Friday, March 25, 2016

A request for assistance

This post is a bit of a stretch from the main purposes of my blog, but I'm doing it because I know how smart and practical and well-traveled the readers of this blog are. How's that for shamelessly kissing up? (Plus, our giant book sale's spring iteration is happening this coming Tuesday, so I expect a post about that coming soon, which will bring us right back on topic.)

My purely selfish request (though it could conceivably benefit others too, so perhaps it's not selfish at all?) is for residents of the U.K. or readers in other parts of the world who have travelled in the U.K.

I'm very excited to say that Andy and I are planning a trip (woohoo!), this October, to England and Scotland, probably with a brief foray into Wales. We will be spending three weeks, which is a wonderfully long time for an American vacation but nowhere near long enough to do everything we want to do. Because we made a trip to London a few years ago, we will focus on other parts of England and on getting into Scotland this time. We also did a day trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge on our previous trip, so we probably won't return to those places (much as we loved them).

A bit of background: Andy and I usually take turns choosing our "big" vacation spots, though the other always has a certain amount of veto power. This is the second time in a row that my choice has been the U.K. (our last trip, to Italy, was Andy's choice). I was able to sell Andy on a return trip because there's just so much left to see outside of London, plus Andy knows my heart is always in England and has taken pity on me. But I'm not sure when I'll be able to justify a third trip, as there are still so many other places we'd like to visit. Therefore, I really want to make this trip count!

Andy and I have overlapping but varying interests; I'm a particularly big cathedral, church, and ruins fan (though I'm not religious at all—I think it must be in my blood from a Puritan ancestor who apparently lived in Lancashire, but more on that another time), while Andy gravitates more to historical sites, palaces, and stately homes. It's also a bit more important to Andy to feel that we've hit all the really major tourist attractions, while I'm often a bit happier being off the beaten path. We both enjoy all of the above, but we try to balance them to get a good mix. And then of course there's book shopping…

Some of the places and things I think we'd like to see: Bath, York, Oxford and/or Cambridge (I'm not going to ask which is better, as that might start a civil war), Canterbury, Avebury, Rye, maybe Knole and Sissinghurst and/or Blenheim Palace, Durham, Haworth (?), the Lake District, the Cotswolds, Hadrian's Wall (best part to visit?), Edinburgh, Loch Ness (?), and at least one Scottish isle. Oh my, it sounds overwhelming already, and those were just the things that leapt to mind! My spreadsheet of sights (yes, seriously, I have one—I am nothing if not thorough) could provide many, many more. Plus, possibly a day in Hay-on-Wye for book shopping???

I hope we'll have a car for all or part of the trip. Andy is ambivalent about driving on the left, but he took to the roundabouts in Italy like a native (terrifyingly so at times), so I think he'll adapt easily. I don't drive all that much even in San Francisco, so it's really his call—but the only thing more terrifying for him than driving on the "wrong" side of the road would be having me do it! Folks have told me repeatedly to remember that distances are not great in the U.K., the whole landmass (the part we'll be visiting, at least) is considerably less than the size of California, you can cover more ground than you think you can, etc., etc., but I know we will still have to do some serious prioritizing, and no one wants a vacation to be one long, gruelling sprint. And along those lines, we also want to consider if guided tours, in some places, might be more efficient and relaxing than figuring out all the logistics ourselves (our Salisbury/Stonehenge excursion was a tour and it was one of our favorite experiences of that trip).

So here I am, asking for your advice. I would love to hear any suggestions about do-able itineraries, priorities, hidden treasures, wonderful experiences, terrible experiences, logical groupings of activities, etc. What are the tourist traps that have little atmosphere or meaning, in your opinion, and what are the can't-miss things that not everyone knows about? Are there particularly good "base camps" where we could settle in and spend 3-4 nights and see a bunch of sights in the surrounding area? Where are the best spots to consider a guided tour or two (looks like there are some from Bath and some from York that might be possible)?

And feel free to offer any other advice that comes to mind as well (including advice on how to emigrate to the U.K. so I have plenty of time for seeing everything…). I'll love hearing from people who have made similar trips. You can email me (at or leave comments. I might share some of the suggestions in a later post as the trip starts to come together, assuming that others are interested in totally self-indulgent information about someone else's trip!

Thanks for your help!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mistaken identity part 1: the two Dorothy Alice Hunts

Lately, as I've worked on the many new authors added to my Overwhelming List in my most recent update, I've come across several confusing likenesses of author names, some of them including online misattributions of some or all of one author's works to another. I'm going to mention a few more of these in my next post, but this one was confusing enough (and interesting enough, I hope) to warrant it's own post.

In this case, I began from the assumption that two similarly named authors might actually turn out to be the same person. I came across, on the mammoth New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors (from which, I should note, many of the new additions in my update came), two separate author listings, which appeared like this:

Dorothy Alice HUNT {UK} (F: 1896 - ?)
(ps: Doric COLLYER)
          Ann Of The House Of Barlow [f|1926]

Dorothy Alice BONAVIA-HUNT, originally HUNT {UK} (F: 1880 Apr 29 - 1970 Nov 21)
          Reflection [f|1937]
          Unfettered [f|1937]
          Vagabonds All [f|1938]
          Watching Eyes [f|1940]
          Meet Madame Mazova [f|1942]
          The Amazing Paradox [f|1948]
          Pemberley Shades [f|1949]
          Ashes Of Achievement [f|1959]

I wondered, if Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt had begun life as Dorothy Alice Hunt, could she perhaps have already published one novel under her original name? Was I in fact looking at a single author (with a little confusion about life dates somewhere)? A little further digging revealed that the UPenn Online Books Page had already equated the two, since their listing said:

Bonavia-Hunt, D. A. (Dorothy Alice) [aka Doric Collyer] (April 29, 1880 - November 21, 1970)

Since one of the books shown above, Pemberley Shades, is actually is print these days from Sourcebooks, I also consulted their website. But they obviously hadn't been successful in firmly identifying the author either, though they, disagreeing with NGCOBA, believed that she had only written one book:

Little is known about Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt. She lived with her brother, who was a vicar, in the English countryside during the time that she wrote Pemberley Shades, which appears to be her only book.

Neither the British Library nor the Library of Congress were a huge help either. They both credited most of the books in question to Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt. The LOC even listed the "Doric Collyer" title as a Bonavia-Hunt novel. So I obviously wasn't the first person to be confused by these names!

I sent an email to the irreplaceable John Herrington, explaining what I thought would be a fairly simple case. Little did I know.

In fact, as it turned out, every one of the sources above, and certainly my own assumptions about what we were looking at, were wrong in one way or another. I had been trying to assume that Bonavia-Hunt, whose life and death dates were more precisely documented, must have been the author of all the books, and the Hunt birth year of 1896 must just be an error. But John promptly cleared that up by making a positive identification of the Dorothy Alice Hunt I thought might not exist—born 1896 in Reading, Berkshire, married to Howard Eric Fellows in 1953, and died in Sussex on April 17, 1982. With the added tidbit that her mother's maiden name was Collyer, which meant the Doric Collyer pseudonym was almost certainly hers. So she pretty clearly did exist.

John also found a listing for her in The Author's and Writer's Who's Who from 1948, in which all of the titles shown above were credited to, with the exception of Pemberley Shades and Ashes of Achievement, which weren't published until after that reference guide. (John found a later A&W from the 1960s that added Ashes of Achievement to Hunt's credits—which was apparently the final book she published.)

So, it appeared that, contrary to my original assumption (and to what was reflected in the BL and LOC, though not contrary to what Sourcebooks website said), Dorothy Alice Hunt had written a whole slew of novels, while Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt had written only one (ironically, the only one of the bunch that's in print these days).

However, as I did a little more digging through book sites, searching for photos of dustjackets (as I am prone to do), I discovered that, alas, Sourcebooks was wrong too. Following what was apparently a reasonably successful literary debut (at age 69, no less), Bonavia-Hunt, it turned out, did publish one more novel, entitled The Relentless Tide (1951). I know this because a dustjacket cover for the book clearly attributes it to D. A. Bonavia-Hunt and says it's a "new novel by the author of Pemberley Shades." The tricky part there, I think, was that Relentless was apparently published only in the United States, so some sources may have missed it because it didn't show up in the British Library catalogue.

Thus, we end up with almost the exact reverse of what we had at the beginning, with Hunt proving to be far more prolific than Bonavia-Hunt:

D[OROTHY]. A[LICE]. BONAVIA-HUNT (April 29, 1880-November 21, 1970)
(name changed from Hunt)
Pemberley Shades (1949)
The Relentless Tide (1951)

DOROTHY A[LICE]. HUNT (1896-April 17, 1982)
(married name Fellows, aka Doric Collyer)
Ann of the House of Barlow (1926) (as Doric Collyer)
Unfettered (1937)
Reflection (1937)
Vagabonds All (1938)
Watching Eyes (1940)
Meet Madame Mazova (1942)
The Amazing Paradox (1948)
Ashes of Achievement (1959)

All of which was great fun to unpack, and all of which shows the dangers of assuming the "obvious". What were the chances that a previously prolific Dorothy Alice Hunt would publish a novel in 1948 before falling silent for over a decade, and that a Dorothy Alice Bonavia-Hunt (formerly Hunt) would appear with a first novel in 1949? But whatever the chances, that is indeed what happened. And happily, thanks to John contacting them with the details, the British Library catalogue now shows these titles correctly attributed.

A big thanks to John, as always, for doing 99% of the work on clearing up this confusion. But hey, at least I sent the original email that led to the clearing up!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

RACHEL FERGUSON, Evenfield (1942)

The same old photo of Rachel Ferguson; surely
others must exist? My next quest...

I've posted a couple of times before about Rachel Ferguson novels, as some of you might recall. I first came to her, before I was a blogger, the same way I came to a good many other favorite authors—via a Virago Modern Classic little green paperback. In this case, a copy of Ferguson's delightful second novel, The Brontës Went to Woolworth's (1931), a wacky novel of a family of sisters who seem to have some difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction (or is it merely that their fictions have an alarming tendency to become reality?). Not long after that discovery (many years after Virago had discovered it), Persephone reprinted one of Ferguson's later novels, Alas, Poor Lady (1937), which is less wacky but just as enjoyable for other reasons, not least because of Ferguson's passionate advocacy on behalf of disadvantaged gentlewomen.

From there, the fact that none of her other novels had ever been reprinted predictably made me determined to read more, and a reference to the wartime novel A Footman for the Peacock (1940) led me to my favorite of all of Ferguson's fiction, which I still love so much that it's practically unnatural. And a while after that I wrote about one of her final novels, A Stroll Before Sunset (1946), which I also quite like.

Now, all of that, in my typical snail-like fashion, took at least three years to unfold. But lately, I seem to be getting a bit more obsessed with reading more or less everything that certain authors have ever written. This is partly the result of a New Year's resolution that I wanted to finally get around to reading some of the high priority books that had been languishing on my TBR list for far too long, prioritizing especially those authors I already knew were something special.

This has led me, in the past few weeks, to read a whole slew of other Rachel Ferguson titles. (Can four books be a slew? Well, considering how rare and hard to find most of these are, I think they can.) And Evenfield (1942), Ferguson's follow-up to Footman, is the belle of the ball as far as this recent reading goes.

Jacket blurb pasted in the front
of my library copy of Evenfield

To say that Evenfield is an odd novel is completely redundant, because, hello? It's by Rachel Ferguson, so the oddness should go without saying. But it's also highly readable and enjoyable, as well as being a thoroughly fascinating psychoanalytic comedy (though you don't have to realize this or care about psychoanalysis in order to enjoy it).

Barbara Morant spends a crucial part of her early childhood in the unremarkable suburban house which gives its name to the novel. For her older siblings, the house is merely a place to live; for her mother, it's a symbol of the provincial drudgery of suburban living. But for Barbara, the house and the routines of those years are invested with a sacred halo of happiness, and she yearns for them long after the family returns to London.

Her nostalgic obsession leads her to attempt to recall every detail of the way things were—some of which she was, at the time, too young to register, and some of which she either missed or misunderstood. Her nostalgia, her pursuit of her ideal childhood, lead her in adulthood—following her unexpected success writing witty song lyrics for the stage—to lease the house, undo the changes that have been made in the meantime, and attempt to recreate, down to the last detail, her childhood home.

Ferguson uses an unusual structure to convey this combination of actual experience, remembered experience, and what might be called supplemented experience (what she can't recall herself but learns about later). Barbara begins her first-person narrative by admitting herself to be a victim of nostalgia, and then the novel descends into the purest nostalgic recollection for the rest of its first half, before we finally get—halfway or more through the novel—to the point where a grown Barbara begins yearning for her old home.

Admittedly, this structure could frustrate some readers, and if you're looking for action-packed plotting, look elsewhere. But on the other hand that first half is so lushly packed with digressive domestic detail, namedropping of popular celebrities of the time, household products, advertisements, songs, décor, pastimes, and more that anyone with an interest in domestic life in the late Victorian years will likely be too intrigued (and, if you're like me, too busy Googling what the heck many of the terms or names refer to) to quibble very much. And Ferguson uses all of these things effectively as part of her master theme, as here in a recollection of the family gardener and his cleaning supplies:

On arrival in the morning, Stiles's first house of call and job was to the glory-hole, a window'd dug-out also facing the front gates, where he cleaned knives on a cocoa-coloured board with Goddard's plate-powder and (I believe) polished boots and shoes. The place stank comfortably of knife-powder, and it is a fact that the face of Mr. Goddard on the tin is far more vivid to me to-day than is that of anyone of my family, including mother.

In fact, Barbara's mother, and Barbara's attempts to understand her better by focusing on her every behavior and motivation, seems to be one of the root causes of her obsession. Even before she reclaims Evenfield for herself, she imagines approaching the house and its current residents to try to recapture some memories:

In those years I never dreamed of ringing the bell, declaring myself, adducing the Fields as reference or asking for an imaginary person in order to get a good look at the hall. It was enough that Evenfield was there and looking exactly the same—even the knocker had been allowed to remain. Just to knock and run away would have given me much material, for the timbre of that horseshoe of brass would awake its own set of associations, and I should see more clearly that cauliflower fur cape of mother's (had it one button or two?), re-smell the veil of dotted net which covered incredibly her face, re-feel the coldness of her cheek chilled by the fog of London, and remember more of the fairings without which she seldom returned.

I already suspected, but am now completely convinced, that Ferguson is an experimental writer, every bit as much as Virginia Woolf or James Joyce—though she is also, happily, more readable and laugh-out-loud funny. Evenfield is—at least based on the other works by her that I've read so far—her version of a Proustian novel. If you recall—or have heard about it, if Proust himself is not your chosen bedtime reading—Proust made much (a few hundred pages, if I recall correctly) of the memories of childhood which flooded back with a single taste of a madeleine. Ferguson's equivalent is much more amusing:

If it comes to that, I was to discover, on first becoming a Londoner, that a box-room at Evenfield smelt of the Albert Hall, with the result that, when I returned, grown-up, to the box-room I was irresistibly impelled to hum airs from The Messiah all the time I remained in it, while at the Albert Hall I missed whole tracts of the Oratorio through a sharp sensation of old trunks, and mentally tallying up their contents.

There is a serious exploration here of childhood and the way it is remembered and misremembered by adults, of the ways in which its memories can be destroyed by pursuing them too hard, and of how we sometimes cause the very ravages of time that we seek to defeat. Here (in a scene from late in the novel that hilariously links up with the early passage just quoted) is Barbara bemoaning the fact that her memories of Evenfield in childhood can never again be uncontaminated with the events (including the hit song, Everybody Kept on Laughing, which financed her return, and her lukewarm beau, Clifford) of her adult life:

If it comes to that, I wasn't able entirely to lose even myself in the past, as fragmentary thoughts of our cook, Clifford, my Old Contemptibles, the face of The Guv'nor and the orchestra in full blast with Everybody Kept on Laughing briefly possessed my brain in turn and were chased away. I didn't want them there, and went upstairs to the box-room floor (it was there that I realized that what had been Cuss's room smelt of the Albert Hall, and that meant a tiresome two minutes with The Messiah).

Some novels make me obsess about them, wanting to read them over and over, to try to get a handle on their layers of meaning. This can be maddening (how I recall, rather hauntedly, a year or so in grad school pouring over Henry James's The Turn of the Screw and its virtually limitless layers of meaning—I haven't been brave enough to approach James again since, for fear that I'll be sucked back into the vortex). But I have a feeling I could become much more pleasantly obsessed with Evenfield.

Author's note about the avoidance of war in the novel

But lest I've given too much of an impression that this is "serious literature" in the sense of books that one must labor intensely and profoundly to fully "appreciate," here's one more quote that doesn't mean anything profound but is merely hilarious, especially for those of us who think wedding madness might justifiably be a treatable mental illness:

And in any case the house was beginning to be upside down with preparations for Mell's wedding, a convivial, exhausting and essentially ridiculous bustle, for the displaying of wedding presents is, if you come to think of it, an amazing piece of vulgarity, for who cares or should care if you've been given a fish-slice or not! And if you admit the principle of this ostentatious materialism, why not exhibit lengths of all the wall-papers you propose to use, or a section of the lead piping that has been selected for the drains!

Now, perhaps because of its wartime themes and its complex satire of class and general all-around loathsomeness, A Footman for the Peacock probably remains my favorite Rachel Ferguson novel (there's an introductory note at the beginning of Evenfield that declares that it's for readers who are tired of thinking of the war, and that it takes place in a completely war-free alternate universe). But I have to admit that Evenfield now comes in only a millimeter or so behind.

And what were the other three Rachel Ferguson books I read in my recent Ferguson binge, you ask? Since I've apparently just written a review, despite my best intentions not to, you'll have to wait a bit to hear about those…

Thursday, March 10, 2016

3 years (wow) and 2 pieces of publishing news (1 you may have heard, 1 you definitely haven't…)

Just as I was about to publish the post below, I suddenly realized that there was something about March 10th that was ringing a bell. What could it be? It's early in the morning and I'm very, very sleepy, so it took a while to come to me, but finally I remembered. March 10th, 2013 was the very first Furrowed Middlebrow post. It's hard to believe it has been three years, and a little bit hard to recognize that the person writing that first post is the same as the person writing this one. If I had thought of it sooner, I could have bored you all with some wordy musings about that, but as it happens, the post I was starting to publish is not really at all inappropriate to the occasion (at least the second bit of publishing news, if not the first). Things do have a way of continuing to evolve. But at any rate, happy birthday to me!

Seeing that my focus here is so often on the obscurest of obscure authors, it's rare that I am anywhere close to being timely with a bit of publishing news, but, wonder of wonders, I actually have two pieces of news to share today. And not only that, but both bits of news have a connection to the fantasizing I have often done here about doing some publishing of my own…

One of the authors I've occasionally fantasized about bringing back into print is the wonderfully charming Margery Sharp, and although I might be slightly disappointed that I can no longer fantasize about publishing her myself, I am delighted that, as it turns out, she will need no help from me. I got a notification last week from the good folks at Open Road Media that they're releasing not one, not two, not even five, but ten of Sharp's novels in e-book format.

The books will be available on April 12th, and the ten titles they've selected span most of Sharp's career. Here's the complete list:

The Flowering Thorn (1934)
The Nutmeg Tree (1937)
Cluny Brown (1944)
Britannia Mews (1946)
The Gypsy in the Parlour (1954)
The Eye of Love (1957)
Something Light (1960)
Martha in Paris (1962)
Martha, Eric, and George (1964)
The Innocents (1972)

Sharp has received a lot of attention from bloggers in recent years (I posted a review of The Nutmeg Tree just a few months ago—you can read it here—and I discussed The Stone of Chastity in my "possibly Persephone" list here). I know that Cluny Brown, with its immediate pre-WWII setting, is also a favorite of many readers, and Brittania Mews is set partly in wartime).

Open Road has kindly sent me review copies of two of the titles I haven't previously read, so you'll definitely be hearing more about those in the next few weeks. But I couldn't wait to share the news that some of Sharp's best work will now—finally!—be more readily available. Here's hoping that they'll be a roaring success for Open Road and more titles will be forthcoming (I know some of you are particularly holding out hope for her vanishingly rare debut, Rhododendron Pie). Fingers crossed.

So that's the first bit of news, which you might perhaps have already heard about elsewhere. But the next bit of news is absolutely an exclusive, and I know that for certain, because it pertains to me and I've not told a soul (except Andy, of course, but he's good at keeping mum).

It all started with that massive $1.5 billion Powerball lottery jackpot that was making everyone berserk just after the New Year. No, I didn't win it—obviously, or I would be sharing pics of our new London townhouse by now (let's see, Bloomsbury has a most convenient proximity to the British Library and St. Pancras, but we also quite enjoyed staying in Pimlico… Hmmm). But during all of the furor, I was having a conversation with a co-worker—that conversation we've all had at some time or another, about what we'd do if we won all that money. I said that although I wouldn't work full-time, I would certainly do some publishing of some of the really great books I've run across that deserve to be in print but aren't. (Living in London, I would also have to have In 'n' Out Burger delivered transatlantically on a regular basis, but that's perhaps not relevant here.)

Now, I've written here many times before about my publishing fantasies, probably ad nauseum, and nothing has ever inspired me to do anything about it. It has always seemed completely undoable and overwhelming and hopeless and all the other self-defeating adjectives you can think of.

But this time, perhaps because of the proximity to New Year's and that mad inclination toward resolutions that strikes at that time of year, I suddenly thought, "Well, what can it hurt to poke around a bit and try to find out what's involved and whether it's remotely feasible to do as a sideline?" I still assumed that nothing would come of it, of course, but at least I would have some facts to back up my hopelessness.

So before the inspiration wore off, I quickly emailed several people I thought might know a bit about independent publishing. They all gave me helpful replies, but one, who happened to be a publisher himself, said he'd be happy to give me advice and suggestions, or, alternatively, I could collaborate with him. Why, he asked, if I was amenable, didn't I send him some of the titles I was thinking of and he'd see what he could learn about the rights and the feasibility of publishing them?

Good heavens.

Within a few days, we had a rough plan of attack and he was requesting rights for some of my most fantasized-about titles. There is surely some sort of object lesson here about at least having a look-see into the things you've fantasized about but assume are impossible. At any rate, saying "what can it hurt" certainly paid off in this case.

Now, believe me, I'm dying to give you all the details. Sadly, though, I'm not yet quite at liberty to share specifics. But I can say that we're finalizing the rights for several titles that I'm very, very, very excited about—even more excited than I would have been had some of them been Margery Sharps! We're planning to roll out the first several titles early this fall, but believe me, you'll certainly hear more about it before then. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 7, 2016

An embarrassment of riches: more Molly Clavering dustjackets

After I dedicated a post a couple of weeks ago to some lovely Molly Clavering dustjackets sent to me by Jerri Chase—which, let's face it, due to the scarcity of Clavering's books, we're not going to be able to see anywhere else online—I was delighted to receive scans of the dustjackets of three more of Clavering's books. So, to make all of our mouths water even more for books that most of us will never be able to own (at least with original jacket art), I obviously have to share these with you too.

Almost immediately after my last post went up, I got an email from Geraldine Hogg, a fellow D. E. Stevenson discussion list member (an active one, not a perpetual lurker like me), saying that she had two more Clavering books with jackets and would I like her to scan them. Um, yes, please!

Geraldine's titles are Dear Hugo (1955) and Result of the Finals (1957), and she noted that she enjoyed both of them (she said the only Clavering she's read and not enjoyed was Dr. Glasgow's Family from 1960—just FYI for anyone working on starting a collection).

First, here's the rather lovely front and spine of Dear Hugo:

Then, here are the jacket flaps, with a description of the book and an author bio:

And finally, here's the back cover, which has various blurbs about the earlier Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer (ake Mrs. Lorimer's Family) and Because of Sam:

The other book Geraldine has on her shelves (I've asked her if we couldn't arrange housesitting duties for me for extended periods of time—I would certainly be diligent in dusting all of her books—but pesky things like the Atlantic Ocean and my job keep getting in the way) is Result of the Finals. Here's the charming cover:

And here are the flaps, the front with a description of the story and the back with another author bio—but this one has one of the better quality photos of Clavering that I've seen:

And again, there are enticing blurbs for other Clavering novels on the back:

Geraldine also scanned a notice from the beginning of the book, assuring readers that the match portrayed is entirely fictional:

And just to make us all a bit more jealous of Geraldine's collection, she just happened to mention that her copy of Result is signed by the author:

A couple of days after I heard from Geraldine, I also got another email from Jerri, who had recalled that she also had, in her own collection, a copy of the original edition of Near Neighbours, complete with dustjacket, and sent along scans of that one. Here's the front cover:

And the flaps:

And blurbs for other books on the back:

Strange that Spring Adventure is the only Clavering title we've seen so far that advertised other author's work. It looks like Hodder & Stoughton was focused primarily on promoting Clavering's work, while, for better or worse, when she made the shift to Robert Hale they saw her more as one of a pack of romantic authors in their stable (and apparently they didn't see her as that for long, since, as I forgot to mention last time, Spring Adventure was actually the last of Clavering's novels to appear in book form. She continued, as mentioned in my earlier detailed post on her, to publish serialized novels in The People's Friend, but nothing else was published in book form.)

If anyone has copies of any of Clavering's other books with dustjackets, do let me know and we can continue to flesh out our collection! One wonders if any dustjackets even survive for her earliest novels for John Long, or her works from the 30s for Stanley Paul (under the pseudonym B. Mollett)? If any do, they must be extraordinarily rare.

Thanks again to Geraldine and Jerri for sharing these scans!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mysterious women (2 of 2)

About ten days ago, I posted the first batch of new additions to the Mystery List, stemming from the recent update to my Overwhelming List. I mentioned 15 new additions in that post, and there are still 14 more to go, and just as with the first batch of mystery writers, I have varying amounts of information (and, for that matter, interest) on the authors in this post.

JOY GRIFFIN is probably the daughter (or possibly the sister-in-law) of the far more prolific Aceituna Griffin, who published more than a dozen novels, many of them mysteries. Joy collaborated with Aceituna on a single title, Motive for Murder (1935), which is reviewed here as more of a thriller than a whodunnit, but despite this, the reviewer seems to feel the book holds together rather well. Joy does not seem to have published anything else, and one wonders (but will perhaps never know) what inspired this one-off collaboration.

Perhaps the only name among these new additions that any of you will have heard of elsewhere is ELISABETH LAMBERT, far better known, with the addition of her married name, Ortiz, as a prominent cookbook author, who specialized in Latin American cuisine. Earlier in her career, however, Lambert published two novels. The second, Father Couldn't Juggle (1954), about a girl growing up in Jamaica (presumably based on Lambert's own childhood), doesn't seem to have any crime element, but the first, The Sleeping House Party (1951), is set at an Australian artist's colony and seems rather intriguing to me, though it won't to all readers. The Sydney Morning Herald seems to suggest that the novel is a witty but perhaps rather bitchy portrait of a group of immoral sophisticates involved in a murder investigation, and that, perversely, intrigues me. I'm only quoting part of the review on the Mystery List, but here it is in its entirety:

Here Jean O'Flynn McKenzie tells of the tragedies in the artistic colony at Emu Beach, 50 miles from Sydney.

Jean is "lady-help, stooge and hired companion" of Laura Weedon who founded the settlement at the beach. She writes of her employer: "She is generous, kind and hospitable and I think she is a bitch … very keen on high culture, but no slut under a hedge was more immoral than she, no baggage less principles." Jean herself "has a few shreds of genuine modesty left after three years with Laura's curious … companions."

Laura, her husband, Philip, and her current intellectual affair, Bill Manafee, who looks a typical bushman but is a theatrical entrepreneur, were invited to Christmas Eve festivities at Peter and Tony's. They are interior decorators who call one another "old bag," and "poppet," and are very friendly with a beautiful blonde painter, Esther. They sold "scads of her pictures." Other guests are Helen, a divorcee, and Paul Carroll, a British author with a wolfish look.

At the party, Philip is found fatally stabbed, thrust into a Father Christmas costume, part of Peter and Tony's decorations.

Detection is mediocre. The interest lies in the way this extraordinary crew spit, scratch and splutter under police questioning. The style is tough, frisky or mincing.

What can I say? I just might have to track down a copy…

Cathleen Nesbitt, actress and mother of
novelist Jennifer Ramage (aka Howard Mason)

A couple of these authors have connections to show business. HOWARD MASON (real name Jennifer Ramage) was the daughter of actress Cathleen Nesbitt. I confess I'd never heard of Nesbitt, but I learned from her Wikipedia page that she not only appeared in films as varied as Three Coins in a Fountain, An Affair to Remember, and The Parent Trap, but that she was the fiancée of Rupert Brooke when he was killed during World War I. Mason/Ramage was also an actress, though mostly on radio, and is described in some sources as a comedienne and impressionist. She then turned to writing and published four crime novels about which little seems to be known. The Red Bishop (1953) sounds rather gothic in themes, but Proud Adversary (1951) was described as "a tale of adventure in the Buchan tradition." It's unclear whether Photo Finish (1954) was humorous in novel form, but it was turned into what sounds like a distinctly silly spy movie called Follow That Horse! (1960), in which "[a] race horse swallows a microfilm, sought after by the major superpower spy agencies." Ahem.

Film poster for Cast a Dark Shadow, based on Janet Green's only novel

JANET GREEN also had the experience, whether positive or negative, of having her work adapted for the silver screen. Her single novel, Murder Mistaken (1953), which was based on her own earlier play, was filmed in 1955 as Cast a Dark Shadow, starring Dirk Bogarde and Margaret Lockwood. The plot, IMDB tells me, is about a man who murders his wife for her money, only to find her fortune isn't what he expected, so he goes on the prowl for another victim…

Now a couple of authors I know little about: NORA K. STRANGE was a prolific author of about 50 novels over nearly as many years, most of them apparently set in Kenya, where she made her home. Only one of them, According to Jill (1926), seems to have some elements of mystery about it, but I haven't found out what those elements are. BARBARA MALIM is included here merely on the basis of the fact that some of her works, at least, sound like mysteries or thrillers—with titles such as Missing from Monte Carlo (1929), Death by Misadventure (1934), and Murder on Holiday (1937). And I know that MURIEL HOWE wrote more than 20 novels, including several works of romantic suspense written with her sister Doris (under the joint pseudonym Newlyn Nash), and that, on her own, she she wrote at least two novels—The Affair at Falconers (1957) and Pendragon (1958)—which seem to be more straightforward mysteries. But that's all I can say about them.

I know only slightly more about AGNES ROSEMARY COOPER's books, co-written with Mary Weller under another joint pseudonym, Ramsay Bell, but they appear to fit the genre. Dragon Under Ground is described as “a pleasantly told yet thrilling tale of Christmas adventure," while The Lake of Ghosts is set in the Apennines and has an archaeologist as heroine. I'm intrigued, but I wish I could find more details…

Charlotte Hough

CHARLOTTE HOUGH is a fascinating and tragic story in her own right. She had been a successful children's author for more than 20 years, beginning with Jim Tiger (1956), when she turned her attention to mystery writing. She published one title in the genre, The Bassington Murder (1980), featuring an amateur sleuth in a small English village, and she had begun work on a second when she became ensnared in her own all-too-real murder investigation. She ended up serving time in prison for assisting an elderly friend in committing suicide, and the experience was so traumatic that she was unable to return to writing. Her daughter wrote a poignant obituary for the Telegraph, which can be read here.

Some of you may already be aware of SARAH GAINHAM, since her best-known work, Night Falls on the City (1967), set in Vienna during World War II, was an international bestseller. But you might be less familiar with her earlier spy novels, such as Time Right Deadly (1956), The Cold Dark Night (1957), The Mythmaker (1957), The Stone Roses (1959), and The Silent Hostage (1960). Several of these are reviewed informatively reviewed here.

Mary Violet Heberden

I also got most of my information about MILDRED VIOLET WOODGATE from a fellow blogger. Steve at Bear Alley discussed her a couple of years ago, and he describes The Two Houses on the Cliff (1931) as a mystery with romantic elements, and quotes a review of Pauline's Lady (1931) that compares it to the earlier, somewhat sensational, works of M. E. Braddon.

It would be very easy to confuse JOAN COCKIN with her almost-namesake Joan Coggin, who also wrote mysteries, but I assure you they are two different women. Cockin was a trail-blazing diplomat (you can read a bit about that here) and later an educational writer. She also published three detective novels, all featuring her series character Inspector Cam. There is little enough information about her online, but Classic Crime Fiction provides this description of her debut, Curiosity Killed the Cat (1947):

There is something very true to life about the village of Little Biggling. Many will be familiar with the quarrels of that Cotswold village which the Ministry of Scientific Research has invaded in wartime, and retained in its grip long after peace had come. There might well be troubled in such a place between the Civil Servant lodgers and the resentful locals. And in Little Biggling the trouble was—MURDER. The dead man was only a messenger of the Ministry—and Parry was an unpleasant type at that: but the characteristics of the dead man meant nothing to Inspector Cam except as pointers towards the murderer. It was just unfortunate for a good many people besides Inspector Cam that Parry seemed to have been curious about everybody and everything in Little Biggling.

Some potential there?

There may also be some potential in the final two authors in this post. MARY VIOLET HEBERDEN, who published as "M. V. Heberden" and as "Charles L. Leonard," seems these days to have more of a following in France than in either the U.S. or U.K. She has no English language Wikipedia page (or any other significant information), but the French Wikipedia page, language barriers aside, is quite informative, and John Herrington filled in some gaps. She published more than 30 novels in all, variously featuring series characters Desmond Shannon, a New York private investigator, Rick Vanner, a former Navy spy, and Paul Kilgerrin, a wounded veteran of World War II who works with American spy organizations, with his sidekick Gerry Cordent, a female pilot. You can read a bit more about Heberden here (and see the rather glamorous photos). Is it just me or do you think it might be time for a Heberden revival?

Mary Violet Heberden

By the way, the glamorous pics are partly to be explained by the fact that Heberden started out as an actress. She began in London at age 16, but soon relocated to New York, apparently to get away from living with her spinster aunts. According to John's research, she worked variously as a tour guide, office manager, and timber importer (!). Her one fairly substantial claim to fame as an actress came 1935-1937, when she appeared on Broadway in a supporting role in Victoria Regina, starring Helen Hayes as Queen Victoria.

And finally (last but hopefully not least), we come to the one author on this list whose works are all, rather amazingly, in print and readily available (at least at the moment). GUY CULLINGFORD (real name Alice Constance Lindsay Taylor) wrote about a dozen humorous mysteries 1948-1991. Orion's "Murder Room" series has now released all of her mysteries as e-books, and some of the descriptions sound enticing. The only potential problem: there appears to be some doubt about how long Murder Room titles will continue to be available in view of announcements that the imprint is closing down. So, perhaps we should get them while we can?
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