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  • Kristin Bundesen, PhD

Recovering from Dunnett

I've fan-girled out on Dunnett. After several days staying up till three in the morning writing two lectures, followed by days of thoughtfully arranged day trips and excursions in and around Edinburgh punctuated by cake, I am recovering from a total immersion in Dunnett-land. I'm exhausted and elated. All Hail the Centenary Gathering!


Dunnett readers are incredibly well informed about the places and history that surround and inform the books. They will spend days tracking down the likely location of a manor that appears in two scenes in a 500 page book that is one book of six 500-page books in a series. They will investigate obscure genealogical links to the historical Macbeth, who readers call Thorfinn because of King Hereafter. They will track how much arsenic is needed to coat a tray of candied fruit. And they make the best friends and traveling companions in the 21st century.

Edinburgh Castle, April 9:30 PM. Still light in the sky

Robert Carey riding through the night to tell King James of Scotland that he is now also king of England. His sister, Philadelphia Carey Scrope threw a ring out the window for Robert to take to James as proof of Elizabeth's demise. The Great Tapestry of Scotland.

The Centenary Gathering and adjacent academic conference was a feat of organization that astounds. There were approximately 200 attendees for the 2-day academic conference and roughly a hundred more for the Gathering Lecture Day and subsequent events. I only participated in one event a day but there were several each and every day for a week. Talks, guided tours, an amazing concert in St. Giles, coach trips to Stirling, Linlithgow, Traquair, Hadrian's Wall, the Great Tapestry of Scotland, Melrose Abbey, and welcome dinners, informal dinners, and a gala dinner. - bagpipes and all.

The Gala Dinner menu. Oh So Scottish!

Of course, one of my favorite parts was the private session in the National Library of Scotland, the archives, with a selection of Dorothy Dunnett's papers curated for our inspection by the archivist. If I could have, I would have dragged a sleeping bag under the table and camped out there for weeks.

Mapping a sword fight in St. Giles. Dunnett Archives, National Library of Scotland.

Lots of time was spent hunting down copies of the newly re-released Tropical Issue. This is one of the books from the Dolly, or Johnson Johnson, mystery series that are set primarily in the 1970s and have been out of print for over a decade. The listserv would light up with 'found a copy at such and such a bookstore' announcements. By the third day, there were no copies left for sale in Edinburgh. The readers had hunted them all down and bought them.

There are too many pictures to share.

Dunnett's notes for The Ringed Castle. National Library of Scotland.

My sincere gratitude to the organizers and the larger society for the incredible organizational feat and the generosity extended to me personally and the entire gathering.

Cake - Linlithgow.


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