by Marvin Lachman

C. W. SCOTT-GILES – The Wimsey Family: A Fragmentary History Compiled from Correspondence with Dorothy Sayers.


Victor Gollancz Ltd, UK, hardcover, 1977; New English Library, pb, 1979. Harper & Row, US, hc, 1978; Avon, pb, October 1979.

   As a fan of Dorothy L. Sayers I would desperately like to recommend The Wimsey Family, by C. W. Scott-Giles. I have long been on record as saying there should be more of the Baker Street Irregular type of speculative writing about other detectives than Sherlock Holmes.

   Based on correspondence with Sayers, Scott-Giles has provided a genealogical history of Lord Peter Wimsey. However, most of it concerns pre-1700 history and does not directly Concern the characters Sayers created. It may be of interest to students of arms and heraldry, but it is not especially vital to mystery fans. It certainly provides no answers to such vital questions as: what really occurred between Lord Peter and the German soprano in Vienna?

   This is also an over-priced book. Refuting the conventional laws of supply and demand, the [US hardcover] publisher has apparently assumed that since there will be a small audience, a high price is needed to maximize profit (or minimize loss). Six dollars and ninety-five cents is a bit much, even in these inflated times, for an 88 page book with a handful of drawings and not even a family tree diagram, something essential to an enterprise of this sort.

   Mr. Scott-Giles, due to his obvious love of the Wimsey canon, would appear to have been well-qualified to do the definitive “biography” of Lord Peter. It is unfortunate that he did not give himself a wider canvas.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 4, July-Aug 1979       (very slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 12-24-08.   Geoff Bradley just emailed me (this is Steve) to point out that the Dorothy L. Sayers Society has recently published a new edition of this book. The price, including postage to the US, $38. (Don’t anyone tell Marv.)

   For more details, email me or Geoff (at Geoffcads @, or even better if you’re a subscriber to CADS, the mystery zine that Geoff publishes, see page 14 of #55, the most recent issue.

   Highlights of #55 include a long article by Agatha Christie written in 1945 in which she discusses the work of her contemporary mystery writers; Josef Hoffmann on Mildred Davis; Jon L. Breen on Charlie Chan; and more. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

   To obtain a copy and/or to start a subscription, contact Geoff (address above). Highly recommended!