Bishop Pecock
(creator: Margaret Frazer)

Gail Frazer
Bishop Raynald Pecock had been an Oxford scholar and Fellow of Oriel College before moving to Whittington College in London. He was subsequently made Bishop of St Asaph's. His poor eyesight compelled him to wear glasses with thick wooden rims, but he was both clever (he was accused of being "too clever") and very observant. He was quietly spoken and kindly, even if he "talked a great deal about things no one wanted to listen to" and could be very long-winded, but he made an astute detective.

There had been a real Bishop Pecock who had been a distinguished theologian, noted for his coining of new words in the English language. He too had come from Oriel College, been master of Whittington College, and Bishop of St Asaph's (as well as Chichester). But the character the author invented who "always seemed to see everything" was much more of a medieval Father Brown than a portrayal of the real person. Nevertheless, he is a potentially interesting character who deserves to appear in more than just a handful of short stories.

Margaret Frazer (real name: Gail Frazer,1946-2013) was an archeology major who found she had shelves of research on 15th century England, and developed novel writing as a way of making use of it. She lived in the countryside north of Elk River, Minnesota, with four cats. She was once married, and was left with two sons, now grown-up. She tried a variety of jobs, including that of librarian, secretary, TV researcher, and even assistant matron at an English girls' school. She was first diagnosed with cancer over twenty years ago and says that, "Mostly I've seen the cancer as a great annoyance and distraction, getting in the way of my work", but she made use of the experience in some of her writing. She published some 24 historical novels including the Dame Frevisse and the Player Joliffe books.

The Simple Logic of It (2010)
The Simple Logic of It is set at the time of the Wars of the Roses, when Richard of York, just returned from fighting in Normandy, has to struggle to save his reputat
ion and his life.

It is the first published short story featuring Bishop Pecock, but is described on the cover as "a tale of Richard, Duke of York". When Richard's enemies claim to have discovered a letter on a corpse that implicates him in a possible plot against King Henry, it is Pecock who can reassure him that "Everything about that letter is false" and is able to prove it when the Duke is called to account. Pecock explains, "One notices things .... and asks questions. I can't help it."

It makes an ingenious little tale which, the author assures us, is based on fact. Bishop Pecock emerges as an interesting character. It is only available as an e-book, and, although it is inexpensive, some customers have complained that they are not getting much for their money. Perhaps it would have been better to have combined all the stories in one publication.

Heretical Murder (2011)
Heretical Murder is described as a novelette. It's actually just another short story. It takes place in 1431, years before Pecock became a bishop, when he was one of a college of five priests serving Master Whittington's Almshouse in London.

Twelve year old Dick Colop ran errands and helped the servants there in exchange for lessons in Latin and penmanship. It is he who tells his Latin tutor, Sire Pecock, about a man who has been cut down in the busy streets of London. The sheriff thinks it must have been the result of a tavern brawl, but Dick has reason to think otherwise, so Pecock takes him along with him to find out more, and encourages him to work out what had really happened. It makes another ingenious if rather slight story.

It is rather oddly described as "A tale of Bishop Pecock" although it takes place long before Pecock became a bishop.

Lowly Death (2011)
Lowly Death is another "tale of Bishop Pecock" but also set in a time before Pecock became a bishop. Pecock (now in his forties and called Master Pecock instead of Sire Pecock for no explained reason) comes to the aid of young man Dick Collop when the mother of Dick's friend apparently slips, falls and dies. Dick explains to Pecock, "Something did not feel right". He had noticed something odd: a candle that had rolled under a table leaving a strange splattering of wax a foot away from it. So Pecock takes him with him to investigate further.

There's a lot of talk and not much action. Of course, Pecock sorts out what had really happened - but it's the weakest of the three short stories so far and not really strong enough to stand on its own.



The author had her own website which her children are continuing. There's an interview with her on the Whistling Shade site. There are also interesting interviews about "getting medieval" with her (and Sharan Newman) on a site by Jeri Westerson (recommended, despite it's narrow columns that make it hard to read!)



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Gail Frazer
Heretical Murder cover
This stained glass window at Chichester cathedral shows the real Bishop Pecock (c1395-1461).
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