Monday, 6 May 2013
Portmeirion and Crime Fiction
I was lucky enough to spend a night recently at one of my favourite places, Portmeirion, on the Dwyryd Estuary in North Wales. I first visited Portmeirion as a child, and this extraordinary Italianate village, created by a brilliant if slightly eccentric architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, made a great impression on me. I've returned many times since, and I still find it as entrancing as ever.
Because Portmeirion is so exotic,and so unexpected, some people think it outlandish, but not only is the setting lovely, there is a sense of fun and joyfulness about Clough's creation that makes a great many people feel good, simply by being there. And when the weather is excellent, as it was on this visit, it really is a terrific place to be.
Yet Portmeirion's strangeness did make it the perfect setting for that classic cult TV series The Prisoner, and it's also the setting for a recent crime novel, Fear in the Sunlight, by Nicola Upson. This is the latest in her series featuring the writer Josephine Tey as a character. Her version of Tey differs from the description of Tey given to me by a family member who knew her, but is nevertheless appealing.
In this story, Tey is staying at Portmeirion along with Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma, to negotiate a deal that will see Tey's novel A Shilling for Candles adapted into the film Young and Innocent. The Portmeirion meeting did not happen in real life, but it's a great idea, and Upson's evocation of the fantasy village is probably the strongest part of the book. Murder does not happen for about 200 pages, and some readers may feel that this was too long to wait. But the trip to Portmeirion was the ideal time to read the book, and I have little doubt that Nicola Upson likes the place as much as I do.