REMEMBERING AUTHOR GERALD HAMMOND
I have just received the sad news of the passing of prolific
Scottish mystery writer Gerald Hammond. I’ve been friends with Gerald for many
years. So many years, in fact, that when we first started corresponding it was via those old fashioned things called letters, switching to email only after technology caught up with both of us. We shared writing
problems, created plots together, and generally enjoyed each other’s company.
I even had the opportunity to meet Gerald and his wife Gilda for dinner one
evening as they passed through Los Angeles on their way to a cruise ship.
Born in 1926, Gerald lived in Scotland, where he retired
from his profession as an architect in 1982 to pursue his love of shooting and
fishing and to write full time. After his first novel, Fred in Situ, was published in 1965, Gerald became a prolific
author with over 70 published novels. His last title, The Unkindest Cut, was
published in 2012. Most of his novels were published under his own name, but he
also wrote under the pseudonyms Arthur Douglas and Dalby Holden.
Gerald is best known for his two mystery series characters: Gunsmith
Keith Calder, and Three Oaks dog kennel owner John Cunningham. Both series
allowed Gerald to indulge in his passions for guns, dogs, bird hunting, fly fishing,
and all things outdoors in the Scottish countryside.
In his late seventies and eighties, while up and down in
health, Gerald mostly left his series characters behind. He focused instead on
standalone novels. Most of these were mysteries, but others featured excitements
or passions that caught his fancy, including Formula One racing (Fine Tune), and gliding (Into the Blue).
In the twenty-three Keith Calder novels and the eleven Three
Oaks novels, Gerald created enduring characters with strong family ties who all
aged appropriately as the series continued. Often, Gerald let one of the series
secondary characters take center stage if the plot revolved around something
specific to their personality or situation.
The Keith Calder series started with Dead Game in 1979: Keith Calder is an
itinerant gunsmith and shooting instructor. He is also a rascal with total
disregard for the law, a skilled and dedicated poacher of birds of both
Calder is the guest at
a shoot in the Scottish Borders when one of the syndicate members dies –
apparently by accident. However, a bullet is found in his body. Yet only
shotguns were carried on the shoot. Was he killed by a sniper or by a stray
bullet? Or is there some other explanation?
Calder has a personal
and very secret interest in the case, but his involvement deepens when the
brother of his current girlfriend, Molly, is arrested and charged with the
murder – especially as there is no love lost between the two men.
Molly asks Keith to
use his expertise on her brother’s behalf. But in agreeing to make his own
inquiries, Calder finds he is trying to save himself, and his activities lead
him and Molly into violent personal danger.
In 1989, Gerald introduced Captain John Cunningham in the
first Three Oaks mystery, Dog in the Dark: Captain John
Cunningham is a veteran of the Falklands war who has recently been invalided
out of the army. Deciding to set up in civilian
life as a trainer and breeder of gun dogs – a passion he can indulge and also
earn a little money. He takes on Isobel Kitts as a partner, a trained vet whose
skill is matched, perhaps too strongly, by her enthusiasm.
Dog breeding proves to
be a ruthlessly competitive business – and a hazardous one, as Cunningham
learns when another breeder is found murdered.
Wore, it is soon discovered that the weapon was a product of Cunningham’s
With the comfortable
new life he’s planned under threat, Cunningham must extricate himself from a situation
as dangerous, in its way, as anything he faced during his military career.
1991 brought the publication of the seventeenth Keith Calder
novel, In Camera, a tale which Gerald
and I had discussed in depth as it was being written. My copy is hand inscribed in Gerald’s
inimitable scrawl: Paul, you suggested
parts of the plot. Now here's your promised copy. Hope you like it. Gerald.
It holds pride of place on the shelf-and-a-half of my bookcases, which hold
copies all of Gerald’s novels.
In 2006, Gerald introduced another series character, Edinburgh's
Detective Sergeant Honey Laird and her trusty crime-solving labrador, Pippa. Cold Relations was Honey’s first case,
and was followed by two other novels in the series in 2007, A Dead Question and Loving Memory.
With his expert knowledge of guns and his love of the
Scottish countryside, Gerald created marvelous backgrounds against which he set
puzzling, credible, and thoroughly entertaining whodunits. His books were not long
tedious, padded, thrillers. Instead they are almost of another age, ingenious
plots, characters with whom you want to spend time, and a world to which you
eagerly anticipate returning.
I enjoyed each of the books in all of Gerald’s series – and his
standalones – and I continued to read and savor each new Gerald Hammond novel
as it arrived. I am sad there will be no more to read. I am even sadder to have
lost a good friend, but know Gerald lived a full life surrounded by family and
dogs who loved him, and by the beauty of the Scottish outdoors he cherished so
For a full bibliography of Gerald Hammond’s books CLICK HERE