Monday, July 28, 2014

List highlights: Girls' stuff

Lately, as you may have noticed, I seem to be almost as obsessed with books aimed at girls and young woman as I am with middlebrow fiction more generally.  Even if I don't feel compelled to read all of the girls' fiction I come across (though obviously lately I have felt compelled often enough), I still always enjoy exploring what was published and getting a feel for the plots and the style of a very interesting subgenre.  Whether they're school stories, adventure tales, romances, or career novels, they seem to have as much to tell us about the culture and gender roles of the time period as any other writings of the period.  Not to mention that they can have an irresistible charm all their own.

As it happens, my most recent update to the Overwhelming List doesn't feature any writers who specialized in school stories.  This is because I'm still wrestling with the intimidating number of new writers I've come across in the wonderful Encyclopedia of Girls' School Stories (aka The Book) by Sue Sims and Hilary Clare and am hoping to do an update devoted entirely to them at some point in the not-too-distant future.  For my most recent update, then, I included only those authors who specialized in fiction for young people that isn't specifically school-related.  There proved to be some quite interesting ones that were new to me—including a few that I may indeed feel compelled to read.

JOSEPHINE KAMM is surely the edgiest of the authors listed here.  She pioneered the field of young adult novels, which was really only coming into its own in the 1960s when she shook things up with Young Mother (1965), her acclaimed and controversial novel about a pregnant teenager.  She had earlier published two girls' career novels, Janet Carr, Journalist (1953), and Student Almoner (1955), as well as biographies of Gertrude Bell, Fanny Burney, Emmeline Pankhurst, and two pioneers of girls' education, Frances Buss and Dorothea Beale, two histories which sound right up my alley—Hope Deferred: Girls' Education in English History (1965) and Rapiers and Battleaxes: The Women's Movement and Its Aftermath (1966)—and several works of Jewish history.  But that was all late in her career, and I find myself also drawn to her five very early novels for adults, which have the enticing titles All Quiet at Home (1936), Disorderly Caravan (1938), Nettles to My Head (1939), Peace, Perfect Peace (1947), and Come, Draw This Curtain (1948).

Fellow blogger CallMeMadam posted not too long ago about FREDA C. BOND and her post was the first time I'd come across Bond's works and made me particularly want to check out the WWII-era trilogy The End House (1943), The Lancasters at Lynford (1944), and Susan and Priscilla (1945).  Bond also wrote the later Carols series, comprised of The Holiday that Wasn't (1947), The Week before Christmas (1948), The Carols Explore (1949), and Squibs at School (1951).  Her career apparently began with a single novel for adults, The Philanthropists (1933), about which precious little information is available.

Girls' career stories are always interesting to peruse for what they say about the assumptions and priorities of their day—not to mention for some often lovely or entertaining jacket art.  In this update, I came across two more authors who specialized in career stories.  ROSAMOND BERTRAM, about whom little seems to be known, focused on journalism in her novels, while JOAN LLEWELYN OWENS, who likewise remains shrouded in some obscurity, wrote about more widely varied careers, including medicine.

Perhaps ALICE MARGARET STEVENSON could also be seen as a career story author, though since she published only a single novel, there's only one career to focus on.  Her 1920 novel Hilary: The Story of a College Girl (1920), is about a young woman at Oxford who becomes a missionary providing medical attention to Indian women.

And it's possible that BARBARA VEREKER belongs in the career category as well, though I haven't found enough information about her work to be sure.  She may have been involved in the film industry herself, as she published a history of the cinema as well as Caroline at the Film Studios (1955), which could be a career story.  But Caroline returned in three more novels which don't seem to carry on the theme—Adventure for Caroline (1956), Caroline in Scotland (1957), and Caroline in Wales (1959).

MARGARET BAINES REED was the daughter of boys' school story author Talbot Baines Reed.  Much of her work is historical fiction for children, such as The Forest Road (1923), The Foundling of Thornesford: A Story of Norman and Saxon (1926), Sir Adam's Orchard: : A Story of York and Lancaster (1926), and The Gate House: A Story of Queen Elizabeth's Days (1927), but some of her later works sound suspiciously like girls' school stories, including H.R.H. Miss Johnson (1929) and Betty Lends a Hand (1930).  What do you think?

I know little enough about MAUDE LEESON, but her early novels are apparently romances for girls, including The Fords of Hilton Langley (1913) and The Marriage of Cecilia (1914).  SYBIL HADDOCK published only five novels, including several in the Orfull series which sound intriguing.  And SYBIL BURR was already mentioned in my Mystery List for her intriguing Scottish mystery Lantern of the North/Night Train to Scotland.  But she is best known for Life with Lisa (1958), a fictional diary written by a 12-year-old girl, which was reprinted by Puffin in 1979 and adapted for Radio 4 in 2003.

That's all for this round.  Do any of these particularly strike your fancy?

ROSAMOND BERTRAM (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of at least six career novels for girls, including Ann Thorne, Reporter (1939), Mary Truslove, Detective (1940), Ann Thorne Comes to America (1941), Philippa Drives On (1947), Scoop for Ann Thorne (1949), and Front Page Ann Thorne (1951).

Novelist and author of Girls Own type tales, including a trilogy discussed hereThe End House (1943), The Lancasters at Lynford (1944), and Susan and Priscilla (1945); others include The Holiday That Wasn't (1947), Squibs at School (1951), and an early adult novel, The Philanthropists (1933).

SYBIL [EDITH] BURR (1909-2002)
Author of several children’s novels in the 1950s, including the intriguing Lantern of the North (1954, aka Night Train to Scotland), a mystery with a 15-year-old heroine, The Saint Bride Blue (1956), apparently also set in Scotland, and Life With Lisa (1958), dramatized for Radio 4 in 2003.

SYBIL HADDOCK (dates unknown)
Author of five novels for girls, including several featuring a single character, Nancy Orfull, and her family; titles include Vera the Vet (1940), That Orfull Girl (1943), That Orfull Family (1944), Nancy Takes a Hand (1952), and Nancy Runs the Show (1958).

JOSEPHINE KAMM (1905-1989)
(née Hart)
Known for her pioneering young adult novels, including Young Mother (1965), about a pregnant teen, Kamm started with five adult novels—All Quiet at Home (1936), Disorderly Caravan (1938), Nettles to My Head (1939), Peace, Perfect Peace (1947), and Come, Draw This Curtain (1948).

MAUDE LEESON (dates unknown)
More research needed; author of at least six novels just before and after WWI; early titles like The Fords of Hilton Langley (1913) and The Marriage of Cecilia (1914) seem to be cheerful romances for young girls, while later works like God's Price (1920) and Still Waters (1922) are more serious.

(married name Venner)
More research needed; author of both fiction and non-fiction about career choices for girls; her fiction includes Sally Grayson: Wren (1954), Margaret Becomes a Doctor (1957), A Library Life for Deborah (1957), and Diana Seton: Veterinary Student (1960).

Daughter of boys' school story author Talbot Baines Reed; much of her work is historical fiction for children, such as The Forest Road (1923) and Sir Adam's Orchard (1926), but some works seem like school stories, including H.R.H. Miss Johnson (1929) and Betty Lends a Hand (1930).

(née Adams)
Scholar and author of several books on Indian culture and language, Stevenson also published a single novel, Hilary: The Story of a College Girl (1920), about a young woman at Oxford who becomes a missionary providing medical attention to Indian women.

Journalist, playwright, and author of four girls’ stories—Caroline at the Film Studios (1955), Adventure for Caroline (1956), Caroline in Scotland (1957), and Caroline in Wales (1959)—as well as The Story of Films (1961); could she have been associated with the film industry in some way?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

MARGHANITA LASKI – Apologies & "The Tower" (both 1955)

I've always meant to write a bit about Marghanita Laski, who is surely one of the most exciting and interesting of Persephone's rediscovered authors, or at least one of my own favorites.  Sadly, she only published six novels, all in the course of less than a decade, before she turned her attention to writing a single play, biographical and critical works on the likes of Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, George Eliot, Charlotte Yonge, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, a couple of stray children's books, and several books about religion written from the perspective of her own atheism.

Of her six novels, four have been reprinted by Persephone—To Bed with Grand Music (1946), Little Boy Lost (1949), The Village (1952), and The Victorian Chaise Longue (1953)—and all of those are among my favorites and are novels I recommend to anyone with an interest in World War II and the postwar period.  I also very much enjoyed the two that Persephone (so far, at least) have not reprinted, both of which have World War II-related themes.  Love on the Super-tax (1944), Laski's debut, is a challenge to track down, but deals cheerfully with the black market and class relations during the war, while Tory Heaven; or, Thunder on the Right (1948, inexplicably published in the U.S. as Toasted English) is a satire that presents a surreal postwar world in which traditional class boundaries are now enforced by law, with rather amusing results for six people of varying classes who have been cast away on a desert island for the duration of the war and are only rescued shortly after it ends.

Since Laski is such an interesting and entertaining author, there's no shortage of bloggers writing about her, most of whom have probably said it better than I could.  But what better excuse to mention some of my favorite bloggers?  Lyn at I Prefer Reading discussed To Bed with Grand Music back in 2010, as did Fleur Fisher.  Karen at Books and Chocolate and Booksnob both reviewed The Village back in 2011, and Kirkus reviewed it with its usual condescension when it first appeared, ending its review thus: "The larger issues of class and caste disintegration translated in terms of everyday lives, recognizable frailties, this is gentle in its realism and warm in its interpretation. For women, with possibly stronger rentals than sales."  (I'd like to travel back in time just to box that reviewer's ears.)  As for Little Boy Lost, Thomas at My Porch was lukewarm, and Savidge Reads was exasperated, but my own experience was something closer to Captive Reader's.  Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book has discussed both Little Boy Lost and Love on the Supertax, while Reading 1900-1950 also posted a review of the latter just a few months ago.  And everyone has reviewed The Victorian Chaise-Longue (and the reviews have been mixed), but my favorite has to be dovegreyreader's because of the fascinating background she compiled of the year in which it was published.

Now that I'm poking around, though, I don't see much online about Toasted English, though Positively Good Reads did a short review a while back.  Hmmm, an excuse for a re-read and a review of my own?  As if I'm not overwhelmed enough these days!

Front flap

The novels, then, are relatively well-known, but I've always been curious about this little book called Apologies (1955)—which, according to the only references to it I could find, seemed to be a humorous collection of Laski's magazine pieces—and about "The Tower," one of the only short stories Laski seems to have published, which originally appeared in Cynthia Asquith's Third Ghost Book, also in 1955.  Mentions of these works are few and far between online, so when I managed to get my hot little hands on both, I decided I could kill two birds with one stone (though I ordinarily make it a policy not to kill any birds at all, by stoning or otherwise) and finally write a bit about Laski while sharing some information on two of her lesser-known writings.

Apologies turns out to be, indeed, more or less a collection of Laski's periodical publications, and they are indeed humorous—again, more or less—but it's not quite what I had expected.  These are, in fact, not so much articles as lists—at times funny and at times more subtly satirical—of the sorts of clichés and pleasantries people use to disguise their real views, justify their indifference or lack of knowledge, or avoid engaging with difficult issues.  Much more difficult to explain than to show, so here's one of my favorites:

It's an unusual way to make a point, but presumably it served its purpose, as an acknowledgement at the beginning notes that many of the pieces had previously appeared in The Observer, Vogue, Punch, The Spectator, and Time and Tide.  At first, however, I was a bit disappointed, hoping for more pizzazz or a few more clear-cut giggles.  The pieces just seemed to be without a lot of significant content and none too hysterically funny.  But then I started to look back over them, and suddenly they began to "work" for me.  I found that by slowing down and really thinking about each of the predicates, as it were, and imagining the kinds of people who might be making such statements, they do start to make their point and even pack a bit of a wallop.  For we certainly hear (and use ourselves?) these same kinds of benign and banal generalities today, but we don't perhaps think of just what a substantial number of them there are and what their underlying purpose might be.

Here's one more taste:

And perhaps as entertaining as the banalities Laski compiled are the wonderful illustrations "by Anton."  I tried to poke around and find some additional information on this mysterious Anton, and I swear I have read another book featuring his illustrations, but I could find nothing online and couldn't for the life of me remember in what book I might have stumbled across his illustrations before.  They are perfect complements to Laski's text, though, and I can't resist (well, when do I ever resist?) sharing a couple more.  This one rather speaks for itself:

And this one accompanies a list of the excuses we find for watching television:

Anton must stand with Joyce Dennys as one of my favorite illustrators, but who on earth was he?  Does anyone happen to know anything about him?  [I knew one or more of you brilliant readers would be able to help: check out this link, shared by Susan Daly, which tells who Anton really was. Thank you, Susan!  And this bio includes a lovely photograph of Anton/Beryl Thompson herself.  With all the women on my list who wrote under masculine pseudonyms, how on earth could I have assumed that Anton was a "he"?!]

The fact that "The Tower" really couldn't be more different from Apologies is consistent with the astonishing variety of Laski's body of work in general.  The story first appeared, as I noted above, in Cynthia Asquith's Third Ghost Book in 1955, but it was reprinted more recently in both The Norton Book of Ghost Stories (1994) and The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century Ghost Stories (1996), both of which are likely to be cornucopias for fans of ghosts and the supernatural—in particular, the latter's other authors range from E. Nesbit, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elizabeth Bowen to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene, and Penelope Lively.  It's rather a shame that Persephone didn't include "The Tower" in their reprint of The Victorian Chaise Longue, as it shares some of that work's themes and is similarly harrowing.  It would have made a perfect companion piece.  Weighing in at only 8 pages, the story is a concise little masterpiece of tension building into horror. 

Of course, I can't share too much of it here without spoiling it, so I will merely tease you and encourage you to read it (preferably not late at night or when you're alone).  It's about Caroline, the newlywed wife of David, a British Council worker in Florence.  She has relocated to Florence with him just three months ago, and has spent much of that time being led on a cycle of tourism by her husband, whose fascination for Italian art and architecture is insatiable and a bit on the pretentious side:

Caroline had come out to Italy with the idea that when she had worked through one or two galleries and made a few trips—say to Assisi and Siena—she would have done her duty as a British Council wife, and could then settle down to examining the Florentine shops, which everyone had told her were too marvellous for words. But Neville had been contemptuous of her programme. 'You can see the stuff in the galleries at any time,' he had said, 'but I'd like you to start with the pieces that the ordinary: tourist doesn't see,' and of course Caroline couldn't possibly let herself be classed as an ordinary tourist.

Among the things she has seen with David is a haunting portrait of a young girl, painted by Niccolo di Ferramano, a Renaissance artist and perhaps a dabbler in black magic as well.  Caroline learns that the girl was the young wife of di Ferramano and that she died at only 18 years of age, while David notes the resemblance of the young girl to Caroline herself.  As the story opens, Caroline has had her first day out exploring the Italian countryside on her own, and has come across a guidebook reference to an intriguing tower, coincidentally also built by di Ferramano:

The road begins to rise in a series of gentle curves, passing through pleasing groves of olives and vines. 5 km. on the left is the fork for Florence. To the right may be seen the Tower of Sacrifice (470 steps) built in 1535 by Niccolo di Ferramano; superstitious fear left the tower intact when, in 1549. the surrounding village was completely destroyed....

Triumphantly Caroline lifted her finger from the fine italic type. There was nothing to mar the success of this afternoon. Not only had she taken the car out alone for the first time, driving unerringly on the right-hand side of the road, but what she had achieved was not a simple drive but a cultural excursion. She had taken the Italian guide-book Neville was always urging on her and hesitantly, haltingly, she had managed to piece out enough of the language to choose a route that took in four well-thought-of frescoes, two universally-admired campaniles, and one wooden crucifix in a village church quite a long way from the main road. It was not, after all, such a bad thing that a British Council meeting had kept Neville in Florence. True, he was certain to know all about the campaniles and the frescoes, but there was just a chance that he hadn't discovered the crucifix, and how gratifying if she could, at last, have something of her own to contribute to his constantly accumulating hoard of culture.

And now she has come across the tower, which offers an even more exclusive experience.  Naturally, Caroline decides to climb the tower, despite the approach of evening, but I can't tell you much about her ascent and descent except to say that it will make you grip the arms of your chair.  The tension builds throughout, but most of the suspense is quite relatable, what any of us might feel and think in climbing a rickety, abandoned old tower as the sunlight outside is fading (though these days I imagine the tower would have a ticket line out front and a heinous audio tour to accompany it, which would lend a very different sort of nightmarishness).  

It's only—brilliantly and with wonderful subtlety—in the final line of "The Tower" that the horror dawns, and even then, as with all the best spooky writing, it is merely implied and suggested, so that our own imaginations do most of the work of terrorizing us.  And it might sound like a joke to say that the horror has to do with mathematics—some of us have a fair horror of math to begin withbut trust me, it won't seem like a joke when you're reading it…

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Catching up on life and books

I mentioned last week that it's been a hectic few weeks, and now, on the cusp of a new beginning of sorts, I'll tell you what I've been busy with.  I'll be starting a new job tomorrow, and it's a job I was hoping for for quite some time.  I will still be a legal secretary, but in a new environment and one that's rather more stable and will allow me to learn a lot of new things, so I am excited (and, of course, nervous as well).

It was a bit of a wrench leaving my old job.  I had been there for nearly four years, felt like part of a family, and felt like I knew just about everything there was to know about the job, which was a nice feeling all round.  But I had also watched the firm decrease in size by about 60% in the last couple of years, and was wondering just how much further it was going to decrease and what the future might hold, so it seemed like not a bad idea to move on when the chance presented itself.

During the round of applications and interviews (which always paralyze me with anxiety, despite the fact that I know I'm quite good at what I do, but I do hate talking about how great I am to perfect strangers—talking about how great books are is quite a different thing!), and during the phase when I had to make my decisions and come to terms with leaving my old job and telling my boss and co-workers, I found myself engaging with a lot of comfort reading—and also getting a bit behind on doing reviews of some of the books I read.  It's reached a point now where there are a few books I'm just never going to get around to writing about properly.  To be honest, there are a couple that I don't even recall all that well—a sad testament to my overburdened (or else prematurely senile) mind.  So, I thought I'd do the best I can in summing up a few of these, sharing some thoughts or favorite passages, and then moving on with lightened heart.

Interestingly, I found two girls' school novels and one non-school girls' story to be particularly fitting of my mood, in some strange way.  It made me wonder if one of the reasons so many readers seem to love and enjoy school stories might be because many of them, at least, are about transitional times in their characters' lives—whether it's adapting to a new school, making new friends, whipping oneself or one's team or form into shape, or actually leaving school and facing an uncertain future.  (Then of course there's the occasional catching of spies or thieves, which perhaps has less grounding in day-to-day reality, but is still entertaining.)  And the fact that, in these tales, the obstacles and adaptations are generally faced—either from the beginning or after important lessons are learned—with cheerful energy, optimism, and self-awareness seems to make them the perfect brain candy even for adults who are facing nerve-wracking transitions.  No doubt that's not exactly an original thought, but it came to me as MARY K. HARRIS, ELSIE J. OXENHAM, and MABEL ESTHER ALLAN were providing me with soothing energy, optimism, and self-awareness!

For some reason, I was obsessed with reading Harris's Gretel at St. Bride's (1941) from the first mention I found of it.  The book deals with the arrival at a traditional boarding school of an Austrian refugee from the Nazis, and the disruptions she causes due to her personal worries (about a father left behind in Germany, an aunt who has escaped to Switzerland but is impoverished and seriously ill, and about her inability to pay the school's fees and her unwillingness to accept charity) and her willingness to break rules to accomplish her goals.  Her daring disregard for the usual proprieties inspires the meek Jane and conquers the vicious (or perhaps not so vicious) Bianca.  It's all predictable enough, though Gretel's background and anxieties might be a bit unusual for the genre, but the book was a perfect escape from my own stresses and strains—and the fact that my worries paled in comparison to Gretel's was a good tonic as well.  I'm glad I pursued it and nabbed a copy (even if the cheap copy I found reeked of cigarette smoke and will have to be quarantined from the other books in my library).

Not long after, I had my first introduction to an Elsie Oxenham novel with The Abbey Girls Go Back to School (1922), one of the acquisitions from my Girls Gone B[u]y-ing spree (sorry, can't resist repeating that bad pun just one more time) a while back, which turned out to be distracting and enjoyable in a totally different way.  Here, the main worries concerned learning folk dance routines and impressing the dance mistresses, but that made good ice cream for my brain as well.  If at times I felt that the novel was perhaps a bit too heavily absorbed with the dancing, I did enjoy learning about the dances and I found the characters irresistible.  The pages turned themselves.  I was, though, just a bit taken aback by some of the girls' romantic passions for teachers and one another.  By now I'm familiar enough with the concept of a "pash" and understand how innocent and widespread they usually were (though presumably not always?), but Oxenham spelled it all out a bit more than I was accustomed to, as the girls speculate about how a teacher's body will look in a jumper—and how enjoyable it will be to see more of it—or as two of the girls casually and frequently refer to one another as husband and wife.  Schoolgirl crushes indeed!

And from there I moved on to another Girls Gone By book, Mabel Esther Allan's Margaret Finds a Future.  This one was perhaps the most fitting of all for my own transitions, as the story begins with 17-year-old Margaret learning that her well-to-do aunt has died and there is no money for her to continue at school.  She must instead go to live with another aunt in wintry cold Norfolk.  As in many cases, the "difficult new life" Margaret must face turns out to be not so difficult after all (and hopefully my new job will turn out the same), for the aunt is the custodian of the gorgeous old Melveney Hall, a National Trust estate, and there are lovely new people for Margaret to meet—and several for her to cheerfully assist with problems.

There are no surprises in Margaret Finds a Future, but it was still a remarkable read for me because, just as I found with Allan's Return to the West, which I reviewed only a couple of weeks ago, Allan's attention to detail and sense of place and atmosphere is very compelling.  As Margaret explores Norfolk and the estate, the reader gets to tag along on a vivid and entertaining tour of the area.  Apparently Allan used this structure fairly regularly.  The Girls Gone By edition includes an informative biographical essay by Sheila Ray which highlights several other Allan titles with similar storylines, and I'm pretty sure I'll be tracking down a few of them for the next time I want some virtual tourism.  I was surprised to learn from that essay, too, that in all Allan published nearly 200 books (Ray includes a complete bibliography as well), and between the publication of her first novel in 1948 and Margaret in 1954, she had actually published 25 additional titles.  So if the latter feels a bit less literary than Return to the West, a bit more to the point and focused on good storytelling rather than literary technique, it's easy to see why!

Alas, MARCH COST's The Hour Awaits (1952) is one of the books I can barely recall, which perhaps doesn't sound like the ravest of recommendations, but on the other hand I do remember finding it quite entertaining and enjoyable.  It's the story of a princess from an impoverished fictional land next to Italy, who comes incognito to London for a single day in an attempt to reclaim and destroy a family secret—and in the process relive some of the pleasures of her first trip to London 10 years before.  The story unwinds (24-style) in chapters named for each hour of her stay, and it's all quite silly and glamorous and enjoyable.  And (apparently) rather forgettable.

Cost was a very successful author in her day—The Hour Awaits, at least, received the coveted and profitable honor of being chosen as a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club—and so I regret not getting around to a review of this book when it was fresh in my mind.  I do recall having some difficulty coming to terms with Cost's rather lush, ornate style, but once I got into the flow, it became rather haunting and addictive.  Here's a passage I had marked as an example:

Behind her chair, the waiter started slightly.

He had been given to understand that this was a visitor of the first importance, incog. But these hands resting on the damask cloth were not the hands of a lady. They were not even the hands of a servant . . . they were those of a manual worker—ingrained, horrible! His wife would not have owned them.

Pursing his lips, he withdrew to sound the chambermaid and spread his news.

Victoria, stretching out one of the repellent extremities, picked up her newspaper with a little sigh of contentment. Roll, croissant, toast Melba-butter shredded in pale, spiral shells, China tea dusted with jasmine flowers . . . delectable! She had not sat down to breakfast for years. At the Chateau Maria Sophia that was the meal she prepared for the others. Charlotte, now crippled with rheumatism, managed the midday meal and supper. Victoria was entrusted with breakfast, and the housework of the Chateau. On the days that Charlotte coped with the laundry Victoria was also responsible for the washing-up. These were the admitted tasks. But there were others that they dealt with, never acknowledged by either.

It's almost enough to make me want to re-read the novel and write a proper review.  Perhaps someday.

I also found time recently for ELIZABETH CADELL's Royal Summons (1972), one of several late Cadells I picked up at the last library book sale.  It deals with a wealthy young American girl who comes to England, with her curmudgeonly cousin Corinne, to visit a manor house which—she has only just learned—is part of her mother's legacy to her.  A classic Cadell matriarch, Lady Laura, a relative of her mother's, has occupied the house and managed the estate for years despite having no claim to it, and suffice it to say that she has no intent of giving it up now.  There is glamorous travel, romance, and a smidgen of intrigue, and it's all completely readable and fun.  It even includes some surprisingly thoughtful meditation on the nature of authenticity and truth, which must have seeped its way into this light romantic novel from the halls of academe, where such concepts were getting careful attention from scholars and theorists in the late 1960s.

Okay, enough for now.  I can't say that I'm completely caught up now—perhaps I'll need to make "catching up" posts a regular feature—but I do feel a bit better.

Oh, and by the way, for the past week I've been enjoying a bit of a vacay between jobs, and in addition to neglected household duties, some shopping, and other odds and ends, I've been able to spend a fair amount of time putting together some spare reviews and other posts to share with you in the next couple of weeks.  That way, if the new job is keeping me very occupied and leaving me drained at the end of the day, you won't have to be deprived of my sparkling wit!  And if I do say so myself, I think a couple of the posts are rather interesting, but you'll have to see for yourself in due time…

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


A-D          E-M          N-Z

British women mystery writers 1910-1960

Fulfilling my goal of beginning each section of the list with a
Hitchcock reference...the poster from Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes,
based on Ethel Lina White's The Wheel Spins

At long last, the third and final part of the Mystery List.  There were so many lovely covers to peruse and choose between, it took me a bit of extra time to finalize it. 

A cheesy cover for one of my favorite mysteries

There are three or four of the very biggest names in mystery writing in this section, from Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters) to Dorothy L. Sayers to Josephine Tey to Patricia Wentworth.

And a rather nice cover for another of my faves

And there are some intriguing lesser-known authors as well.  I only recently learned that Winifred Peck—best known now for the Persephone reprint of her World War II novel House-Bound—also published at least one or two mysteries.  Happily, one of them is in my hot little hands as I write this (well, not literally, I do only have two hands after all, but you know what I mean), so I'll be able to report on it soon.

I also have my eye on Edith Caroline Rivett, who published most of her novels as ECR Lorac or as Carol Carnac, on HARRIET RUTLAND, whose small output nevertheless sounds intriguing, and on SHELLEY SMITH, whose attention to changing social conditions piques my interest.

And there are three less obscure writers that I've always meant to get around to but never have.  Two of them, SHEILA PIM and MAUREEN SARSFIELD, were revived a few years back by Rue Morgue Press (though I've never quite forgiven Rue Morgue for dropping the latter's wonderfully memorable title Green December Fills the Graveyard in favor of the instantly forgettable Murder at Shots Hall).  The third is ETHEL LINA WHITE, whose name may not be widely known but whose novel The Wheel Spins was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's classic film The Lady Vanishes, which has the added bonus of allowing me to fulfill my goal of starting all three sections of my list with a Hitchcock reference!

My vote for the very worst cover in this bunch!

I'll be updating these posts with links back and forth for easy navigation, and will be linking to the list from the left side of the blog for ease of access.  I hope you enjoy!

(née Hocking, aka William Penmare)
Daughter of novelist Joseph Hocking and sister of Anne Hocking and Joan Carew Shill (see above and below for their listings), Nisot published at least 10 mystery novels of the 1920s and 1930s.  Her first three books appeared under the Penmare pseudonym—The Black Swan (1928), The Man Who Could Stop War (1929), and The Scorpion (1929).  Under her own name she published Alixe Derring (1933), Shortly Before Midnight (1934), Twelve to Dine (1935), Hazardous Holiday (1936), Extenuating Circumstances (1937), False Witness (1938), and Unnatural Deeds (1939).

NANCY OAKLEY (1894-????)
(née Rainford)
Author of two mystery novels with her husband, John Oakley—The Clevedon Case (1923) and The Lint House Mystery (1925).  Little information is available, but the latter apparently deals with a mystery writer who investigates the disappearance of his young ward's father.

G. T. OCKLEY (1874-1955)
(pseudonym of Grace Thompson, née Milligan)
Sculptor and author of three crime novels—The Man Under the Window (1935), The Tempestuous Wooer (1936), and The Devil on Board (1937)—about which little information seems to be available.

(aka Ellis Peters, aka Peter Benedict, aka Jolyon Carr, aka John Redfern)
Starting as a rather serious mainstream novelist, with such novels as The City Lies Four-Square (1938), Ordinary People (1941, aka People of My Own), She Goes to War (1942)—making use of her own experiences in the WRNS during WWII, By Firelight (1948), Lost Children (1951), as well as two notable historical trilogies, Pargeter didn't create her alter-ego crime novelist persona, Ellis Peters, until 1959.  She is best known for the tremendously successful Brother Cadfael mysteries, featuring a medieval monk as detective, which were memorably adapted for television.  But some fans prefer her other major series, featuring George Felse and, later, his son Dominic.  Pargeter is less well-known for a handful of early mysteries she wrote using the pseudonym Jolyon Carr—including Murder in the Dispensary (1938), Freedom for Two (1939), Masters of the Parachute Mail (1940), and Death Comes by Post (1940).  Her one novel using the John Redfern pseudonym, The Victim Needs a Nurse (1940), certainly sounds like a mystery as well, though I'm not so sure about her one title writing as Peter Benedict, Day Star (1937).  As to her more famous mysteries, the Felse series begins with Fallen Into the Pit (1951) and includes Flight of a Witch (1964), A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (1965), Black Is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart (1966), and many more.  The Brother Cadfael series began with A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977) and includes One Corpse Too Many (1979), The Virgin in the Ice (1982), The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983), and more.  There's a thorough discussion of the Brother Cadfael mysteries here, and here is a nice discussion of Pargeter's mysteries in general.

WINIFRED PECK (1882-1962)
(née Knox)
Primarily a mainstream novelist, now best known for House-Bound (1942), about a woman surviving without servants in wartime Edinburgh, which was reprinted by Persephone.  I've only recently discovered that Peck also wrote at least two mysteries—The Warrielaw Jewel (1933), set in Edwardian Scotland among an eccentric and increasingly impoverished upper-crust family, which I enthusiastically reviewed a while back, and Arrest the Bishop? (1949), about the murder of a blackmailing clergyman at the Bishop's palace on the eve of an ordination, and a sometimes chaotic cast of church figures and family members. Both are delightful. Other non-mystery titles include The Skirts of Time (1935), Bewildering Cares: A Week in the Life of a Clergyman's Wife (1940), A Garden Enclosed (1941), Tranquillity (1944), There Is a Fortress (1945), Veiled Destinies (1948), and Unseen Array (1951).  Late in life, Peck also published two memoirs, A Little Learning: A Victorian Childhood (1952) and Home for the Holidays (1955)

(aka Glint Green, married name Fisher)
Prolific author of exotic melodrama and crime novels from the 1910s-1930s.  Her series detective was Inspector Weild.  Titles include Blind Eyes (1914), Butterfly Wings (1916), Fate and the Watcher (1917), The Death Drum (1919), Moon Mountains (1920), Pamela and Her Lion Man (1926), and Guilty, My Lord (1928).

SHEILA PIM (1909-1995)
Also a popular writer on gardening, Pim is best known for her four mystery novels, in particular Common or Garden Crime (1945), which vividly portrays wartime life in an Irish village; Creeping Venom (1950) begins in the final days of the war and continues into the first days of peace; the others are A Brush With Death (1950) and A Hive of Suspects (1952).

(aka Josephine Mann)
Daughter of Joanna Cannan, and author, like her sisters Christine and Diana, of children's horse stories—including Six Ponies (1946), I Had Two Ponies (1947), Prince Among Ponies (1952), The Trick Jumpers (1958), and Ride To The Rescue (1979). She also tried her hand at mysteries, with three detective novels featuring Scotland Yard D.C.I. James Flecker—Gin and Murder (1959), They Died in the Spring (1960), and Murder Strikes Pink (1963). She also published one pseudonymous gothic novel, A Place with Two Faces (1972).

M[ONA]. A[UGUSTA]. RADFORD (1894-1990)
(née Mangan, aka M. A. Radford)
Author, with her husband Edwin, of more than 30 mystery novels, many featuring series characters Dr. Manson and Inspector Holroyd; titles include Murder Jigsaw (1944), Heel of Achilles (1950), Look in at Murder (1956), The Six Men (1958), Death of a Frightened Editor (1959), Death's Inheritance (1961), Murder of Three Ghosts (1963), The Middleford Murders (1967), Trunk Call to Murder (1968), and Death of an Ancient Saxon (1969).  The pair also collaborated on an Encyclopaedia of Superstitions (1948), which is still in print.

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 what certainly sounds like a mystery novel, Was She Guilty? (1920).

RONA RANDALL (1911-2008)
(pseudonym of Rona Shambrook, née Green, aka Virginia Standage)
Although primarily known as a prolific author of hospital romance, gothic fiction, and historical romance from the 1940s-1980s, but several online sources include this quote about her career: "she started publishing mainly contemporary doctor nurse romances, before writing also gothic romances, and when the market for gothic novels softened, she wrote historical mystery romances."  I haven't been able to find much about these mystery romances, but they may include such titles as Walk Into My Parlour (1962), Seven Days from Midnight (1965), Mountain of Fear (1972), or The Drayton Legacy (1985).  If anyone reading this is a Randall fan, please share your knowledge and I'll update this entry.

(née Williams, later married name Percy, aka Mrs. Fred Reynolds)
Author of mystery and romance novels from the 1880s to 1930s; titles include As Flows the River (1911), The Woman Flinches (1913), Miss Anne Tankerton (1926), The Loram Picture (1930), and Green Stockings (1933).

KATHLYN RHODES (1877-1962)
Sister of Hylda Ball; author of children's fiction—including several school stories—and more than fifty romances, often set in exotic locales, including The Lure of the Desert (1916), Desert Lovers (1922), Desert Nocturne (1939), and It Happened in Cairo (1944).  According to the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction, she also published crime novels.  As information about her work is sparse, it's unclear which titles might be mysteries, but Crime on a Cruise (1935) and In Search of Stephanie (1941) seem like good candidates.

(aka John Knipe)
Author of three pseudonymous novels which may be thrillers—The Watch-Dog of the Crown (1920), The Hour Before the Dawn (1921), and Whited Sepulchres (1924)—and a later historical novel under her own name, Men Loved Darkness (1935), as well as a well-regarded history, Espionage: The Story of the Secret Service of the English Crown (1934).

(née Moore, earlier married name Ackland, aka Mrs. Victor Rickard)
Prolific writer who began with light romantic tales, such as A Reckless Puritan (1920) and A Fool's Errand (1921), and somewhat more serious novels dealing with World War I, such as The Light Above the Cross Roads (1916) and The Fire of Green Boughs (1918), by the late 1920s Rickard began publishing mysteries and thrillers.  Information about these (most published as Mrs. Victor Rickard) is sparse, but they seem to include Not Sufficient Evidence (1926), The Empty Villa (1929), The Dark Stranger (1930), Murder by Night (1936), and The Guilty Party (1940).

(aka ECR Lorac, aka Carol Carnac, aka Carol Rivett)
Prolific mystery novelist whose works mostly fall into two series—one, using her E.C.R. Lorac pseudonym, featuring Chief Inspector Robert MacDonald of the London Metropolitan Police, the other, written under the name Carol Carnac, featuring Inspector Julian Rivers.  Among the former are Triple Death (1936), Murder at Mornington (1937), The Striped Suitcase (1946), It's Her Own Funeral (1951), The Burning Question (1957), and Death of a Lady Killer (1959).  The latter series includes The Murder on the Burrows (1931), Death on the Oxford Road (1933), Murder in Chelsea (1934), Bats in the Belfry (1937), Tryst for a Tragedy (1940), Murder by Matchlight (1945), Accident by Design (1950), Shroud of Darkness (1954), and Death in Triplicate (1958).

KAY ROCHE (1911-1997)
(full name Kathleen Margaret Roche)
Author of two novels which may be mysteries or otherwise crime-oriented; The Shuttered House (1950) appears to be set in Tangier, while The Game and the Candle (1951) takes place in Spain.

(pseudonym of Rose Elizabeth Knox Ward)
Wife of thriller writer Sax Rohmer and the author of a single mystery of her own, Bianca in Black (1958), about a model who believes herself to be cursed; she later collaborated with Rohmer's former assistant on Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer (1972).

(née Courlander, aka Elizabeth Anthony)
Apparently the sister of mystery writer Shelley Smith; author of a single novel under her own name, The Cup and the Song (1947), about which I've found no details, and two mysteries under her pseudonym—Dramatic Murder (1948) and Made for Murder (1950).

Author of only six novels which display impressive versatility.  Information about her first two books—The Blazing Star (1914) and The Straight Furrow (1920)—is hard to come by, but The Lily Field (1933) is a historical novel set during the Hundred Years War, The Forgotten Terror (1938) is an acclaimed mystery, Double Entry (1939) is about time travel and the seduction of the past, and The Door Without a Key (1948) is a psychological spy story.  Whew!  The Forgotten Terror, a tale of a young girl traumatized by having witnessed a crime at the age of three, was named by Alexander Woollcott on a list of the best mysteries, and the Adelaide Advertiser praised it warmly.  Described as "a skillful combination of romance, crime, and adventure," The Door Without a Key, meanwhile, "tells how an enemy agent of 1941 fell five years later into a trap of his own setting, all through the schizophrenic tendencies of the victim of his plot."  Both of these sound intriguing and well worth tracking down, but I have to confess I'm even more seduced by Double Entry.  Although panned by the Melbourne Argus, another description I found—"Uncommon fiction about a girl living in a French Chateau who finds herself able to transport herself back to the 14th Century. As she is made to travel back more & more by he Archaeologist husband (for his own ends) she finds herself more & more apart from the modern World"—rather evokes Marghanita Laski's The Victorian Chaise-Longue.  Hmmm.

(pseudonym of Olive Maude Shinwell, née Seers)
Mystery writer who published only three novels, though all three were positively reviewed at the time and are characterized by a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Knock, Murder, Knock! (1938) is set at a mundane watering spa, in which the elderly guests enjoy spiteful gossip about the younger, especially when murder takes the stage.  Bleeding Hooks (1940, aka The Poison Fly Murder) is set among a group of fly fishers staying at a Welsh lodge. It was positively reviewed by John at Pretty Sinister back in 2011. And Blue Murder (1942) in set during World War II, among an unsavory family whose members find themselves the targets of a killer.  All three have now been reprinted in both e-book and physical formats by Dean Street Press.

(full name Victoria Mary Sackville-West, married name Nicolson)
Poet, travel writer, novelist, and the inspiration behind Virginia Woolf's Orlando; known for The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931), both adapted for television, and for her travel writing and bestselling poetry (when was the last time you heard those two words together?).  She might seem like an odd presence on this list, but in fact she also experimented with sci-fi in Grand Canyon (1941) and with mystery in Devil at Westease (1947).  Although there's lots of information about Sackville-West's better-known work, I could find no details about this one—have any of you brilliant readers come across it?

MAX SALTMARSH (1893-1975)
(pseudonym of Marian Winifred Saltmarsh, née Maxwell)
Author of at least four thrillers of the 1930s—Highly Unsafe (1936), Highly Inflammable (1936), The Clouded Moon (1937), and Indigo Death (1938).  Kirkus summed up Highly Inflammable as follows: "International intrigue—a deep-laid plot to foil the disrupting oil markets and stabilize the home market. The chief actors become deeply involved in counter-plots dealing with the drug traffic. Good melodrama."  The Clouded Moon seems to have been serialized in periodicals before it appeared in book form.

(née Nicholl)
Author of a single mystery/thriller called Long Shadows in 1935, about which information is sparse indeed.

(pseudonym of Maureen Kate Heard, married name Pretyman, aka Maureen Pretyman)
Author of two humorous mysteries reprinted by Rue Morgue Press, Green December Fills the Graveyard (1945, aka Murder at Shots Hall) and A Dinner for None (1948, aka A Party for Lawty, aka Murder at Beechlands).  Peggy Ann wrote about the latter in 2012.  Sadly, Sarsfield wrote no other mysteries—only one long-forgotten mainstream novel, Gloriana (1946), and several children's books including They Knew Too Much (1943) and Queen Victoria Lost Her Crown (1946).

(married name Fleming)
Scholar and mystery writer known for her Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels.  Although the early mysteries, such as Whose Body? (1923), Clouds of Witness (1926), and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928), are fairly straightforward—if very well done—mysteries, later works like The Nine Tailors (1934), Gaudy Night (1935), and Busman's Honeymoon (1937) could, as ODNB put it, "stand on their own against more manifestly serious fiction of their day."  Gaudy Night, in which Harriet Vane returns to her Oxford alma mater and uncovers mystery and moral dilemma, is widely considered Sayers' best and is discussed in some depth by Nicola Humble, though The Nine Tailors, with its meticulous focus on a group of bell-ringers in a snowbound English village and its meditations on mortality and time, is my personal favorite.  Her other mystery novels are Unnatural Death (1927), The Documents in the Case (1930, written with Robert Eustace), Five Red Herrings (1931), and Have His Carcase (1932).  Sayers published several collections of short stories, including Lord Peter Views the Body (1928), Hangman's Holiday (1933), and In the Teeth of the Evidence (1939), as well as collaborating on several novels with the Detection Club, in which each member contributed a chapter.  After the 1930s, Sayers wrote no more mysteries, focusing instead on philosophical and theological writings and on her acclaimed translation of Dante.  There is a Dorothy L. Sayers Society and a Sayers discussion list on Yahoo.

KAY SEATON (1915-1999)
(pseudonym of Denice Jeanette Bradley Ryan, married name Medhurst, aka several as yet unknown pseudonyms?)
Daughter of thriller writer R. R. Ryan and author of four novels that also appear to fit that genre; titles are Tyranny Within (1946), Pawns of Destiny (1947), Phantom Fear (1948), and Dark Sanctuary (1948). There has been some speculation that she may have written some or all of her father's novels as well (see here and here). She may also have had other pseudonyms not yet associated with her.

JOAN CAREW SHILL (1908-1978)
(née Hocking)
From a family of novelists—daughter of Joseph Hocking and sister of Anne Hocking and Elizabeth Nisot—Shill was the underachiever of the family, publishing only a single novel, Murder in Paradise (1946), a mystery written (and perhaps set?) in Mauritius where her husband was a government minister.  Details are sparse, because the book seems to have virtually ceased to exist—it doesn't even appear to be held by the British Library.

FIONA SINCLAIR (1919-1963)
(pseudonym of Fiona Peters, née Blaines)
Author of only five mystery novels in the early 1960s (just barely fitting my time frame here), most of them published after her tragic suicide.  Some of the works feature Inspector Paul Grainger, a deceptively frumpy-looking, Oxford-educated detective who sounds rather intriguing.  Sinclair's novels are Scandalize My Name (1960), Dead of a Physician (1961), Meddle with the Mafia (1963), Three Slips to a Noose (1964), and Most Unnatural Murder (1965).

ESSEX SMITH (1880-1964)
(pseudonym of Frances Essex Theodora Smith, married name Hope)
Author of seven novels 1912-1929; Shepherdless Sheep (1914) is about "a charismatic preacher who despite his lack of belief and acknowledged hypocrisy manages to inspire a growing band of followers"; others are Wind on the Heath (1912), The Revolving Fates (1922), If Ye Break Faith (1923), In All Time of Our Wealth (1924), The Wind's in the South (1926), and The Wye Valley Mystery (1929). The last is presumably a mystery, but information is scarce.

SHELLEY SMITH (1912-1998)
(pseudonym of Nancy Hermione Bodington, née Courlander)
Starting out with relatively traditional whodunits, Smith moved on to more psychological novels about crime and criminals.  She seems to have had a particular interest in characters who are isolated from society, and the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers intriguingly notes that: "A great many of these mysteries are set at the end of World War II, when the age of the extended family was over forever and the new society of casual living conditions and transient renters started to take over many communities."  Smith's titles include Background for Murder (1942), Death Stalks a Lady (1945), Come and Be Killed! (1946), He Died of Murder! (1947), Man Alone (1952, aka The Crooked Man), The Party at No. 5 (1954), The Lord Have Mercy (1956, aka The Shrew Is Dead), and A Grave Affair (1971). Smith's sister, Barbara Rubien, also wrote two mystery novels under the name Elizabeth Anthony.

Author of two crime novels before her tragic early death at age 21; the books are Crooks in Cabaret (1935), set in London and France, and The Four Dead Men (1936), a noir-ish thriller about four legally dead men who, having been falsely accused of crimes, set out for vengeance against ne'er-do-wells. I wrote about Spencer Simpson's tragic death at 21 here.

MARY STEWART (1916-2014)
(née Rainbow)
Best known for many years for her series of novels of Arthurian fantasy, centered around Merlin the magician, which were enormous bestsellers, in recent years renewed interest has been paid to Stewart's earlier novels of romantic suspense.  Often dealing with beautiful young heroines in peril in exotic locales, these novels were reprinted in 2011 in charming new paperback editions by Hodder & Stoughton.  They include Madam Will You Talk (1954), Wildfire at Midnight (1956), Thunder on the Right (1957), Nine Coaches Waiting (1958), My Brother Michael (1959), The Ivy Tree (1961), The Moon-Spinners (1962), This Rough Magic (1964), and Airs Above the Ground (1965).  Some of Stewart's late novels, like Thornyhold (1988) and Rose Cottage (1997) seem to feature gentler, cozier elements of fantasy and suspense.  You can find more detailed information about Stewart and her books here.

(married name Stanley, aka Melita Noose)
Author of around 50 novels 1924-1970, mostly set in Kenya where she lived for many years; According to Jill (1926) may have some crime content; other titles include Latticed Windows (1924), Her Serenity (1931), Miss Wiston Goes Gay (1938), The Sunflower Scarf (1951), and The Quiet Girl (1967); under her pseudonym, she wrote Blondes Prefer Gentlemen (1926), a parody of Anita Loos' bestseller.

JOAN SUTER (1908-????)
(married names Mackenzie-Kerr and Walker, aka Leonie Mason)
More research needed; author of two novels—East of Temple Bar (1946), described as being about Fleet Street, and the pseudonymous Murder by Accident (1947), presumably a mystery.

JOSEPHINE TEY (1897-1952)
(pseudonym of Elizabeth MacKintosh, aka Gordon Daviot)
Novelist, playwright, and mystery writer, known for one of the most famous of all Golden Age mystery novels, The Daughter of Time (1951), in which her frequent series detective, Inspector Alan Grant, while bedridden with an injury, "solves" the mystery of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.  Although the nature of the mystery means there is no action or suspense in the usual sense, it's nevertheless a riveting read and a fan favorite.  Another favorite is Miss Pym Disposes (1946), a humorous mystery set at a girls' physical education school, in which a former teacher who has written a bestseller about psychology must track a murderer.  Alan Grant first appears in The Man in the Queue (1929) and recurs in A Shilling for Candles (1936), adapted by Alfred Hitchcock into the film Young and Innocent, The Franchise Affair (1948), To Love and Be Wise (1950), and The Singing Sands (1952).  Tey's other novels are Kif: An Unvarnished History (1929), The Expensive Halo (1931), Brat Farrar (1949), and The Privateer (1952).  For some lovely photos, information, book covers, and other tidbits about Tey, don't miss this site.

Author of six mystery novels 1928-1933, including The Red Dwarf (1928), The Murder on the "Enriqueta" (1929), The Case of Sir Adam Braid (1930), The Crime at the "Noah's Ark" (1931), Murder in the Dentist's Chair (1932), and He Dies and Makes No Sign (1933), as well as one earlier novel, The Uncertain Glory (1914). For readers in the U.S. at least, Murder in the Dentist's Chair (a rather horrifying title for those of us who are none too fond of dentists) is available for free downloading at the Hathi Trust.

ANNIE O[LIVE]. TIBBITS (1871-1935)
(née Brazier)
Author of sixpenny novels, some of which appear to be mysteries or thrillers, including Marquess Splendid (1910), Love Without Pity (1915), Broken Fetters: A Thrilling Story of Factory and Stage Life (!!) (1917), The Grey Castle Mystery (1919), Paid in Full (1920), and Under Suspicion (1921).

URSULA TORDAY (1912–1997)
(aka Paula Allardyce, aka Charity Blackstock, aka Lee Blackstock, and aka Charlotte Keepel)
After three early novels under her own name—The Ballad-Maker of Paris (1935), No Peace for the Wicked (1937), and The Mirror of the Sun (1938)—Torday stopped writing until well after World War II, during which time her activities included social work with Jewish children who survived Nazi concentration camps, experiences she later detailed in Wednesday's Children (1966, aka The Children).  When she returned to publishing, her focus was primarily on historical romance and gothic novels, but among her early works under her Charity Blackstock pseudonym (some published in the U.S.—for whatever unfathomable reason—under the name Lee Blackstock), Torday seems to have published some more or less straightforward mysteries.  Dewey Death (1956) was described by the Spectator as a "first-class first novel that gives new twist to old theme of corpse-in-the-library."  Miss Fenny (aka The Woman in the Woods), which appeared the following year, was reviewed recently by John at Pretty Sinister, who made it sound irresistible.  Other of Torday's early mysteries include The Shadow of Murder (1958, aka All Men Are Murderers) and The Foggy, Foggy Dew (1958).  Some of Torday's other novels also seem to belong on my TBR list.  The Briar Patch (1960), set in Paris shortly after World War II, features two teenagers, one of whom is a Jewish Holocaust survivor.  And based on reviews which note the intelligence and relative realism of Torday's work, I'm finding myself intrigued by some of her romances written as Paula Allardyce, especially the irresistibly titled Octavia; or, The Trials of a Romantic Novelist (1965).

Born in Scotland but emigrating to the U.S. in youth, Turnball was a successful screenwriter in both Hollywood and London, which formed the backdrop of some of her fiction; titles include Looking After Sandy (1914), The Close-Up (1918), Madam Judas (1926), The Left Lady (1926), A Monkey in Silk (1930), and The Coast Road Murder (1934). It's unclear whether any of her other titles might be crime-related, but The Coast Road Murder was described by Kirkus as follows: "American so-called society with a girl reporter acting detective. The setting is a roadhouse where a week end house party is disporting itself."

More research needed; author of at least three novels, possibly mysteries—The Lushington Mystery (1919), The Manaton Disaster (1920), and A Quest for a Fortune (1924).

Playwright, novelist, and author of girls' stories including Victoria's First Term (1925) and Miss Pike and Her Pupils (1928).  Tyrrell later wrote at least 18 novels, some of which seem to contain elements of mystery or crime novels, though online information is sketchy at best.  Titles include The Mushroom Field (1931), Monkey's Money (1934), The Forgotten Hills (1936), Pull the House Down (1938), The Street of Fortune (1939), That's Mark Avery (1942), The Secrets of Nicholas Culpeper (1945), The White Stream (1949), and Give Me a Torch (1951).

DEREK VANE (?1856-1939)
(pseudonym of Blanche Eaton Back)
Author of mysteries and romance novels from the 1890s to the 1930s.  According to the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction, The Paradise of Fools (1913) is about "a woman [who] thinks her husband has died during a quarrel in which he hit his head."  Other titles include Lady Varley (1914), The Trump Card (1925), The Unguarded Hour (1929), and Dancer's End (1934).

CHERRY VEHEYNE (1886-1975)
(pseudonym of Ethel Williamson, aka Jane Cardinal)
Author of eight novels 1921-1935, including The Journal of Henry Bulver (1921), which won the Collins Open Novel Competition, Fay and Finance (1922), about the theatre, and The Living Idol (1933).  Those works, based on what little I've read about them, seem to veer rather toward the melodramatic.  But after an absence of nearly three decades (unless she was publishing under an unknown pseudonym during that time), she returned with Horror (1962), a thriller about Jack the Ripper in which the Ripper is "a frustrated clergyman encouraged by his Mum."

(pseudonym of Gertrude Isabel Price, married names Jones and Devot, aka G. De Vauriard)
Sister of Florence; prolific novelist of the 1890s to 1910s; some titles sound intriguing, such as The Wooing of a Fairy (1897), Merely Man (1909), The World, the Flesh and the Casino (1909), and Two Girls and a Saint (1915).  Although I haven’t found detailed information on her, one source says that after 1900 she specialized in mysteries, presumably including such titles as A Syndicate of Sinners (1901), The Stolen Pearl (1903), The Nut-Browne Mayd: A Riviera Mystery (1907), The Crime in the Alps (1908), The Severn Affair (1909), and Diana of Dartmoor (1913). As G. De Vauriard, she published four additional novels 1909-1914.

(married names Glauser and Donald)
Author of three novels published by Faber in the 1950s—The Locked Gates (1950), Intruder in the House (1951), and The Long Fidelity (1952)—which appear to be rather dark social dramas; The Locked Gates may also have a mystery element.

(pseudonym of Betty [or Bessie?] Eveline/Evelyn Davies)
Author of romantic fiction (and at least one mystery) from the 1930s to 1950s, including The Secret Year (1930), The Girdle of Venus (1931), Fairweather Ladies (1936), The Princess of Marmalade (1937), Madonna of the Thimble (1940), Death of a Sinner (1944), and The Preacher's Daughter (1953).

Author of more than a dozen novels 1932-1960, at least one of which—Laugh When You Can (1945)—was described as a murder mystery set in an English village.  Some of her other titles appear to be humorous and/or romantic in tone.  Titles include Ducks on a Pond (1932), What Shall We Do with Anne? (1937), Dangerous Secret (1939), Her Name Was Cornelia (1947), The Other Side of the Wall (1949), and Amberley Close (1950). Do You Remember? (1944) appears to be a memoir.

(née Stephens, aka Jermyn March, aka Christopher Reeve)
Author of mysteries and thrillers under two pseudonyms.  She was also on the staff of Cassells during the 1920s, and worked as a reader for other publishers after that.  She published four novels as Jermyn March, including Rust of Murder (1924), Dear Traitor (1925), The Man Behind the Face (1927), and a fourth which contains an offensive racial term.  As Christopher Reeve (not to be confused with Superman), she published The Ginger Cat (1929), The Toasted Blonde (1930), The Emerald Kiss (1932), Hunter's Way (1934), Murder Steps Out (1942), The House that Waited (1944), and Lady, Be Careful (1948).

(pseudonym of Dora Amy Elles, married names Dillon and Turnbull)
Novelist who published several historical romances before turning to her successful mystery series featuring Miss Maud Silver, a dowdy, middle-aged, perenially-knitting, former governess with a mind like a steel trap.  She would seem to owe much to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple except for the fact that the first Miss Silver novel predated the first Miss Marple by about two years.  Unlike Christie's novels, however, Wentworth's often feature prominent romantic subplots—young girls in peril who find their problems solved by the perfect man.  Prominent Miss Silver mysteries include Fool Errant (1929), The Case Is Closed (1937), The Chinese Shawl (1943), The Clock Strikes Twelve (1944), The Catherine Wheel (1949), and Vanishing Point (1953).  Early in her career and for some time after beginning the Miss Silver series, Wentworth also wrote numerous stand-alone mysteries, such as The Annam Jewel (1923), The Dower House Mystery (1925), Will-o'-the-Wisp (1928), Nothing Venture (1932), Hole and Corner (1936), and Mr. Zero (1938).

ETHEL LINA WHITE (1876-1944)
Successful author of well over a dozen mystery novels, described as being written in the "Gothic style."  By far, her best remembered work is The Wheel Spins (1936), the source for Alfred Hitchcock's film The Lady Vanishes (1938) (many reprints of Wheel make use of Hitchcock's title), which deals with the disappearance of a governess from a moving train.  Hitchcock, typically, seems to have adapted the novel freely, as in the novel Miss Froy is a young girl like the tale's heroine.  White's breakthrough had come a few years earlier with Some Must Watch (1933), which was also destined to be made into a famous film—Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase (1948, subsequent reprints also make use of this title), about a young woman spending the night in a remote Cornwall mansion, whose fellow guests include a serial strangler.  Two of White's less acclaimed novels are intriguing me: The Third Eye (1937) is a thriller about "the tribulations of a young games mistress at an all-girls school," and While She Sleeps (1940), about a woman "randomly picked to be the victim of a murder. … [A]s one irritation after another plagues her on the trip, she feels her luck has dried up. Unbeknownst to her, however, each of these annoyances actually save her from becoming the victim of foul play."  White's other titles are The Wish-Bone (1927), 'Twill Soon Be Dark (1929), The Eternal Journey (1930), Put Out the Light (1931), Fear Stalks the Village (1932), The First Time He Died (1935), Wax (1936), The Elephant Never Forgets (1937), Step in the Dark (1938), She Faded Into Air (1941), Midnight House (1942), The Man Who Loved Lions (1943), and They See in Darkness (1944).

A journalist and one of the first women MPs, Wilkinson's writing generally focused on politics and social concerns, including The Town that was Murdered (1939), about the 1936 Jarrow March to protest unemployment.  She published only two novels, and even the first of those, Clash (1928), though a romantic tale, is set during the 1926 General Strike.  Her one additional work of fiction, however, was a mystery, The Division Bell Mystery (1932), about the murder of a wealthy financier in the House of Commons.  You can read a review of it here.

Literary scholar, poet, and novelist; author of five novels Stolen Banns (1907), The Winged Lion (1908), The Scholar Vagabond (1909), and the later titles (possibly mysteries?) The Double Disappearance (1925) and The Face on the Stair (1927), she also wrote on Shakespeare, Shelley, and Tolstoy.

MOLLY WOOD (1909-1994)
(married names Phillips and Troke, aka Hester Bourne, aka Lyn Arnold)
More research needed; author of four early books as Lyn Arnold, including Joy as It Flies (1940) and Tea with Lemon and Flash of Joy (1943).  In the 1960s and 1970s, she published crime and romance novels as Hester Bourne, including The Spanish House (1962), In the Event of My Death (1964), Where Is Evie Alton? (1968), After the Island (1969), The Red Raincoat (1970), A Scent of Roses (1971), and The House Across the Water (1972).  Could she have used other pseudonyms in the years in between?

(aka Oliver Barton)
Author of numerous biographies of religious figures, as well as at least eight novels, including mysteries and adventures. Steve at Bear Alley discussed her a couple of years ago. 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 works of M. E. Braddon. Other titles include The Children of Danecourt Park (1924), The Eye of the Peacock (1928), The Secret of the Sapphire Ring (1930), The City of Death (1934), The Silver Mirror (1935), and The Ring of Fate (1939).

(married name Hale)
Intriguing but forgotten author of several highly-praised humorous romantic novels, including Public Affaires (1932), Nets to Catch the Wind (1935), A Feather in Her Cap (1936), and The Sly Hyena (1951).  Later, Worsley-Gough published two mysteries, Alibi Innings (1954, reprinted by Penguin), which takes place in the world of cricket, and Lantern Hill (1957), about which I could find little information except that it is in fact a mystery.

I. WRAY (1894-1969)
(pseudonym of Iris Elaine Bickford, married name Palliser)
Author of two mystery novels in the early 1930s; The Vye Murder (1930) was praised by The Spectator for its portrayal of women, and Murder—and Ariadne (1931), deals with a murder following a “rowdy house party” and was praised by the West Australian as “ingeniously constructed.”

(née Lockwood, earlier married name Lewis)
Not to be confused with American author Constance Choate Wright; author of one children’s book, Tales of Chinese Magic (1925), and one novel, The Chaste Mistress (1930), about the 1779 murder of Martha Ray (which has also been memorialized by Wordsworth and discussed by Elizabeth Jenkins.)

MAY WYNNE (1875-1949)
(pseudonym of Mabel Winifred Knowles, aka Lester Lurgan)
Enormously prolific writer of girls' school stories, historical adventures, romance, and religious stories.  According to some sources, her more than 200 titles also include mysteries, though I haven’t delved deeply enough into her work to know for sure which ones.  Likely suspects (so to speak) might be Plotted in Darkness (1927), The Unseen Witness (1932), The Unsuspected Witness (1945), and The Terror of the Moor (1943).

MARGARET YORKE (1924-2012)
(pseudonym of Margaret Beda Larminie, married name Nicholson)
Known for her crime fiction set in English villages, featuring ordinary people driven by circumstance to crime, Yorke began her career with family dramas such as Summer Flight (1957) and Deceiving Mirror (1960).  Five of her Yorke’s novels from the 1970s feature Oxford don Patrick Grant, but in most of her work—according to Contemporary Authors—“Yorke was best known as an author of the ‘whydunit,’ rather than the ‘whodunit.’ Few of her plots revolve around discovering the criminal. Instead the reader watches as the criminal wreaks havoc—or tries to—on the other characters in the story.”  Titles include No Fury (1967), The Small Hours of the Morning (1975), Death on Account (1979), Find Me a Villain (1983), Speak for the Dead (1988), and Cause for Concern (2001).  The five novels featuring Patrick Grant are Dead in the Morning (1970), Silent Witness (1973), Grave Matters (1973), Mortal Remains (1974), and Cast for Death (1976).

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