Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The final part of the War List will be coming along shortly (I promise), but in the meantime, in time for Thanksgiving (that American holiday where we take a nice long weekend from work in order, primarily, to pig out and begin our Christmas shopping, and only secondarily to remember the historical significance of the day), I have to share the fact that I am very thankful that the next update to my Overwhelming List has now gone live.

At last.

This update contains 336 new authors, bringing the grand total to a rather astonishing 1,427 British women who published fiction or memoir during the early to mid-twentieth century. Who would ever have imagined?! I don't think I would have dreamed that so many authors of either sex could have been publishing in any single 50 year period.

Since most of my previous updates have contained in the neighborhood of 100 new authors or fewer, an update of more than triple that size required unprecedented levels of research and (particularly) logistical complication. I managed to make myself quite befuddled and confused at times. And that's not to mention the usual disproportionate number of hours spent obsessing over whether I could possibly hope to lay my hot little hands on some of the intriguing books these women published.

Of course, it was entirely my fault that the update burgeoned to such an unmanageable girth. If I had gotten my act together earlier, instead of merely continuing to add more and more writers without ever doing the work involved to post them, then it never would have happened. Be that as it may. At any rate, it's posted now, and the new downloadable PDF of the complete list (an intimidating 238 pages long) is now linked from each of the list sections or from right here. You may also note that the list is now divided into 10 sections instead of only 6. It does keep outgrowing its space.

In addition to the sheer volume of writers on the list, it also increased substantially in length because of an improvement (??) I had been wrestling with for some time. I've now added cross-references for all of the known pseudonyms or alternate names under which the authors actually published. Although generally I list authors under the names by which they are best known, whether that be a pseudonym or a real name in each specific case, there are a few difficulties here and there. For example, authors who are well-known under more than one pseudonym. I chose to list such authors under their real names, but how many readers would immediately recognize the name Eleanor Hibbert as opposed to the substantial number who know of one or more of her alter-egos, which include Philippa Carr, Victoria Holt, and Jean Plaidy? And what of Edith Pargeter, who wrote the novels most relevant to this blog under her own name, but who is surely better known to a much larger audience as mystery writer Ellis Peters?

I originally created an entirely separate list of these names and planned to post it on its own. Then I kept putting it off and putting it off, and I think this was because it just didn't seem terribly useful in that form. So I've bitten the bullet and merged all the cross-references into the main list. It makes the list even longer and more overwhelming, but it ultimately seems cleaner and more useful.

Meanwhile, if I were to blame anyone specifically for the headaches I've suffered over this update, surely it would be Sue Sims and Hilary Clare, whose magnificent "Book," The Encyclopaedia of Girls' School Stories (2000), accounts for 248 out of the 336 authors being added. I'll be posting several more detailed "highlights" posts about these authors, singling out some of the ones that particularly caught my eye, fleshing out some of the other work that many of the authors did apart from school stories, and including some choice examples of the genre's lovely cover art. Apart from those supplemental tidbits, of course, I won't even begin to approximate the wealth of information offered in their wonderful book, so if you're already a fan or are just intrigued by some of the titles you'll see here, you owe it to yourself to get a copy—and I understand that an updated (and more affordable) edition is in the works from Girls Gone By!

Of the remaining authors being added, a good many actually came from readers of this blog. A while back I posted some tantalizing photos of two bookshops, in Wells-next-the-Sea and Sheringham respectively, sent to me by Tina Brooker (and taken by her husband David). Those pics were such luscious high-resolution that it was possible to pick out most of the titles and authors on the shelves, with the result that I was able to find a dozen or more new authors for my list just by vicariously "browsing" the shop shelves. That's in addition to several more authors that Tina found in her own quest for obscure titles and writers of interest and which she kindly shared with me. Thank you for all your help, as always, Tina!

John Herrington's brilliant and tenacious research—and his generosity in sharing all that he discovers—has also resulted in great improvements in the accuracy and level of detail of several dozen of the authors on my list. He's tracked down birth, marriage, and death records for numerous authors who were previously untraced, and corrected several that had been erroneously identified. He has also provided me with quite a number of brand new authors that he's come across in his research. Not to mention that he's always game to field my off-the-wall questions about authors no one has heard of. Thanks very much for all of this hard work, John!

Numerous other readers have also offered up suggestions of authors they've come across that might fit my list, or have provided assistance in other ways (including scans of rare book covers—thank you, Lisa!), or have shared their personal knowledge of the books of writers I know little or nothing about. I thank all of you as well, and can't wait for your next emails or comments.

I should also point out here—as much as it pains me to remove people from the Overwhelming List—that I did reluctantly have to delete three authors. Mrs. Frank Clapperton turned out to be a New Zealander, mystery writer Nancy Rutledge proved undeniably American, and Mabel Louise Eades, upon further research, was clearly Australian. But hopefully there were more than enough new authors added to make up for the loss of these three no-doubt-interesting, but alas not British, authors.

I foresee a whole slew of new posts to follow, highlighting various interesting authors who have been freshly added to the list—and who could, quite possibly, end up reviewed here at some point in the future. I'm quite excited by some of them and can't resist sharing what I've found. So if you find my perverse obsession with authors and books that are as hard to track down as an Abbott's booby irritating or tedious or pointless (or all three, which I readily admit is entirely possible), then brace yourself. But also bear with me, because I have some fun (I hope) reviews to share with you before long, including at least one Christmas-related mystery which is, shocker of shockers, actually in print and readily available. Amazing!

So, the completion of this update is one thing I'm thankful for this year. Of course, there are numerous others in my personal life—first and foremost, as always, being Andy, who makes me feel incredibly lucky every single day, and who tolerates my eternal babbling about books and authors he couldn't care less about.

And I am also very thankful to you, dear readers, whose interest and support has made me even more obsessed with my project than I was when I began. Thank you for all of your comments, emails, and for reading what I put post here (even when some of it is undoubtedly drivel)!

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Scott! And sincerest congratulations!

  2. Thank you Scott for all the work you put into this blog & your lists which are so fascinating. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Scott! Such a lovely post. Am sooo grateful for all your work, and reading. :-) Will look forward to more wonderful posts in the coming weeks.

  4. I can only say that after all this heroic effort you deserve to pig out! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  5. And, Scott, I am truly grateful for all the hard work of which many of us have reaped the benefits. Titles, authors, nay, whole genres and sub genres have I found because of you! All best wishes to you and Andy for a lovely Thanksgiving, and a happy - to come- whole holiday season until Epiphany, on January 6! And now, as my turkey breast is roasting, a highball, and another few chapters, since you reminded me, of Barbara Pym! Sincerely, thanks and God bless you (like it or not!) Tom

  6. I have just discovered you via your My Life in Books on Stuck-in-a-Book. What a fabulous blog/project/life's work!

  7. Not sure if that comment loaded or not so sorry if I'm repeating myself. Just saying how much I admire your blog/project/life's work here. I've found you via your recent My Life in Books at Stuck-in-a-Book.


NOTE: The comment function on Blogger is notoriously cranky. If you're having problems, try selecting "Name/URL" or "Anonymous" from the "Comment as" drop-down (be sure to "sign" your comment, though, so I know who dropped by). Some people also find it easier using a browser like Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.

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