Thursday, January 29, 2015

UPDATE: Mystery writers

In my fairly recent, epic update to my Overwhelming List, there were 11 authors added who wrote (or allegedly wrote) one or more mysteries. I've now had a chance to add those authors into the Mystery List. Sadly, because Blogger makes it rather challenging to make significant edits to a post (especially one containing a table, as all my lists do) without completely unexpected and undesirable results, this has meant that I had to, effectively, recreate all three parts of that list, and in order to preserve my own sanity I've removed some of the cover pics these posts originally featured. Alas. But as a result, the list is that much more informative and inclusive, so that will have to do for now.

These 11 authors include two who have seen a perhaps surprising resurgence of availability in the past couple of years. The British Library has reprinted all three of MAVIS DORIEL HAY's mysteries from the mid-1930s. I'm intrigued by them, especially the first, Murder Underground, in which the London Tube features prominently, but The Passing Tramp was distinctly underwhelmed by that one and I've heard from other readers that Hay's works haven't fully lived up to their potential. I may still have to check one out—especially since I can borrow them with my Amazon Prime account…

And A. FIELDING is surely as big a mystery in her own right as any of the puzzles she created. The best researchers in the business, including John Herrington who has given me so much of his expert assistance, have tried their hand at positively identifying Fielding, but have ultimately had to admit defeat. John is convinced that she is in fact a Dorothy Feilding, though definitely not the Lady Dorothy Feilding with whom she has been identified in the past (among other things, Lady Dorothy died about a decade before the other Dorothy Feilding stopped writing). John has successfully tracked Feilding during the years from 1925 until 1944, but has been unable to locate birth or death records to really ground his identification. The mystery continues… Only last year, Passing Tramp wrote about Fielding's personal mysteriousness, and his speculations about Fielding and Agatha Christie—though he acknowledges them to be unlikely (to say the least)—are also quite fun to read and bring out some very interesting links between the two women.

Of course, several of the other new additions to my list remain shrouded in almost as much obscurity as Fielding. When I corresponded with John about MARY DURHAM, he said he had contacted her publisher and it seemed possible that records might remain about her, but the publisher had not so far been responsive to his inquiries. You can read a bit more about the mystery here. (By the way, thanks to the reader who suggested Durham for my list quite a few months ago—alas, I can't seem to locate who it was, but I appreciate the suggestion, whoever was the source of it.)

MARGARET ARCHER, ANITA BOUTELL¸and HILDA DANVERS DEARDON are also pretty obscure, and I haven't located birth or death dates for either. Of Boutell's 1938 novel, Tell Death to Wait, a contemporary review (I've lost the source—my research skills for this post have been shameful) states:

The mystery element in this is thin, but as a story of murder it holds water. Successively told from four angles, it shows selfish, ruthless Leo whose death her husband, lover and guests determine shall be known as an accident. Nan, her loyal friend, is firm on proving it murder, but is blocked by hearing the past and the reason for the killing. There's a neat twist to the end.

Which is the extent of my knowledge about Boutell, and my knowledge of Archer and Deardon isn't even that extensive.

I at least have dates for JOAN COWDROY, who must have been fairly successful in her day as her output totalled at least 20 novels. Of her early novel The Inscrutable Secretary (1924), the Queenslander had this to say:

The Inscrutable Secretary (Hutchinson) is a really fine story of romantic love, big business, and mystery. John Marston, secretary, and adopted son of the South American millionaire, Anthony Farren, finds the affairs of the latter's bank in his hand after a shocking motor accident, when Farren is almost killed. He carries on in spite of overwhelming anxiety, suspicion, and enough mystery to have stranded a weaker man. … [I]t is a splendid story, well told.

I'm not sure I feel compelled to track it down, but it's nice to know something about Cowdroy's style.

I already mentioned LUCY BEATRICE MALLESON in my post on the backs of books not long ago. Her alter-ego, Anne Meredith, was mentioned on the back of Winifred Peck's Unseen Array, which sparked my curiosity, and I still find myself intrigued by the title included there, A Fig for Virtue. Malleson was obviously a successful writer in her day, especially with the many novels she published as "Anthony Gilbert," but there don't seem to have been any significant efforts to revive or reprint her works in recent years. An undiscovered treasure? Or not?

One of Malleson's other pseudonyms for wen
she needed a break from mystery writing

And finally, the three remaining authors added to the Mystery List have all been (or will soon be) included in my school story author update posts, but they all have at least a vague connection to mystery writing as well.

FREDA HURT, who wrote two school stories—The Wonderful Birthday (1953) and Fun Next Door (1954)—seems to have had the most success in mysteries, publishing several over the course of more than a decade after hanging up her girls' school author hat.

The other two have a more tenuous connection to mystery writing. M. C. RAMSAY is known to have written several novels for adults in addition to her one school story, but details about them are sparse. I'm speculating that Was She Guilty? (1920), at least, was a mystery, but this is little more than a guess based on its title.

And WINIFRED DONALD's inclusion is even tenuous. Sims & Clare mention that she wrote mystery stories, but if they were ever published in book form, she apparently used an as-yet-unknown (to me, at least) pseudonym. But I'm including her with this open query in the hope that someone who knows may provide a clue to the, er, mystery.

Below are the list entries for each of the nine authors and a few more cover photos just for the fun of it.

MARGARET ARCHER (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of eight novels of the 1940s and 1950s, the first two of which, at least—Canter's Chase (1945) and Gull Yard (1947)—are mysteries; others include Flowers for Teacher (1948), The Silent Sisters (1950), The Gentle Rain (1952), and See a Fine Lady (1955).

ANITA BOUTELL (dates unknown)
More research needed; forgotten mystery writer of the late 1930s and early 1940s.  Her works include Tell Death to Wait (1938), Death Has a Past (1939), and Cradled in Fear (1943). Death Brings a Storke (1938) could be a US edition of Tell Death to Wait or a fourth novel.

JOAN A[LICE]. COWDROY (1884-1946)
Author of at least 20 mysteries from the 1920s to 1940s, including Brothers-In-Love (1922), The Inscrutable Secretary (1924), Watch Mr Moh! (1931), Murder Unsuspected (1936), Death Has No Tongue (1938), and Merry-Go-Round (1940).

More research needed; author of at least nine novels of the 1930s which appear to be adventure and spy stories, including "This Road Is Dangerous!" (1930), The Blonde Madonna (1933), Strange Rendezvous (1934), The Trappings Are Gorgeous (1937), and Dust in Her Eyes (1940).

WINIFRED DONALD (dates unknown)
Author of five girls' mystery tales with some school content, including Linda—the Schoolgirl Detective (1949), Linda in Lucerne (1950), Linda and the Silver Greyhounds (1952), Linda in Cambridge (1955), and Linda in New York; reportedly, she also wrote adult mysteries under an as-yet-unidentified pseudonym (??).

MARY DURHAM (dates unknown)
Author of at least nine mystery novels, some or all featuring series character Inspector York, but little else is known of her; titles include Why Pick on Pickles? (1945), Keeps Death His Court (1946), Cornish Mystery (1946), Murder Has Charms (1948), and Castle Mandragora (1950).

A. FIELDING (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of Dorothy Feilding)
Mystery writer of the 1920s-1940s whose real identity remains shrouded in obscurity; titles include The Charteris Mystery (1925), Murder at the Nook (1929), The Westwood Mystery (1932), Tragedy at Beechcroft (1935), Mystery at the Rectory (1936), and Pointer to a Crime (1944).

MAVIS DORIEL HAY (1894–1979)
(married name Fitzrandolph)
Author of three mystery novels of the mid-1930s, recently rediscovered and reprinted by the British Library—Murder Underground (1934), Death on the Cherwell (1935), and The Santa Klaus Murder (1936); she also co-wrote several books about rural crafts in the 1920s.

Author of numerous children's books and a series of mysteries; works include the school stories The Wonderful Birthday (1953) and Fun Next Door (1954), as well as The Body at Busman's Hollow (1959), Sweet Death (1961), Death and the Dark Daughter (1966), and Dark Design (1972).

(aka Lucy Egerton, aka Anthony Gilbert, aka J. Kilmeny Keith, aka Sylvia Denys Hooke, aka Anne Meredith)
Prolific author of mysteries under her Gilbert pseudonym, featuring Arthur Crook, as well as mainstream fiction as Anne Meredith; titles include Death At Four Corners (1929), An Old Lady Dies (1934), Mrs Boot's Legacy (1941), A Fig for Virtue (1951), and Ring for a Noose (1963).

M. C. RAMSAY (dates unknown)
Author of one girls' school story, Betty Bruce, Beverley Scholar (1926) (sensational but great fun, according to Sims & Clare), as well as several adult novels, including James Ogilvy's Experiment (1907), Stephen Martin, MD (1908), The Doctor's Angel (1914), and Was She Guilty? (1920).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nothing by half measures (and a thank you)

I have to start off with a big "thank you" for all of the congratulations so many of you offered for our big day. I was especially moved by the fact that several readers who have never commented before were inspired to share their good wishes—I feel like I have many friends I never even knew about! It was so nice to "meet" you all, and also to hear from so many old friends, many of whom deserve to be considered collaborators on this blog, for all of the support and suggestions and inspiration they've provided. Andy and I appreciate your good wishes very much.

Now, back to the books—of which there are alarmingly many, as you're about to find out.

About two times per year (not counting the library's Big Book Sales which happen twice a year and always result in a pile or so of new acquisitions for ridiculously little expenditure), all of my self-restraint breaks down and I have a good old-fashioned book-buying binge. One of those binges usually corresponds to the holiday season, when I seem to feel compelled to counteract how much I hate the enforced shop-til-you-drop mentality by, rather perversely, engaging in some shopping-til-I-drop.

Sometimes, they happen to correspond with some small unexpected windfall (it being my belief that found money should always be offered up as a sacrifice to the book-shopping gods), though it is also true that the expenditure has a strange way of exceeding the actual amount of the windfall. Funny, that. In this case, the excuse, at least, for the binge, was a very generous windfall of Amazon gift cards from my kind new employers, who somehow sensed that books might be the best possible gift, and an additional holiday surprise from my sister.

I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed of the size of the pile of books which have entered our apartment in the past few weeks as a result of burning through all those gift cards (and a fair amount more, I confess) in one sitting. But I can tell you that the photo above required as much delicacy in balancing that mountain of tomes as in photographing them in a way that you may (if you open it up and squint a little, at least) be able to make out most of the titles.

You'll quickly note that this binge has a distinct flavour of children's books about it, and that the children's books are distinctly skewed towards those published by Girls Gone By. 17 of the new books are Girls Gone By reprints, with the result that my GGB collection now nearly spans an entire bookcase shelf. Of course I couldn't resist trying to see how that will look once all the TBR books have relocated to the "have read" shelves:

Of the new GGB additions, I already listed ELFRIDA VIPONT's The Spring of the Year as one of my favorites of 2014. I've now acquired its two sequels as well as the first of the two books Vipont had written earlier, which take place in an earlier generation of the same family. GGB apparently didn't reprint those two titles, The Lark in the Morn and The Lark on the Wing, because they were in print and readily available from American religious publisher Bethlehem Books. Sadly, however, Bethlehem seems to have let the second lapse out of print now, and perhaps the first will soon follow suit. Perhaps GGB will be able to do a complete set after all?

I also finally acquired JOSEPHINE ELDER's two precursors to The Scholarship Girl at Cambridge, which I reviewed last year. It so happened that The Scholarship Girl arrived before Erica Wins Through, and I found myself plunging in, so I will soon have read the entire trilogy in exactly the reverse order. Oh, well. I added two of the Mellings series by MARGARET BIGGS, already becoming hard to find though they only recently went out of print. I added two more of DORITA FAIRLIE BRUCE's Colmskirk series, two more VIOLET NEEDHAM tales, three by MONICA EDWARDS, and another MABEL ESTHER ALLAN title. I also added one GGB GWENDOLINE COURTNEY, as well as a cute reprint of Courtney's Elizabeth of the Garret Theatre (originally called Stepmother and also reprinted in the U.S. as Those Verney Girls).

Obviously, I'm excited about GGB's offerings. But you've all seen their covers before and in some ways it's even more fun tracking down copies of the even more obscure titles that haven't been reprinted by anyone yet. I was delighted to finally be able to get my hot little hands on KITTY BARNE's Musical Honours, a family story set in the immediate postwar years, which I've already posted about here.

But Call Me Madam had also recommended, along similar lines, VIRGINIA PYE's The Prices Return, so I grabbed that one too.

And I grabbed a nice hardcover edition of MABEL ESTHER ALLAN's later novel, Catrin in Wales, the description of which in an earlier GGB intro made it sound enticing. It was a rather bedraggled ex-library copy, hence its low low price, but by cutting off the grungy old mylar dustjacket cover and replacing it with a shiny new one, I was able to give it a whole new lease on life. Apart from a few library marks inside, its now a quite attractive addition to my shelves.

CAROL FORREST's The House of Simon has been calling my name ever since I came across a reference to it several months ago, so it went on the shopping list too:

And I have no idea if MOLLIE CHAPPELL is really as interesting as she sounds, but the premise of The Sugar and Spice—about girls running a tea shop—proved impossible for me to resist.

I was too cheap to spring for a copy with
this cover, but can't we pretend that
this is how mine looks?

I nabbed my very first reprint from Books to Treasure—E. M. CHANNON's school story, Expelled from St. Madern's—and I have to confess I've already gotten an ebook of another Books to Treasure title—EVELYN SMITH's The First Fifth Form (sadly, ebooks don't make for dramatic photos though).

And finally, yet another school story, but a rather obscure one that I just chanced across. I was intrigued by Sims & Clare's description of A. M. IRVINE's A School Conspiracy when I was working on my last update, and then a single copy became available on Amazon at a quite reasonable price. Need I say more? So now Irvine's book is one of the oldest on my shelves, dating from the mid-1920s, and apart from a bit of warping and yellowing it has weathered the years pretty well.

But there was actually an adult component to this orgy of shopping as well, even if it's a small component. For example, I added four new Rue Morgue Press titles at sinfully cheap prices from Abe Books, so I'll soon be sampling four writers I've yet to read—KATHARINE FARRAR, MAUREEN SARSFIELD, EILIS DILLON, and SHEILA PIM. And I also grabbed JOSEPHINE ELDER's one mystery novel, reprinted by Greyladies. I don't have high hopes for it as a mystery, but I find her insights into the medical world of an earlier day to be endlessly fascinating, so I'm looking forward to it.

Two WWII-era works I've been eyeing also made it into my collection. In a recent update, I singled out JEAN HOWARD's When the Weather's Changing, about the events of one summer late in the war from the perspective of a farmer's wife, as particularly intriguing, and I quickly gave into temptation.

And a very kind email from ESTHER TERRY WRIGHT's son spurred me on to finally add her Pilot's Wife's Log to my collection. I'm excited to share some of what Charles Wright told me about the book and his mother, so there will surely be a post coming about that "soon" (you all know by now that that means hopefully within three months or so, right?).

And of course, last but hardly least, I will acknowledge again the lovely surprise that Tom's gift of Ruth Rendell's A Sleeping Life was. Even arriving, as it did, right in the middle of this flurry of bookshopping, wherein my postperson was no doubt cursing me daily for all the packages he had to deliver, it leaped up my TBR list and provided me with a very enjoyable weekend's reading. Thanks again, Tom!

Now, the next dilemma: where shall I put them all?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some news completely unrelated to books

Although it has nothing whatsoever to do with British women writers or the middlebrow (apart from the fact that it involves a thoroughly unrepentent middlebrow—i.e. me), I have to do a brief post to share with you all a special event that took place last week. We didn't make a lot of fuss about it, invited only four friends who live in the city, and we both worked at our respective jobs for the morning before taking the afternoon off, but last Monday Andy and I headed to beautiful San Francisco City Hall and tied the knot.

As just a bit of background, our relationship has developed right alongside the heating-up of the same-sex marriage issue in the United States. Only a few months after we met in 2008, Gavin Newsom, then mayor of SF, brought things to a head by deciding that there was nothing in the California state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and ordering clerks in San Francisco to begin issuing licenses and performing ceremonies. It was an exciting time, but having just met, we weren't quite ready to take the plunge yet.

Later that year was the big election which saw Barack Obama become president but also saw a proposition passed in California to outlaw same-sex marriage. This left several thousand couples who had married in the intervening months in a kind of limbo—technically married but uncertain about whether their marriages would be invalidated at some point in the future. This limbo continued between 2008 and 2013 while the courts considered the validity of the proposition, and in June of 2013 the proposition was finally struck down and same-sex marriages resumed. Around the same time, President Obama announced that the federal government would recognize all same-sex marriages that were legal in the states where the couples lived, with all the federal tax, insurance, and Social Security benefits that implied.

Allowing for the fact that Andy and I are the kind of people who say, "You know, we really should [insert activity] someday" for at least a few months before we get around to actually doing anything about it, the fact that it only took us a year and a half after the option became available again until we actually made things legal is not really so bad.

We didn't make a huge fuss about it all (we only let our families know when we posted about it on Facebook afterward), as we felt we were really just finalizing what we both already knew and felt. But it's hard not to feel the drama of a ceremony at City Hall when it's so lovely, and even a five-minute exchange of vows holds a certain inherent power and meaning that we both felt. This might be even more true because it's something that for most of our lives we had assumed we would never have the option of doing.

Only a few days after our marriage, the news came that the U.S. Supreme Court will, in a few months, hear and (hopefully) decide the same-sex marriage issue once and for all for the entire U.S. So history will continue to unfold in the next few months, and it's exciting to feel that Andy and I have been a small part of it all.

Two odd details about our marriage at City Hall:

Since the City Hall building is quite lovely and historic (sadly, it was also where trailblazing gay activist Harvey Milk was assassinated, along with then-mayor George Moscone, in 1978), there are always tourists snapping pics. I hadn't quite made the connection that this meant there would be tourists snapping pics of our wedding, but that was indeed the case, including a young Asian woman who seemed to want to capture a real live San Francisco gay wedding from every possible angle to show her friends back home! Oh, well, it's kind of fun to be a tourist attraction, I suppose, for however short a time.

Then, after the ceremony was over, we were heading upstairs to take more pictures among the big dramatic arches and windows, and waiting outside the elevator was a familiar figure—another former SF mayor, Willie Brown, who, when approached out of the blue by my friend Katherine (who would undoubtedly boldly approach the Pope or the President or just about anyone else if it meant getting a good picture), very graciously agreed to pose for a photo with us.

So, that was my big news for the week, which I couldn't resist sharing with you all. Back to posting about books in a few days!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

KITTY BARNE, Musical Honours (1947)

This book has been on my TBR list for over a year now, ever since I added Kitty Barne to my Overwhelming List and particularly noted: "Also intriguing to me is Musical Honours (1947), which the Christian Science Monitor called 'an entrancing story about life in England today during rationing and reconstruction.'" I've recently been all about family stories written for older children, and since I also recently came into several unexpected Amazon gift cards from my very generous new work colleagues, it was finally time to snatch that one single copy that had been listed for sale for the past year and that I kept worrying might disappear at any moment.

It's the story of the extended Redland family, consisting of 13-year-old Becky and her three younger siblings, Jimmy, Jinks, and Scrap, who have been living in a village with their grandparents, Gran and Grap, since the war began. Their mother is dead and their father has been a prisoner of war. Also in the village is their 80-something great grandmother, Goodie. Most members of the family have been professional performers in one form or another—Goodie was a singer and dancer, perhaps more or less what we would call a vaudeville performer, Gran was a pianist, and the children's father, Charley, worked as an organist before the war. Their mother had been a singer as well. And the children all have, as the saying goes, music in their blood—Becky loves the piano, Jimmy is following in his father's organist footsteps, Jinks is a talented boy soprano, and Scrap is, at the least, an accomplished show-off.

The story takes up just after the war has ended, when the family receives a long-awaited letter from Charley, who is receiving medical care but announces that he will be coming home soon. He also announces, less happily, that he intends to become an accountant and eschew music from now on, and that he expects his children will do the same.

The children have only the vaguest recollection of their father to begin with, as the arrival of the letter reminds them:

There was a bit of Father in that envelope and that was enough to make anyone nervous, for they none of them knew what he was going to be like, Gran and Grap because people change in five years, specially if they've been prisoners of war, and the rest of them because they never had known.

His announcement that they will not be allowed to pursue their dreams of musical careers is not only disheartening, but makes him seem like even more of a stranger. However, these are spunky children (as so many fictional youngsters are), and they immediately begin to plan how to prove to their father that his decision is a bad one. Their first plan, which doesn't quite work out as they hope, is to stage, at Goodie's suggestion, the "musical honours" of the title to welcome their father home, though there is—understandable enough—some initial doubt as to exactly what form of entertainment he would enjoy:

How could anyone know what Father would or would not like? They knew nothing about him. There had been several other letters, most of them written from a hospital and very short; they didn't tell you much. Gran read out a sentence or two here and there, generally finishing with a sigh and "He's not very grand, poor boy. You children will have to cheer him up." Of course they would, but how?

Although the family, including their father, greatly enjoy the resulting show, it turns out, rather accidentally, to be more of a comedy show than a proper showcase for their talents. So they have to move on to other plans, including sending an old musical composition of their father's, which they discover in the attic, to a newspaper competition.

In fact, the rest of the novel revolves around their attempts—led by Becky, who becomes the most important character—to surreptitiously change their father's mind. For some readers, this plot may seem a bit one-dimensional—there are really no significant sub-plots at all—and of course the ultimate outcome will scarcely surprise anyone. But the characters—particularly the children and Goodie—are nicely developed and entertaining, and I found it a highly enjoyable frolic, comparable on some levels to the novels of Gwendoline Courtney that I've grown so fond of in the past year.

In particular, Goodie is an entertaining character. It is she who aids and abets Becky and the others at every turn because she believes that Charley's love for music with eventually win out. The passages in which Goodie helps Becky plan entertainments are sometimes hilarious:

Goodie woke up at that. She could show her a few steps between verses—she'd done a lot of that. It had been in her line. As she remembered her dancing, her face changed: it became in some strange way roguish, wrinkles and all. Her eyes opened wide and looked quite big—a totally different Goodie looked out, not an old lady at all.

"That was in Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-aye times—you should've seen my petticoats—foaming, they were. Foaming was the word. All frills and lace and a nice pair of black silk stockings, silk all the way up, they had to be—my ankles were lovely, they all said so—I wish I had your ankles, the other girls used to say. Ta-ra-ra-BOOM-de-aye" she sang, and she brought out the "BOOM" with a yell and a kick that sent her footstool flying.

And later on, after the children's first attempt has failed, Goodie reflects on the dangers of performing with small children:

"Didn't work out right. Kids stole the show—kids always do—don't I know it. Mimics, that's all. Stage children..." She went off into a short unpleasant dream about stage children.

It's pretty much as light and fluffy as a novel can be, but there are some interesting glimpses of the realities of postwar life. For example, Becky's confabs with Goodie take place after a weekly appointment at which Becky helps her great-grandmother untangle her ration books:

No one would ever have dreamt she was eighty years old, so lively was her voice, so quick and determined her movements. She lived alone in a nice little house at the other end of the village, tucked into it as snugly as the stone crop that turned her garden wall yellow as gold in the summer, managing very well with the help of neighbors, who, whenever they passed, looked in for a chat—she was a great person for chat—and did a hand's turn of work if wanted. She saw and heard as well as ever she did, her tongue was as salty, her chuckle as frequent, her eyes as twinkling and happy; but there was just one thing that got her down, that turned her all in a minute into a cross old woman—her ration book. Never, she said, had she been one for sums. They'd been a worry to her all her school days—in her time there had been precious few of those, thanks be—and she had never added up a row of figures since. And she was never going to.

If Musical Honours is overall a rather unexceptional tale, it was nevertheless thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable.

Something that also made me happy about my copy of the book is that it came complete with a dust jacket with a photo of Barne and a charming blurb that she wrote about her life, including her wartime experiences. If you save the photo and open it from there (instead of simply viewing it on the blog), you should be able to make it large enough to read the text.

Considering that I had little enough information about Barne before, this is a significant addition to my knowledge. Add to that that the back of the dust cover provides me with another enticing publisher's advertisement of other books to add to my growing collection (though, alas, not one that seems to contain any new authors for my list), and you'll know that I'm happy as a lark:

Finally, I can't resist sharing one final random quotation that made me laugh. It will only have the same effect upon you if you're familiar with a certain song made famous by Beatrice Lillie, or with the photographs which apparently gave rise to it:

"Scrap, if we have a sort of concert for Father when he comes back, will you sing?"

"Yes, and dance. And dance with Panda. And say my bit about fairies at the bottom of a well."

"It's the bottom of the garden, not a well,—you're thinking of the Dormouse."

Whatever else I forget about this book, I'm pretty sure the fairies at the bottom of a well will stick with me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

UPDATE: Girls' school authors (G-K)

Purely by coincidence, in this third post about school story authors added to my Overwhelming List in the most recent update, there are at least three authors who published books with wartime themes and will therefore need to be added to my War List when time allows.

CONSTANCE GREGORY published only a single book, The Castlestone House Company (1918), in which World War I provides the background for Guides dealing with spies and wartime misadventures.

MARGARET W. GRIFFITHS was the author of several adventure-oriented school and holiday stories before, during, and after World War II. Details about her specific works are sparse, but presumably at least Hazel in Uniform (1945) deals with the war?

And E[LEANOR]. L[UISA]. HAVERFIELD's various children's books are, according to Sims and Clare, "redolent of the Victorian era," but The Girls of St Olave's (1919), at least, features wartime air raids.

There are several writers in this batch who are interesting in one way or another without necessarily making me feel compelled to read them. For example, in looking into VALERIE HASTINGS, I was reminded of the fact that some of the girls' periodicals in which many of these authors published short or serialized fiction contained what would now be called comic strips, which were often set in girls' schools and depicted many of the same exploits we're accustomed to from novels about school life. Two of Hastings' books were adapted from her Wendy and Jinx "strip," and you can see a sampling (and a whole lot more about girls' comics) at UK Girls Comics.

JOAN HERBERT reminded me that there was another substantial subset of girls' fiction devoted to the Girl Guides. A fair number of the authors seem to have overlapped, and a fair number, like Herbert, combined the two genres with tales of Guides at school. Meanwhile, THORA E. HORNSBY has allowed me to add yet another name to a growing list (albeit one not explicitly compiled yet) of literary prodigies, who apparently wrote her debut, Diana at School (1944), at the ripe old age of 13 (though it wasn't published until she was 15). Two more books followed before Hornsby retired at the advanced age of 19. According to Sims & Clare, her works were characterized by not-entirely-believable action—perhaps not surprising all things considered.

FREDA M. HURT was one of a not-very-large group, as far as I can recall, of authors who started off writing girls' school stories and progressed to a fairly successful career as a mystery writer. She will also be included in an upcoming post on mystery writers added in the most recent update to my list—which will necessitate a revision of the Mystery List as well.

And ELIZABETH HYDE poses a bit of a mystery herself. She's credited with two girls' stories, though Sims & Clare note that she is credited as "Frances Newton" in one listing of her books. The Hyde name is almost certainly a pseudonym, and I've been wondering (with no concrete evidence at all), if both Elizabeth Hyde and Frances Newton could have been additional, as-yet-unidentified pseudonyms of Frances Cowen, who is already known to have used the name "Eleanor Hyde" for historical and romantic suspense novels. Probably not, but the combinations of names are intriguing.

Several times in pouring over Sims & Clare's wonderful Book, I paused to look more closely at some titles they described as straddling the boundary between children's and adult fiction. I quite like straightforward school fiction aimed at girls, but I'm also very interested in books set in schools but written for adults (such as one of my favorites, Mary Bell's Summer's Day). In this post, there are two such titles. LESLEY GARTH's only book, Sixteen or So (1923), a series of school-related stories, is described by Sims & Clare as "semi-adult in tone and outlook." And even more striking to me is LUCY KINLOCH's only novel, A World Within a School (1937), apparently based on her own time at Harrogate Ladies' College. Of it, Sims & Clare conclude: "There are many hundreds of books for girls which treat school as the only world; there are dozens (for adults) which see the essential pettiness and enclosure of school life. A World Within a  School, understanding the second, yet relishes the first." Sign me up!

And finally, there are a few other writers who may have to end up on my TBR list. The Sims & Clare descriptions of works by FRANCES GREENWOOD, JUDITH GREY, OLIVE L. GROOM (upon whom Sims & Clare note the influence of Elinor Brent-Dyer), A. M. IRVINE, and RAYMOND JACBERNS (who created the first school series and whom Sims & Clare call "required reading") make me think I may have to track down works by each of them. Perhaps you'll end up reading more about some or all of them here…

And then, of course, there is the cover art. Hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed tracking it down!

Novelist and children's author; Irene's Lame Dogs (1916) is partly a school story; other titles include Lottie's Silver Burden (1879), The Old Square Pew (1904), Betty of Rushmore (1916), Meg of the Heather (1920), Luke's Wife (1926), If Thou Wert Blind (1927), and Ask Rachel (1937).

LESLEY GARTH (dates unknown)
Author of a single book, Sixteen or So (1923), comprised of several school-related stories which Sim and Clare describe as "semi-adult in tone and outlook."

PAT GORDON (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Madcap Petrina (1934).

Author of only one book, The Oldmay Scholarship & True Blue (1927), containing two school-related novellas.

LYDIA S[USANNA]. GRAHAM (dates unknown)
More research needed; probably a Quaker, Graham wrote a play, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh (1931), a travel book, Port to Port (1935), books about religion, and one novel, The Three Ts at Aberleigh (1932), tracing a young girl's development from childhood to the verge of adulthood.

EVA GRAY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of two non-school children's books, In the Fairy Ring (1935) and Rainbow Stories (1936), and one school story, The Three Wishes (1938).

MOLLIE M[????]. GREEN (dates unknown)
More research needed; apparently a librarian and author of a single girls' school story, Schoolgirl Janet (1947).

(pseudonym of Ivy May Bradley)
More research needed; apparently the author of only one girls' school story, Mary Todd's Last Term (1939), praised by Sims and Clare for the depth of characterization of its rebellious head girl heroine.

CONSTANCE GREGORY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' story, The Castlestone House Company (1918), set during World War I, in which Guides deal with the standard spies and wartime misadventures.

JANET GREY (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of Daisy White)
More research needed; author of a sequence of four girls' school stories set at St. Ursula's School, including The Advent of Anne (1941), The Concerns of Cecily (1947), The Sixth Form Pantomime (1949), and Lucille—House Captain (1950).

JUDITH GREY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of three linked tales—Christmas Term at Chillinghurst (1942), That Dramatic Term! (1946), and Summer Term at Chillinghurst (1947)—set during the revamping of a bad school; she also wrote a stand-alone school story, Duchess in Disguise (1943), and one non-school story, Steps in the Dark (1949).

MARGARET W. GRIFFITHS (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of adventure-oriented school and holiday stories, including A Queer Holiday (1936), J.P. of the Fifth (1937), The House on the Fjord (1939), Hazel in Uniform (1945), Wild Eagle's Necklace (1945), Elizabeth at Grayling Court (1947), and The Blue Mascot (1949).

OLIVE L[ILIAN]. GROOM (1920-2006)
(née Weller, aka Olive Lindsey)
Author of more than two dozen books in all, including pseudonymous romance novels and several Brent-Dyer-influenced school stories, among them The School of False Echoes (1947), Holly of Swanhouse (1949), Roxbrunn Finds the Way (1954), and Avril in the Alps (1955).

MARGARET HALE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Last Term at St. Andrew's (1953).

DOROTHY M[AY]. HARDY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of one girls' school story, Christabel at Cleve (1951), and a non-school sequel, Christabel's Cornish Adventure (1954).

CONSTANCE HARVEY (dates unknown)
Author of ten school stories given mixed reviews by Sims and Clare, including Ups and Downs of School Life (1926), In and Out of Mischief (1927), The Rival Houses (1928), Mistress High and Mighty (1931), Pam Wins Through (1932), Alison—the Sport (1934), and Two Peas in a Pod (1936).

VALERIE HASTINGS (dates unknown)
Author of a "picture strip" called Wendy and Jinx, from which two school stories came—Wendy & Jinx and the Dutch Stamp Mystery and Wendy & Jinx and the Missing Scientist (1957)—and two later school stories, Jill at Hazlemere (1964) and Jill Investigates (1965).

Author of about 40 works of children's fiction and adult romance, including school stories which Sims & Clare note are "redolent of the Victorian era"; they also note that The Girls of St Olave's (1919) features wartime air raids, and Joan Tudor's Triumph (1918) is unique for its tone of Gothic horror.

NANCY M. HAYES (1886-1929)
(pseudonym of Annie Mabel Hayes, married name Flexman)
Author of four girls' school stories of the 1920s—The Fourth Form Invaders (1924), Peg Runs Away to School (1924), That Turbulent Term (1926), and The Castle School (1928)—and other Guide and adventure stories such as The Plucky Patrol (1924) and The Boy from Nowhere (1927).

BARBARA HECTOR (dates unknown)
Author of one girls' school story, Champions in the Making (1943), a mystery for children, The Moorland Mystery (1948), and adult novels including No Through Road (1942), The Victim's Niece (1946), As the Stars Fade (1947), The Rainbow Road (1959), and various hospital romances to 1971.

JOAN HERBERT (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of J. D. Lewis, full name unknown)
Author of several girls' school stories, including Lorna's First Term (1932), With Best Intentions (1935), The Three Halves (1937), and One's a Pair (1939), as well as other children's fiction, such as The Wrights are Left (1938), Penelope the Particular (1939), and Jennifer Gay (1944).

F. M. HEWARD (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Susan the Beast (1949).

O. P. HILL (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single children's book, Dernham Days (1934), set partly in a girls' school.

E[LSIE]. MAY HOOTON (dates unknown)
Author of eight children's tales of the 1950s and 1960s—the school story The Harbord Prize (1955), as well as Anne's Call (1951), Cherry's Corner (1953), The Winning Side (1954), Those Terrible Tindalls (1956), Julie's Bicycle (1959), Sally's Summer Adventures (1960), and Wendy (1964).

ESSEX HOPE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of Pen Goes North (1949), part of which is set in school, at least two other children's books, Turned Adrift: The Story of a Dog (1937) and A Dog for Richard (1966), and what may be an adult novel, I Have Come Home (1940).

(née Cureton, aka Helen Dudley)
Author of fiction for adults and children, including the sports-oriented school stories Anne, Young Swimmer (1960) and Young Netball Player (1961); novels include The Bishop of Kenelminster (1961), The Unravish'd Bride (1963), Island of Perfumes (1985), and Cottage Dreams (1985).

THORA E. HORNSBY (1929-????)
(married name Neal)
Another precocious literary prodigy who wrote the first of her three school stories when she was only 13; her titles, characterized by lots of not entirely believable action (according to Sims & Clare), are Diana at School (1944), Three Thrilling Terms (1946), and The Feud (1948).

Author of a single girls' school novel, The Girls of Chiltern Towers (1929).

Author of Christian-themed girls' stories, including a series set at St. Margaret's; titles include Margaret the Rebel (1957), Margaret of St. Margaret's (1959), Return to St. Margaret's (1962), The Strange New Girl (1964), and The Secrets of the Castle (1967).

Author of numerous children's books and a series of mysteries; works include the school stories The Wonderful Birthday (1953) and Fun Next Door (1954), as well as The Body at Busman's Hollow (1959), Sweet Death (1961), Death and the Dark Daughter (1966), and Dark Design (1972).

ELIZABETH HYDE (dates unknown)
Unidentified author of two girls' school stories, Valerie of Gaunt Crag (1956) and Babette of Bayfern Manor (1957); Sims & Clare note she is credited as "Frances Newton" in one listing; could she be Frances Cowen, who is known to have used another Hyde pseudonym?

A[MY]. M[ARY]. IRVINE (1866-1950)
Author of school stories for both girls and boys, as well as some adult fiction; Sims & Clare praise her school stories, including Cliff House (1908), A Girl ofthe Fourth (1910), Naida the Tenderfoot (1919), The School Enemy (1925), and A School Conspiracy (1926).

(pseudonym of Georgiana Mary Isabel Ash)
"[R]equired reading for the historian of girls' school stories," according to Sims & Clare, Jacberns wrote a series of interconnected tales in the 1900s and 1910s, such as The New Pupil (1902), How Things Went Wrong (1905), A Schoolgirl's Battlefield (1910), and Tabitha Smallways, Schoolgirl (1913).

PAULINE M. JAMES (1926-2011)
(married name Whibley, aka Polly Whibley)
Author of two girls' school stories—The Island Mystery (1950) and Challenge to Caroline (1952)—and, according to Sims & Clare, three other girls' stories I was unable to locate; she also wrote The Heights of Heidelberg, published by the Elsie J. Oxenham Society.

VICKI JOHNSTONE (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, The Phantom Family (1948), but little else is known about her.

ANNE KAY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, Girls of Deepdene (1937).

FELICITY KEITH (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of Miss Montserrat, first name unknown)
More research needed; author of a single girls' school story, The Oakhill Guide Company (1933).

MARGARET KILROY (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of two early girls' school stories, The Little Torment (1909) and Study Number Eleven (1911).

From a Scottish family, but settling later in life in the U.S., Kinloch published a single novel, A World Within a School (1937), based on her own time at Harrogate Ladies' College, which Sims & Clare intriguingly describe as straddling the line between girls' story and adult novel.

Author of a single girls' school story, Keep Troth (1951), and one other earlier work of fiction, But If Not (1924), about which little is known; she also wrote history and biography, and one undated title, In Honey-Bird Land, described as an account of aspects of life in India for young readers.
NOTE: The comment function on Blogger is notoriously cranky. If you're having problems, try selecting "Name/URL" or "Anonymous" from the "Comment as" drop-down (be sure to "sign" your comment, though, so I know who dropped by). Some people also find it easier using a browser like Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.

But it can still be a pain, and if you can't get any of that to work, please email me at I do want to hear from you!