice that you're using.

CAROLINE TODD: Depending on who knows.

ALBERTO RIOS: Who knows what. And surprises ensue, right?

CAROLINE TODD: Absolutely.

ALBERTO RIOS: And I'm glad to get this starting point. I think for anybody who is a reader of Ian Rutledge, this is going to be a very special book. I think we read and we get taken in by the adventure of it all, but something about the beginning always comes back to reward us.

CAROLINE TODD: To what he was and what made him a survivor.

ALBERTO RIOS: So thank you both for writing this. I'd like to thank our viewers for joining us. You've been watching "Books & Co." I'm your host, Alberto Rios. You've been joined today by Caroline and Charles Todd, who have been talking about their latest entry in the Ian Rutledge mystery series, "A Fine Summer's Day." Please join us again next time when we'll be bringing you another good book.

CAROLINE TODD: Thank you so much.

VOICEOVER: "Books & Co." is made possible by the Department of English at Arizona State University. And by the friends of Eight, members of Eight, Arizona PBS, who give additional gifts to support original programs. Thank you.

A Fine Summer’s Day takes readers into Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge’s past involving his final case before the start of World War I. On June 1914, Rutledge gives little attention to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

His mind is set in preparing his proposal to the woman he loves, even with intimations from family and friends.

To the north, a Scottish Highlander shows his own dear girl the house he will build, while back in England, a son awaits the undertaker due to the death of his mother.

The death will set off a series of murders across the country with Rutledge racing against time to solve these seemingly unconnected cases.

As the start of the war looms, Rutledge sets out to find the truth, which will eventually force him to choose between the Yard and his country, between love and duty, and between honor and truth.

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