Glan Rhondda*

In 1990, having finished the first (the blitz) draft of Crossed Wires — during whose composition I read mysteries almost exclusively — I stopped at a bookstore in South Jersey, hungry for something to read. My appetite of the moment was for a book, any book, which I’d been curious about for years but had never read. I wanted something substantial, preferably not overpowering (no Finnegan’s Wake, please). A classic, but one which I could carry in a hip pocket.

I departed the store with Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

Many have had a similar chance encounter with the tales of King Arthur, and like me have said to themselves, “Hmm…,” and then gone on to investigate something more of the story, which leads them to more, and then even further to other related back alleys of myth and literature. The hobby seems so innocent at first, just a pleasant diversion — deluded (as such hapless folk are) into thinking it’s all “just” the story of Knights of Old, the Round Table, the Holy Grail, Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot…

Finally they emerge at the far end (if they ever do) blinking, as though they’ve just spent a week spelunking and emerged at high noon in the desert. (High noon, right. It wouldn’t much surprise us to be greeted by Gary Cooper, wielding a broadsword instead of a revolver: that’s how surrealistic the experience can feel.)

Suddenly they know more than they ever imagined knowing about odd stuff like metallurgy, pre-Roman Britain, the odd and quite mysterious turnings and mergings of one legend into another, medieval French Romances, ecclesiastical rumor and history, and… Wales.

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