Friday, May 20, 2016

Updates to the update

This past weekend, Andy was out of town and I was left bereft at home, and as it typical in such circumstances I spent most of my time not lounging with a good book eating bon-bons, nor having scintillating solo nights on the town, but rather boringly losing all track of time doing research, updating lists, and generally geeking out. Among other things, I was able to finalize an additional update to my Overwhelming List (as well as most of my other lists)—this time not adding any new authors, but merely updating tons of information based on meticulous new research by John Herrington. I can attest to how overwhelming my most recent update of neary 400 new authors was for me, and it understandably took John a bit of time, in between his other projects, to absorb it all as well.

Apart from fleshing out of details of married and maiden names and birth and death dates for numerous authors, this update was largely characterized by removals. Which certainly makes this the first update I've ever done that resulted in a net loss of authors (now numbered at 1,894 instead of a bit over 1,900). As John finds more details about authors, I weed out the Aussies and Yanks and Kiwis and, um, Maple Leafs? (What is the appropriate slang term for Canadians, anyway?) Not to mention, in one unusual circumstance this time, a Russian. As sad as I am to delete writers from my list, it's quite challenging enough to maintain nearly 2,000 writers without opening the list to interlopers!

The most bittersweet of these, though, was M. A. DORMIE, because the removal was actually triggered by a lovely email exchange with Patricia French, the author's daughter, in which Patricia generously helped me flesh out her information (which I'm sharing here in case some ambitious soul gets around someday to an Overwhelming List U.S.!). She confirmed that her mother's real name was Marian Edna Sharrock (née Dormitzer), born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1893. She volunteered in Europe during World War I as part of a medical organization, and settled in England in 1923 following her marriage to Patricia's father, Kenneth Sharrock. A few years later she published her debut novel, Snobs (1931), which was a transatlantic success and a book club selection, which was followed by two more novels (which Patricia noted were, in her opinion, of lower quality), Expatriates (1932) and Middle Age Madness (1935). 

Later, she wrote book reviews for the Liverpool Post ("not paid," Patricia notes, "but allowed to keep the books!") and, during World War II, ran a canteen and drove a water lorry in Liverpool. She and her husband lived in Montreal for a time after the war, and in the early 1950s they bought and managed a fishing hotel in Devon. She died in May of 1956 in Exeter.

In addition to all of this wonderful information, Patricia also provided me with the only photo I know of anywhere online—at least, now it's online:

M. A.Dormie
(photo courtesy of Patricia French)

Thanks again for all of your help, Patricia!

Two of the other authors removed from my list really shouldn't have been there at all, but for carelessness on my part (or perhaps an initial willingness, early on in my compiling, to bend the limits of my time frame a bit). JENNIFER DAWSON is certainly a worthwhile author, but her first novel (and her most famous), The Ha-Ha, only appeared in 1961. And when John sent me some new details about CATHERINE GASQUOINE HARTLEY, I was scratching my head about why I'd added her in the first place, since the second and final of her novels seems to have appeared in 1905.

One removal is the result of sheer, blatant sex discrimination. STELLA RICHARDS, recently added author of two romances, turns out to have been a pseudonym of a male author, Richard Harry Starr. And it was rather a case of "this list isn't big enough for the both of us" when it came to E. M. ODDIE and ANNABEL LEE, both of whom turned out to be pseudonyms of ELINOR MARY O'DONOGHUE. O'Donoghue now has an entry on the list, with her pseudonyms mentioned there. One wonders how many more of my unidentified authors—particularly in the romance genre, where pseudonyms were so common—are mere alter-egos of other authors.

As I noted above, one author, KAY LYNN, turned out, of all things, to be Russian—real name Katerina Separansky. She published two novels in the mid-1930s. At least, two that are credited to her. She apparently later claimed to have written C. P. Snow's Death Under Sail (1932), and John noticed that the original edition of that mystery was dedicated to her, though the dedication was removed in a later reprint. Hmmmm.

Regarding JANE LINDEN, we had previously reported that she was actually Pamela Walton, who had apparently used that pseudonym for a book of poetry in the 1930s. However, John has now discovered that in fact the novelist was Hilda Jane Snartt (what a name!), born in Scotland in 1920. So, I've made that correction.

And finally, for what they're worth, there were two changes with regard to interesting connections. First, John discovered that GEORGINA GARRY, author of three novels 1928-1932, was the mother-in-law of Val Gielgud, which I don't think gives her any nameable relationship with Sir John, but presumably she got some free theatre tickets out of the deal every now and then…

Meanwhile, John alerted me that I had erroneously married off poor MRS. J. O. ARNOLD, to the wrong husband! I repeatedly noted that she was married to crime writer John Arnold, when in fact her John Arnold was a metallurgist. Apologies for marrying people off willy-nilly.

This epic round of updating over the weekend also included updates to almost all of my lists, mostly just tweaks as far as The War List and The Mystery List went, making the same corrections or clarifications as on the main list. But I did also post updated versions of both The World War II Book List and The Grown-Up School Story List. I could kick myself (with difficulty—it's been far too long since I've stretched properly) for not keeping track of all the titles I added since the previous update, and I have vowed to in some way note any new additions going forward so I can highlight them next time. 

New addition to the Grown-Up School
Story List, courtesy of Jane Fraser

I do, however, know of two recent suggestions from Jane Fraser that have been added to the GUSSL—Elizabeth Carfrae's Good Morning, Miss Morrison (1948) is a romance about a schoolteacher, and is apparently set during World War II (thus it was also added to those lists), and Elizabeth Jenkins' Young Enthusiasts (1947) is set in a progressive school (sadly, no cover photos could be found for that one). Thanks again for those suggestions, Jane!

Apart from Jane's recent suggestions, however, I have to confess I was also woefully inadequate in keeping track of how I came across other new additions—I have no doubt that many or most came from you lovely readers, and I apologize that I can't recall which ones were which. But these lists, in particular, are certainly group projects, so please do keep the suggestions coming, and I'll promise to do better with that next time as well.

Now, on to accumulating authors for the next update!


  1. Was going to say, I checked with my Canadian neighbor from down the street - yes, Canucks!
    Well, Scott, I do see how you must pare down to keep the list as you originally intended, but there is no rule saying we can't read some of these other fun-sounding titles, anyway, right? In our spare time?
    But the burning question foremost in my mind is, where does one find bon bons anymore, anyway? I always regret getting rid of my Aunt Grace's baby blue velvet chaise lounge, as it seemed the perfect place to loll with bon bons and novels (NOT, however, is a feather-trimmed robe!)

    1. I'm not actually even completely sure what bon-bons ARE, Tom--no doubt because when the opportunity arises I spend time doing updates to my list instead of eating them! But it does seem a shame about the baby blue velvet chaise...

  2. Wow, your list is monumental and I can see why you correctly weeded a few authors who don't fit the list parameters. I admire your research and effort in maintaining the list. People's lives are fascinating, aren't they?

    1. Thanks, Terra! Every time I think I might be coming to the end of the list, I come across another new author!

  3. Tee shirt slogan spotted today:

    I'm a Bookaholic on the road to recovery

    Just Kidding

    I'm on the road to the Bookstore!!!

    I suppose for you, Scott, it should read "to the Library Book Sale"


    1. That's perfect, Jerri! Lately perhaps mine should read "on my way to Abe Books," which is my particular vice of the moment.

  4. Always a pleasure to visit your site.
    Greetings from Spain,

    1. Thanks, Carmen! Oh, to be in Spain right now... I had some wonderful times in Madrid when my sister lived there, yikes, nearly 20 years ago now!

  5. Right. Absolutely. Weed out the Canucks.

    We love you anyway, Scott.


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