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Sometimes it seems that a few people are inordinately blessed with an abundance of talent while the rest of us just muddle along trying to fake it. Hugh Laurie is one of those so blessed.

He was born in Oxford, the youngest of four children of Patricia (née Laidlaw) and  William George Ranald Mundell Laurie, both Presbyterians of Scottish descent. Hugh Laurie notes that

"belief in God didn't play a large role in my home, but a certain attitude to life and the living of it did." He followed this by stating, "pleasure was something that was treated with great suspicion, pleasure was something that... I was going to say it had to be earned but even the earning of it didn't really work. It was something to this day, I mean, I carry that with me. I find pleasure a difficult thing; I don't know what you do with it, I don't know where to put it."
Wikipedia, quoting an interview with The Actor's Studio
I saw him elsewhere on television, emphasizing once again how miserable he was because he so enjoyed his work on House. This fear of pleasure and expectation misery is pretty common amongst Presbyterian Scots and their descendants.

Born in Oxford, he went, of course, to Cambridge, joining Selwyn College, the same college his father attended. (This was after he attended Eton, that very private public school) His father represented Britain in the 1948 London Olympic Games and won a gold medal in the coxless (pairs) rowing. Hugh naturally took up rowing at Cambridge, did very well in it, winning multiple ribbons and awards. He still belongs to the Leander Club, one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world. (As an aside, shortly after writing this paragraph I picked up a mystery revolving around the death of a rower at the Leander Club. Quite a coincidence, except that as any mystery reader knows, there are no coincidences. And now, back to Hugh.)

While at Cambridge, he joined the Footlights Club where he met Emma Thompson who introduced him to Stephen Fry. (Can you just imagine the rehearsals these three put together?) Laurie and Fry co-wrote an annual review, "The Cellar Tapes" which the three performed in Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, winning the first Perrier Comedy Award. It was picked up for a run in London's West End theater district as well as a television show.

Laurie did not graduate Cambridge, but moved to London and pursued a career in television, stage and film with his writing partner Stephen Fry. Some of their best known work includes "Blackadder", "A Bit of Fry and Laurie," and "Jeeves and Wooster," based on the P.G. Wodehouse work. They also did work on the concert stage and Laurie has appeared in films, including a brief role in Emma Thompson's "Sense and Sensibility." In 2004, he began his role as Dr. Gregory House in Fox's "House" television series,

for which he received two Golden Globe awards, two Screen Actors Guild awards, and six Emmy nominations. He has been listed in the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records as the highest paid actor ever in a TV Drama, earning £250,000 per episode in House, and for being the most watched leading man on television.
Musically, he has mastered the piano, saxophone, drums, guitar, and harmonica. He is also a vocalist and keyboard player, has performed at jazz festivals worldwide and released his album, Let Them Talk in 2011.

Here he is performing Unchain my Heart on the Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson in January of 2012. And if you are interested in hearing more, here is a link to the YouTube video of his top tracks.


So, why is it that this man of so many talents can also write a mystery?


There are those who don't consider The Gun Seller as much a mystery as a parody of a mystery. Myself, I thought of it as P.G. Wodehouse meets Robert Ludlum. Which is not a surprise since Laurie admits the powerful influence that Wodehouse has had on his writing. The plot is as complex as any that Ludlum dreamed up. Christopher Buckley, in the New York Times describes it as:

the most engaging literary melange des genres since George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman arrived on the scene. Or as they'd say in a Hollywood pitch meeting: ''Bertie Wooster meets James Bond.''
Thomas Lang lives in London, picking up the occasional job as bodyguard or mercenary that uses the skills he acquired as a member of the Scots Guard. The Gun Seller opens with Lang considering how to properly break someone's arm.
Imagine that you have to break someone’s arm.

Right or left, doesn’t matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don’t ... well, that doesn’t matter either. Let’s just say bad things will happen if you don’t.

Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly - snap, whoops, sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint - or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?

He carries on for more paragraphs, debating the right answer and exceptions to the right answer. His description of the arm to arm combat he is engaged in includes gems like this one:
I backed away from him, dancing on my toes like a very old St Bernard, and looked around for a weapon.
The novel continues in this conversational tone, narrator to reader, as Thomas is drawn into a conspiracy involving terrorists, the CIA, the Ministry of Defense and international arms dealers. And just like a Ludlum novel, it is difficult to describe the plot without giving away too much of the action. Locations include of course, the Swiss Alps, London, Amsterdam and Casablanca. The bad guys are very, very bad and beautiful women are either very good or very bad or both.

Mostly, the book is simply fun. And according to the Buckley review,

There's enough neat gadgetry here to satisfy the hard-core techno-weenie, while at the same time amusing the techno-wimp. Mr. Laurie has done his homework, but knows just where to stop, as in this description of the British missile that shoots down helicopters: ''The system is made up of two handy units, the first being a sealed launch canister, containing the missile, and the second being the semi-automatic-line-of-sight-guidance system, which has a lot of very small, very clever, very expensive electronic stuff inside it.''
Written in 1996 some of the politics do appear a little dated today, but also strangely prescient. While today's terrorist are no longer European as they were in the past, the international gun trade and its ties to the military of the US and the UK are today far more believable to most British and American citizens than they were 17 years ago. There was talk of a Hollywood adaption, and a sequel that was unfortunately never written. That makes me sad.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My thanks to Lorikeet, Avila, and pimutant for (33+ / 0-)

    their contributions to this series in my absence.

    I had planned on visiting my step-daughter here in Chicago for the Thanksgiving Holiday and driving back to California with her and her dog on Dec 3rd. Instead she fell down a couple of steps and broke her ankle/leg in three places. As a result, I have extended my stay here in Chicago (and had the opportunity to visit with other family members as well as enjoy this incredible weather) and am spending most of my time helping her get back on her feet, walking her dog, caring for her cats and enjoying marathon sessions of Glee via Amazon Prime with her.

    Who knew that the most dreaded and anticipated holiday of the year could become so pleasant when all of your plans are completely shredded? We are having a great time together!

    "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

    by Susan Grigsby on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 03:23:53 PM PST

  •  I read this book (9+ / 0-)

    a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely.

    Of course, the fact that I might have a teensy crush on Hugh Laurie, may have influenced my opinion a bit, but it really is a fun read.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:12:44 PM PST

  •  Delighted to learn (8+ / 0-)

    that you are having a terrific holiday with your stepdaughter (although sorry for her misfortune).

    The book sounds wonderful...well, you had me at "Bertie Wooster meets James Bond."

    Love Love Love the Jeeves novels.  And the Bond movies I've seen.

    Thanks again for the info about Amazon Instant Video.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:15:36 PM PST

    •  It is our source for the Glee marathon. And for me (6+ / 0-)

      Downton Abbey.

      Our Christmas plans involve Les Mis in a movie theater. Hope she can sit up long enough.

      The book is fun, with laugh out loud lines.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:21:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Okay... (7+ / 0-)
        The book is fun, with laugh out loud lines.
        Now you really have me.  Maybe it will be my birthday present next is surely in pb and available from Amazon by now.

        I have been watching Netflix: eight bucks a month -- worth it for the foreign films alone, although their collection is...weird.  Two Ang Lee movies (both wonderful) but not Crouching Tiger?

        But there's enough good -- that is to say, of interest to moi -- content to justify the minor expense.  MUCH cheaper than cable.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:56:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I love being able to netflix marathon (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Youffraita, Susan from 29, Brecht

          I just ran through Downton Abbey and Sherlock on netflix. (Wow, the guy who played Moriarty was great!) And then, still in a Brit frame of mind, I bought The Hour from iTunes. (It's about a BBC news hour production in the late 50s, with the actor who played McNulty in The Wire. It's excellent, too.)

          Between netflix and hulu plus, I haven't missed cable.

          "I find myself at a loss for unsubpoenaed words." Stephen Colbert

          by scilicet on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 08:48:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  If I find out (11+ / 0-)

    that Hugh Laurie can paint and draw, TOO........

    well, I'll be .. dashed upset about it !!!!!

    For me, he lives and breathes Bertie Wooster - absolute perfection. Also loved his work on 'Black Adder'.

     I never have got into 'House' - the other characters never got my attention and his Dr. only has one or two reactions to anything. It seems very formulaic, with the 'horrid symptom that gets worse and worse' etc. But, I love NCIS which is just as formulaic, in it's own way, so -

     His musical abilities are humongous ! What a guy.

    “Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who agitate!” Julian Bond

    by Dvalkure on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:40:33 PM PST

  •  Thank you, Susan! (10+ / 0-)

    I am very sorry about your step-daughter's fall and I hope her recovery goes well.  

    I will put this book on my wish list and I am doing another order, tonight, so I will most likely have it soon.

    I am a fan of Hugh, of course.  In the Jeeves and Wooster series, Bertie sang sometimes.  I did love those shows.

    Best wishes!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 05:44:05 PM PST

  •  I haven't read The Gun Seller (7+ / 0-)

    As a brand new member of Amazon Prime and the owner of my very first tablet - the Kindle Fire HD, I've been busy discovering the joys of e-books and all the fun new things I can access.  It hasn't been a productive week, because I've spent way too much time playing with my new toy.  I just read The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch on the Kindle.  I have heard of The Hangman's Daughter series but this is the first book I've read in the series.  I wasn't sure how I'd like e-books, but find that I like them just fine.  

    I also finished Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, after a discussion here(?) recently.  I can't believe I missed it before.

    I wish your step-daughter a speedy recovery.  That doesn't sound like she will have a fun time for a few months.  Broken ankles are not good.  But good on both of you for making the best of a bad "break".

    •  How did you like the Dark Monk? I got half way (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne, Aunt Pat, myrealname

      through the Hangman's Daughter and put it aside.

      Avila wrote the diary about Scott Turow's work here.

      I love my kindle, and with the other gadgets I have the Amazon Prime benefits are terrific. Where I live, my main shopping options are WalMart and soon, Super WalMart. Paying the $70 has paid off in shipping costs over the years and has given me a source not owned by the Waltons.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:32:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, as for The Dark Monk (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan from 29, Brecht

        there were some things I liked, but others that didn't thrill me.  The way that clues appeared just when the characters had almost given up, and then MAGICALLY, some branch breaks or something and the next clue shows up.  That happened over and over, and it seemed like pretty unsophisticated story-telling.  The other thing that bothered me a lot was how the story line shifted from place to place and character to character with no logical segway between.  You'd be reading about something happening in one place to one person and suddenly (and I do mean suddenly) you'd be somewhere else reading about somebody else.  But everyone in our family is sick and I wasn't deep into the book, so it was an okay read.  I'm not sure if I'll look for any more books in the series.

        I can't remember how much I paid for the prime benefits, but it wasn't much.  Plus I got a $50 credit when I signed up, so it feels like a real deal.  I love being able to borrow a book from Amazon once a month for free, and I love having my Kindle linked to Amazon to get books downloaded so easily.  I'm hooked.

  •  Blessings on you both for making the best (9+ / 0-)

    of a painful and potentially difficult situation. I hope her recovery continues to be uneventful.

    Laurie is a fine musician, and yes, it does seem to be more than a little unfair.

    BTW, I really like the Deborah Crombie mysteries. Some more than others; I think a couple of the early ones (All Will Be Well and another rather religiously-based one) were excellent. More emphasis now on the pair, Duncan and Gemma, and less on theme, alas.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 06:18:15 PM PST

  •  not to mention that (5+ / 0-)
    Sometimes it seems that a few people are inordinately blessed with an abundance of talent

    he's pretty easy on the eyes too . . .
  •  Definitely going onto my to-read list (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, Susan from 29, Brecht

    I had no idea he'd written this book. The parts you quote are charming, I can't wait. Thanks.

    I have a big crush on him. (Imagine what a scintillating couple he and Emma Thompson made while they were together!) I've loved every show he's been in, and what they've seemed to show about him. It'll be fun to see if the book has bits of the sensibilities he brought to Bertie Wooster and House and his Frye & Laurie characters.

    "I find myself at a loss for unsubpoenaed words." Stephen Colbert

    by scilicet on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 08:39:51 PM PST

    •  It was one of the kindle daily deals and was (0+ / 0-)

      selling for $1.99, making it a real no-brainier.

      Very droll, very dry British wit made it a pleasure to read, even when some of the plot seemed a bit outlandish.

      "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 09:26:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hugh Laurie (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, Ahianne, Brecht

    I first discovered him thru Jeeves and Wooster plus some Black Adder, which led to watching House. So I knew he could act, play the piano and sing. And obviously he and Fry wrote theatrical things. But I didn't know about the novel! I'll have to check it out, I know he is very funny, and I like funny. And I'm glad you and yours are having fun, despite and maybe even partly because of the very inauspicious start. I guess that's a variation on living well is the best revenge--having fun is better than being glum.

    If your internal map of reality doesn't match external conditions, bad things happen.--Cambias

    by pimutant on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 10:32:36 PM PST

  •  Reading Laurie's bio (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, Brecht

    I find it amusing that he was such an athlete, given that Bertie Wooster is such a slouch, and collapses in exhaustion if he has to run a block!
    Thanks for the book tip; this solves a gift problem! :-)

    I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

    by sillia on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 08:04:39 AM PST

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