For Mary Stewart Day 2017, it seems right to post something about The Gabriel Hounds. After all, not only is today the date on which Mary Stewart was born but this week marks exactly 50 years since The Gabriel Hounds was first published. So for Mary Stewart Day I have written and posted a summary page on the novel here, and now this post gives some additional snippets of information.
In celebration of the book’s 50th birthday, I have bought the beautiful new Hodder paperback edition pictured above (any excuse!). Another way of looking at this anniversary is that The Gabriel Hounds was published just as Mary Stewart was celebrating her 51st birthday. And what a great birthday present to herself this turned out to be: according to Burt’s The Chronology of American Literature (an amazing publication accessible for residents of Scotland via National Library of Scotland membership, for example), The Gabriel Hounds was the 9th best-selling fiction book in 1967. Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby was two places ahead. I have no idea what number of books Mary Stewart must have sold to get into the top ten but there is no doubt that she was a hugely successful writer.
At the time of its publication, Mary Stewart was quoted as saying that this might be her last thriller, as she wanted to write something different – this ‘something different’ turned out to be the first of her Merlin novels, The Crystal Cave, in 1970, but of course she also wrote another five thrillers – as well as children’s novels, poetry and further Arthurian books.
Having looked at Mary Stewart’s notes and drafts for The Gabriel Hounds, which are held at the National Library of Scotland, there are a couple of spoiler-free pieces of info that I would like to share today:
- The Gabriel Hounds was not the only book title under consideration. Mary Stewart’s hand-written draft from 1965 mentions two other possible titles for this novel: The Thief in the Candle is one option, and the other is The Adonis Garden. The Adonis Garden makes sense to me because of the Seraglio Garden in Great-Aunt Harriet’s palace, which is situated in the Valley of Adonis. But I’m not too sure I understand the meaning of The Thief in the Candle. I think The Gabriel Hounds is the best of these titles – what do you think?
- At an early point, Christy was called Rosemary. There are also lists of names, mainly those already used by Mary Stewart in previous novels, but including some other names such as Lawrie, Guy, Melissa and Juliet – I have the impression that she was ‘trying out’ names for characters. Even when we have Christy and Charles in an early draft, the surname is Ford (rather than in the published version Mansel), and Christy is short for Christina (rather than Christabel); and
- In the earliest notes, headed The Adonis Garden, we discover that the main characters were originally to have been Vanessa and Lewis March! Yes, you read that right, the main characters of Mary Stewart’s previous novel, Airs Above the Ground (1965), were to return for another adventure! I wish so badly that this had happened. Ideas included that Lady H was writing a book on the Adonis Cult; that Lewis was investigating the murder of a friend and colleague, possibly in Damascus; and that Vanessa was ‘inveigled’ into captivity by being asked in her capacity as vet to look at a dog or a mare somewhere. Ah. Just take a moment to lament that there isn’t a whole series of March mystery books in existence. And films. By Hitchcock (who, incidentally, is name-checked early on in the published version of The Gabriel Hounds).
Okay, I’d love to hear from you if there is anything you want to say, ask or share about this novel. Do you wish that Mary Stewart had written a suspense series based on the same main characters each time? Would you have chosen Vanessa and Lewis to have had more adventures together? – If not them, then who else instead?