About today’s guest: Jeri Westerson
Jeri Westerson grew up on the mean streets of Los Angeles and so always had a thing for noir. She also always had a thing for the middle ages. It was a natural fit. She tried her hand at acting but real life auditions were too brutal. She turned her attention to her other interest of art and design and became a successful graphic artist. After becoming a mom, she directed her passion again to writing and embarked on the long, slow goal of publishing her growing body of historical fiction. When she switched to writing historical mystery, she found success. Veil of Lies; A Medieval Noir is her debut novel.
I’m terribly fond of the paranormal. I enjoy a good, sexy vampire book and a good, sexy werewolf book. Haven’t quite got up the nerve to write one yet, myself, but there’s always time. The closest I’ve come is my new medieval mystery series beginning with VEIL OF LIES. My protagonist, Crispin Guest, is a dark and brooding fellow, and no wonder. He’s an ex-knight turned detective, of the hard-boiled variety but in a medieval London setting. And each story always involves some sort of mysterious religious relic with mystical powers, either something everyone is trying to get their hands on or something they can’t wait to get rid of.
So in my search for the next good relic, I’ve come across some quite interesting characters as well as fascinating creatures.
This one isn’t exactly medieval—it’s 17th century—but it has inspired its own familiar literature. This is the Demon Dog, or as it’s more famously known, the Beast of Gévaudan.
This is a wolf-like creature that prefers to attack humans, even over sheep and cattle, surely an easier quarry. It is supposed to be unusually large with strange coloration and a strangely-shaped head (indeed, sightings continue to this day, with a photograph of one of these beasts struck down by a car, not looking like any known canine).
The killings—over one hundred of them—occurred first (or were at least first reported) in 1693 in Benais, France. But it is in the mountains of Gévaudan, France, in 1765, that the creature gets its moniker. A fellow named Francois Antoine heard of the killings of women and children and hunted down the beast. He killed a very large wolf, had it stuffed, and sent to the court of Louis XV, but in December in a different locale, the wolf killings started anew. Was it a wolf? A dog/wolf hybrid? A loup-garou (werewolf)?
The fearful image of men transformed into beasts have terrified mankind as long as Man himself has existed sharing stories around a campfire. But other tales of manmade creatures have terrified, too, long before Mary Shelly penned Frankenstein.
In the third installment of my medieval mystery series, a Golem will make an appearance. A Golem is that fantastical creature born of man’s desire to create life from the simplest of forms (like from clay) and his need for supernatural protection. A Golem is a mindless creature, only given life when a Hebrew glyph is inscribed on its chest, forehead, or placed in its mouth, created by Jews to protect their community. The words of creation derive from the Kabbalah, but it is only through extreme desperation that the power of the Golem is invoked at all. It is only natural, perhaps, that the story of the Golem as we know it arose during the Middle Ages. This was the time when Jews were being kicked out of many European countries: from England in 1290, from Spain in 1492, from France…numerous times. Crusaders made no differentiation between the Saracen infidel and Jews they met along the way and so whole communities of Jews were wiped out by crusading knights. Every strange death in towns and in villages was blamed on Jews, and fearing for their lives, they found their hope in the defensive powers of the Golem, a large, silent and plodding creature stalking the dark streets. Scary enough, no?
Faced with such strange creatures and daunting relics takes a strong man, an avid detective. And so my ex-knight Crispin Guest prowls those dark streets as well, searching out the bad guys with his intellect, his fists, and sometimes through the beds of beautiful femme fatales.
Demon dog, indeed.