I never paid much attention to Michael Gilbert until last year. I had seen his name around and knew of a few of his books but for the most part, he was not on my radar. Until I learned about the short stories Gilbert wrote about Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens. Once I read the two collections of stories I fell hard for Michael Gilbert.
I just started reading his 1984 novel The Black Seraphim. It concerns a young pathologist suffering from exhaustion who leaves London and heads to the cathedral town of Melchester to spend a month recovering. Dr. James Scotland's vacation does not go according to plan when there is a murder in the town and he is drawn into it. I have become a compulsive Googler of things while I read and I was puzzled as to why I could not find Melchester on a map of England. I knew I had heard of the place before. It sounds like a real place. After a bit of research, I figured out that it was from Thomas Hardy that I knew of Melchester, from Jude the Obscure. Over his writing career Hardy created a fictionalized region of England called Wessex for his books and Gilbert had used the Wessex town of Melchester for The Black Seraphim. (Also, Hardy's wife had a dog named Wessex, a terrier.)
I love the idea of using someone else's fictional universe as a setting. Gilbert's appropriation of a place from Wessex has had me thinking of other great fictional places. Some of my all-time favorites: