Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Newbies (3 of 4)

This post includes 15 more of the 60 authors being added to my main list with the imminent update. This time it's the authors whose names begin with J through P, though I'm taking them out of order within that subsection.

I mentioned last time that I had already written a bit about Hilda Hewett, one of the newbies in that post. As it happens, I've also already sampled one of the authors from this post. All of which is a testament to how long this new update has been coming—I heard about some of these new writers ages and ages ago, and have already had time to read some of them. At any rate, WINIFRED LEAR first came to my attention a year or so ago when an anonymous commenter mentioned that her second novel, Shady Cloister (1950), was set in a girls' school. I was immediately intrigued, but affordable copies of that book weren't available at that point, so I picked up an inexpensive copy of her one earlier novel, The Causeway (1948). Stay tuned for more about Lear in upcoming posts.

Two more of the authors in this post came from my productive Oxfam shopping last year, particularly that York Oxfam wth a whole bookcase of children's books, most of them girl-themed. While there, I jotted down two more names that seemed like they might belong on my list. 

PAMELA MANSBRIDGE wrote over a dozen books, apparently most successfully a series of children's mysteries featuring Caroline, an aspiring detective. Later on, under her pseudonym Lavinia Becket, she also published two historical romances. 

HEATHER PRIME, meanwhile, seems to have specialized in family adventure stories, of which she wrote at least seven, beginning with The Adventurous Nine (1949). Have any of you fans of children's fiction read either of these authors?

Olga King-Hall

I have a few pair of mother and daughter authors on my list, but I don't believe I've ever added both a mother and a daughter to the list in a single update. Add to that that they are also mother and sister to an author who has been on my list almost from the beginning, and it all becomes even less likely. But indeed, somehow I had missed until now the fact that Magdalen King-Hall, historical novelist who's been on my list for ages, had both a sister, LOU KING-HALL, and a mother, OLGA KING-HALL, who published novels in my period. 

One source I found says that Olga published novels in Italian, but if so I haven't located them. She did, however, certainly publish three in English—An Engagement (1921), What the Blounts Did (1922), and Her Italian Husband (1926).

Lou, meanwhile, published four novels—The Well-Meaning Young Man (1930), Family Ship (1938), Fly Envious Time (1944), and The Sun Climbs Slow (1946). Fly Envious Time was a science-fiction novel set in the late 20th century and dealing with Eugenics and World War III, but I don't have details yet of the others. She also edited Sea Saga (1935), a collection of "the naval diaries of four generations of the King-Hall family."

1935 review from The
Mail, Adelaide

MARGARET LANGMAID seems like a possible candidate for my TBR list. She published five novels in the 1930s which seem to be humorous romances. I especially like the sound of the first, This Charming Property (1934), about tensions in a quiet village surrounding a proposed housing development. 

Endpapers of Margaret Langmaid's This Charming Property

The Yes Man (1935) deals with the uneven romance of a schoolteacher, and MacAdam and Eve (1936) is about the pairing of a Scottish doctor and a cheerful young actress. The others, about which I found no details, are Related by Marriage (1938) and Precious Burden (1938). I came across a very luke-warm review of Yes Man, but I'm still holding out some hope. If we listened to the (primarily male) critics of those earlier times, we wouldn't be enjoying half of the women writers that have been rediscovered.

I know some of you are fans of girls' career stories, so you may already know of BERTHA LONSDALE, author of The Sanfields at Rockybeck (1951), Molly Hilton, Library Assistant (1954), and Molly Qualifies as a Librarian (1958), the latter two incorporating her own early experiences as a librarian. For the BBC, she adapted children's titles including some by Violet Needham and Margot Pardoe. She reportedly worked on an additional book, The Sanfields Keep a Secret, a sequel to her debut, but it was never published. She lived in Yorkshire.

Another author who came from a reader of this blog proved to be rather overwhelming to sum up. Thanks to Dominick Bartkewicz for pointing out that DORIS LANGLEY MOORE belonged on my list, but whew! It took some work to capture all her accomplishments. First, there's the fact that she published five novels—The Unknown Eros (1935), They Knew Her When: A Game of Snakes and Ladders (1935, reprinted in 1955 as A Game of Snakes and Ladders), Not at Home (1948), All Done by Kindness (1951), described by a bookseller as "a civilized novel about some fabulous art treasures from an old attic," and My Caravaggio Style (1959). (ODNB credits her with six novels, but appears to be counting the Snakes and Ladders reprint separately.)

That, of course, would be enough to get her onto my list. But she didn't stop there. She wrote a few self-help books as well, including The Pleasure of Your Company: A Text-book of Hospitality (1933) and Our Loving Duty, or, The Young Housewife's Compendium (1936), both co-written with her sister June Langley Moore. Then, there's the fact that she was the first biographer of E. Nesbit (1933), and her book, written only a decade or so after Nesbit's death and containing many interviews with family members and other contemporaries, has been heavily relied on by subsequent scholars. But wait, there's more! She was also one of the first serious historians of fashion, and her books The Woman in Fashion (1949) and The Child in Fashion (1953) were important in establishing fashion as a serious field of study. Growing out of that, presumably, is the fact that Moore was responsible for the establishment of the Fashion Museum now located next to the Assembly Rooms in Bath. (I'm a little sorry to say, then, that we skipped the museum itself when we were in Bath last year, though of course we visited the Assembly Rooms and imagined ourselves as Jane Austen characters for a few minutes.)

Is that all, you ask? Well, actually, no. She was also an important Byron scholar, and was the first non-family member to work with a large collection of Byron-related papers owned by Byron's great-granddaughter. My Caravaggio Style, her final novel, apparently deals with a forged version of Byron's lost memoirs, inspired by her experiences. Oh, and she occasionally worked on the side as a costume designer for film and theatre, including designing Katharine Hepburn's dresses for The African Queen (1951). Not too bad, eh?

But the kicker? Her ODNB entry notes that "she had no formal education."

Orgill Mackenzie

I have a feeling that there's more to the story of ORGILL MACKENZIE than meets the eye as well, but it may not have been unearthed yet. She published only two books while in her mid-30s—a collection, Poems and Stories (1930, published in the U.S. as Whitegates: Stories and Poems, 1931) and a novel, The Crooked Laburnam (1932). 

The cover of Whitegates notes that the author has been compared to the likes of Emily Brontë, Katherine Mansfield, and Rose Macaulay. No word on who exactly made those comparisons. However, H. E. Bates, in a review in Everyman, said that Crooked Laburnam, the story of "a Scots blacksmith and his sick wife and two daughters," was bleak but possessed "the cold sharp beauty of a northern spring and the austere strength of northern hills." This sounds like a very promising beginning for a literary career, does it not? However, she appears to have never published another book, and John Herrington found that by the 1940s Mackenzie was working as a kindergarten teacher. Writer's block? Personal tragedy? We may never know.

I wonder, too, if ANGELA JEANS might end up on my TBR list down the road. She was the wife of BBC producer & broadcaster John Watt, of whom she wrote a biography, The Man Who Was My Husband (1964). She also wrote about a dozen works of fiction, including six novels for adults and several children's books, one of which—Listen to the Wind (1955)—was later adapted as a play. 

After the war, she and her husband renovated a property in Essex, and one wonders if her 1952 novel Lath and Plaster, which looks to be construction themed, might be inspired by this experience.

MEG ARMSTRONG PAYN wrote three novels which might be worth a look. The first, The Alchemist (1936), appeared under her own name, while Bread and Circuses (1947) and Chandelier (1948) appeared under the name Christopher Sheridan. The last deals with attempts to civilize the orphaned daughter of two circus performers.

APRIL JAFFÉ was yet another literary prodigy. Her first two books, Satin and Silk (1948) and The Enchanted Horse (1953), are pony stories (see here for a bit more information), the former reportedly written during school holidays when the author was only 14. 

A third book, Portrait Unfinished (1954), seems to be an adult novel.

Although COUNTESS HÉLÈNE MAGRISKA's name on a book cover no doubt looked impressive, the author's real name was in fact Enid Florence Brockies (one rather understands why she chose a pseudonym). She wrote fifteen romantic melodramas, including Ten Poplars (1937), about a young woman doctor who discovers a sort of youth serum and (not surprisingly!) attracts the attention of a Hollywood star. Steve at Bear Alley wrote in more detail about Brockies here.

Finally, the last two authors in this post are at the two extremes of prolificity. LAURA POPE wrote only a single novel, Veronica (1951), set in French North Africa and dealing with a beautiful young Englishwoman's effect on a French father and son. 

By contrast, MOLLIE PEARSON published more than 120 romance novels, most under her Barbara Hedworth and Guy Trent pseudonyms.

A few promising possibilities here, I think, and even those that aren't very promising have provided some entertaining cover art!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Newbies (2 of 4)

Okay, after only one of my four posts talking about new authors added to my main list, I am already bored with alphabetical order. I've already divided the 60 authors into four equal groups based on alpha order, but within those groups I'm going to be a loose cannon and take them in whatever order strikes my fancy.

I've actually already reviewed a book by HILDA HEWETT, and will have more reviews or at least mentions coming up. See my review of So Early One Morning here, where I also talk about coming across her in the latest issue of The Scribbler and the productive transatlantic book talk that resulted. I believe I can safely say that Hewett is a wildly uneven author, but that when she's good she's very good. Sadly, unlike Mae West, when she's bad she is definitely not better.

Meanwhile, how often will I be able to write here that I've already published books by the niece of an author being added to my list? Pretty sure it will never happen again, in fact, but indeed, one of the things that came out of Elizabeth Crawford's wonderful introduction to the six Elizabeth Fair novels published as Furrowed Middlebrow titles by Dean Street Press is that her aunt, BETH ELLIS, also deserves to be here. She seems to have achieved the most fame for her travel book, An English Girl's First Impressions of Burmah (1899), which was described by one source as "one of the funniest travel books ever written." That book is available (in the U.S. at least), for free downloading from Google Books. A few years later she began to publish novels, most of which were historical romance. She had published seven (1903-1912) by the time she tragically died in childbirth in 1913. I'm going to have to sample her work, if only because the thought of a cross between Elizabeth Fair and Georgette Heyer is completely irresistible.

There's another familial connection with GILLIAN GOLDEN, who turns out to be the daughter of children's author Dorothy Dennison. Among Dennison's last published works were two in a series of family tales called the "Courtney Chronicles." I don't have details, but it seems that Dennison wrote the first, Spotlight on Penelope (1958), and third, Call Me Jacqueline (1958), while her daughter wrote the second, Over to Paul (1958), and fourth, Bouquet for Susan (1958). Have those of you with an interest in children's books ever come across any of these?

Among this batch of newbies are two hitherto unknown (to me) mystery writers. ELIZABETH GILL first came to my attention when Dean Street announced their reprinting of all three of her novels—Strange Holiday (1929, aka The Crime Coast), What Dread Hand? (1932), and Crime de Luxe (1933). She received acclaim for her work, but sadly died at the age of 32. See Curtis Evans's introduction to the Dean Street editions for interesting details about her.

Gill was probably as obscure, before Dean Street's rediscovery of her, as KATHERINE FIELD still is. In contrast to all the authors whose careers were interrupted or stopped altogether by World War II, all three of Field's novels—Disappearance of a Niece (1941), The Two-Five to Mardon (1942), and Murder to Follow (1944)—appeared during the war. According to a Goodreads review, the second of these, at least, seems to make use of wartime themes. She lived until 1957, but published nothing else that we know of after the war ended.

A couple of my fellow bloggers have already discovered CELIA FURSE, who published only a single novel. The Visiting Moon (1956), which relates a young girl's visit to a large English country house over the Christmas holidays early in the 19th century. Barb at Leaves & Pages reviewed it here, and Ali at Heavenali reviewed it here. It seems to be one of those books that walk the line between memoir and fiction, but it seems to be fictionalized enough to qualify Furse for my list.

I wonder if there could be another blogger rediscovery in the offing for MARY GRIGS? It's probably a long shot, but a review in the Bookman of her debut novel, Bid Her Awake (1930), has me intrigued:

There is dignity here, and beauty as well. It is the story of a conflict between two sisters, the imperious Alix and the shy suddenly transfigured Susan, and the latter's brief excursion into love. It is an air for muted strings that Miss Grigs gives us, with little dancing notes of gaiety in it, and a sombre theme. So quietly is it done that the insensitive reader may fail to perceive the artistry with which it is composed; though he cannot fail to be charmed by the effect so subtly created.

Oh, dear. A future interlibrary loan request? Grigs went on to write four more novels and two children's books, and she wrote a column in the Farmer's Weekly under the pen name Mary Day.

KIT HIGSON came to my list via the back of the impossibly obscure Lorna Lewis title Tea and Hot Bombs, which I reviewed a while back. I was rather disconcerted by one of Higson's titles listed under "Stories for Girls". Cop Shooter (1958) is one of those books that likely would be retitled if it were published today, though looking into it a bit more deeply, I discovered that it's about a dog named Cop, owned by one Simon Shooter. Higson (Kit turned out to be short for "Kitty") wrote more than two dozen works of fiction in all, for both children and adults.

Accusations of racism against an author are often a bit challenging to establish, what with the ever-changing meanings of words, figures of speech, and attitudes. (See Huckleberry Finn for reams and reams of critical controversy about whether Twain was extraordinarily enlightened, virulently racist, or some balance of the two—I tend to plump for the last, though the book is probably the great American novel regardless.) I came across this again in researching the largely-forgotten ANN FIELDING, who published three novels in the 1940s and 1950s. In her scholarly work, Political and Social Issues in British Women’s Fiction, 1928–1968, Elizabeth Maslen (whose work on World War II fiction I greatly admire) notes that Fielding's third novel, Ashanti Blood (1952), about gold miners in Africa, is "[a] particularly repellent example of racist and class stereotypes" and adds that "Fielding represents the extreme of inbuilt prejudice." It was striking, then, to find that John Betjeman, in a contemporary review of Fielding's second novel, The Noxious Weed (1951), about a British family becoming tobacco growers in Africa, went out of his way to praise Fielding's portrayal of the growth of racism and insensitivity in a family initially horrifed by British treatment of the locals. Of course, the two novels could be quite different in tone, and Betjeman was writing from the sensibility of at least a half century earlier than Maslen, but it was interesting to see the contrast in reactions to a single author—perhaps not all that different from those about Twain.

Regardless, I have now added Fielding's first novel to my "tentative TBR" list. The Mayfair Squatters (1945) is about a diverse group of people who take over an empty London house during World War II. No word yet on race or class portrayals in that one.

JANE HOPE was suggested for my list by another reader of this blog, David Redd. She may just barely belong on my list, having written a number of humorous books about the British education system, but it's hard to imagine that a title like The Inspector Suggests, or, How Not to Inhibit a Child (1951), however much it might be based on Hope's own experiences, isn't at least somewhat fictionalized. I debated about adding her to the list, but decided, as usual, to err on the side of inclusivity. I wonder if One Term at Utopia: Pages from the Diary of Jane Hope (1950) might belong on my Grownup School Story List? And for that matter Happy Event: A Humorous Account of a Child's First Year of Life (1957) could be the perfect vintage gift for a parent-to-be.

And now, since I've taken these authors out of order and picked and chose all the more interesting tidbits, I come to the last five authors, about whom I know nothing exciting or interesting. ALDGATE EAST (real name Amy Adelaide Ebdell) published a single novel, Darrimore (1939). DOROTHY MARK FISK wrote several science-oriented non-fiction works for children, as well as a play and one novel—The Golden Isle (1930)—though details are entirely lacking.

There's a similar dearth of knowledge about JANE GILBERT, who wrote two novels—Man Is For Woman Made (1940) and Take My Youth (1941)—and about MARJORIE HOGARTH, who wrote three—Marriage for Two (1938), The Eyes of a Fool (1939), and The Intruder (1940).

And finally, I do at least know that ELIZABETH COOMBE HARRIS's three dozen or so books were mostly Christian in theme and apparently included fiction for both adults and children.

So, these last few authors aside, this batch of new authors contains a lot more potential than the first one. I count six or seven that I might have to track down and read, and one of them I already have. How about you?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Newbies (1 of 4)

After months of working on it every free moment, my newly-revised, significantly expanded main list is just about ready to roll out. Thanks is due to the Middlebrow Syllabus, which bought me a lot of time to focus on the list instead of on reviews or other content, and to you all for enthusiastically embracing that list so I didn't feel so bad about neglecting you.

I've been holding off on discussing a bunch of new authors until the revised list was complete. There are 60 new additions in all, and I decided to be uncharacteristically linear in discussing them here—I'm actually taking them in alphabetical order, with 15 authors in each of four posts. This is strikingly disciplined for me, but next time the randomness may return. Who can say?

Every time I add new authors to my list, I repeat that I'm surprised how many really interesting or substantial new authors are still out there. It's getting rather dull, and one would think eventually it would no longer be true—surely the number of British women writing fiction in a 50 year period must be finite!—but I'm apparently not there yet. Not all of these are scintillating, of course, but a fair number of them are quite intriguing.

So, starting at the top, slightly anticlimactically, with an author about whom I know relatively little. MIRIAM ALEXANDER wrote five novels with Irish themes. The first, at least, is historical. The House of Lisronan (1912, aka Beyond the Law), set during the 17th century Williamite War, was quite a success, going through six editions in 1912 alone. According to Ricorso, The Green Altar (1924) "deals with the national question and includes accounts of the Gaelic League and the Black and Tans." Her other novels were The Port of Dreams (1912), The Ripple (1913), and Miss O'Corra, M.F.H. (1915).

Much more is known about MEA ALLAN, and it appears she was a bit of a trailblazer. According to Wikipedia, Allan "was the first female war correspondent accredited by the British military and the first female news editor on Fleet Street." Later on in her career, she specialized in books about gardening and botany—her 1967 title, The Hookers of Kew, 1785-1911, is not nearly so scandalous as it might sound, dealing with botanists William Hooker and Joseph Dalton Hooker. In between those two careers, however, she also wrote four novels, including Change of Heart (1943), which imagines the Allies winning World War II only to find Nazi beliefs regaining ground.

Back on Irish themes: I don't know how many readers these days are into tales of the Irish hunting set, but if there are some you may want to add MARIGOLD ARMITAGE to your TBR lists. Her debut, A Long Way to Go (1952), was described by Lionel Gamlin as a "vastly entertaining story of a gloriously unbalanced hunting community in County Tipperary". Armitage published one sequel, A Motley to the View (1961), and reportedly worked on a third volume, to be called A Run for My Money, but it was never completed. She was the daughter of the controversial head of the Royal Air Force in World War II, Arthur "Bomber" Harris—see here.

Actually, several of my new authors have links (not surprisingly) to the two world wars. BANCO is the pseudonym of an unidentified author who seems, by internal evidence, to have been a woman, but we don't know for certain. Her 1915 novel, The Outrage, was about a woman novelist trapped in a Belgian town when the Germans arrive, and was criticized by one reviewer for excessive violence. She wrote at least five other novels, but information is sketchy.

Meanwhile, NATALIE BARKAS is linked to World War II via her husband, filmmaker Geoffrey Barkas, who was also a camouflage expert during the war. She published several books about the making of his films, as well as two children's books—The Quest of the Bellamy Jewels (1949), based on a play by Michael Berrenger, and The Gold Hunters (1963). She comes to my list straight from the Oxfam shop in York that made me realize an additional suitcase would be necessary for our flight back. I didn't buy Bellamy Jewels, but I did note her name.

Despite the fact that I'm proceeding in strictly alphabetical order, it so happens that MARY BOSANQUET is also added to my list thanks to Oxfam. Andy patiently took cell phone pics of a copy of her one adult novel, The Man on the Island (1962), about a lonely young woman finding new friendships while studying in the north of England. She fits my time frame because of an earlier children's book, People with Six Legs (1953). She also has a war connection, as the second of two travel books she published, Journey Into a Picture (1947), deals with her time with the YMCA in Italy in the final year of World War II. From my earlier mention of her, however, it seems her best known title is her first memoir, Saddlebags for Suitcases: Across Canada on Horseback (1942), which detailed her gruelling horseback ride from Vancouver to New York. That book was later reprinted as Canada Ride.

There are a number of authors of my list that I know little about, but D. KATHERINE BRERETON may take the cake. Not only have we not been able to identify her or find out any details, but apparently no one can even pen down the year that her one children's title, The Savages on Gale Island, was published (1950 seems to be a bookseller consensus). The book is not listed in the British Library or Library of Congress catalogues, nor in Worldcat, though copies are available for sale, so the book does indeed exist. She was also the author of a number of stories in periodicals at around the same time. Perhaps she went into a witness relocation program? Or was she an alien accidentally left behind on Earth, who wrote a children's book to kill time until she was rescued?

I came across GRACE CARLTON because one of her books was listed on the back of a Dorothy Hunt novel, but her three novels—The Wooden Wedding (1923), The Black Ace (1924), and Shuttlecock (1947)—remain a mystery to me. She was the daughter of publisher and editor Thomas Greenwood, and later wrote a biography of him as well as one about Friedrich Engels.

NINA CARROLL and CLAUDIA CLEEVE each wrote only one book. Carroll's—Adventure on the Moon (1947)—is perhaps the most impressive for having been written and illustrated by Carroll herself when she was only 12 years old. She can therefore be added to my virtual list of child prodigies à la Daisy Ashford. Cleeve's one children's book, by contrast—Oak Apple Inn at Thistledown Bottom (1942)—didn't appear until she was just shy of 60. It's certainly a catchy title.

I was driving myself crazy for a day or two with VALENTINE CLEMOW, who started as a silent film and stage actress before going on to write eight romantic novels. I knew I had added an author to my list who was a silent film actress whose films have now mostly been lost, and for some reason I was convinced it was Clemow. Finally, I identified her as OLGA PETROVA (real name Muriel Harding), who I added to my list with the last update. Information about Clemow's film work is very difficult to come by, however, so it's possible that some of her work has been lost as well. My time-wasting led me to the National Film Preservation Society here, where I learned, in five minutes flat, 1) that as few as 20% of U.S. films from 1910-1930 survive (presumably the situation is much the same in the U.K.), and 2) that most of a previously lost Alfred Hitchcock film was recently unearthed in New Zealand. The internet is a wondrous place for accruing odd bits of information.

It rather seems as though NICOLETTE DEVAS should have been in my sights before now, considering the status of her famous in-law, but in fact it wasn’t until Patrick Murtha, a reader of this blog, emailed me about her that I first heard her name. She was the sister-in-law of no lesser figure than poet Dylan Thomas, and was even, along with Dylan and his wife Caitlin (Nicolette's sister), portrayed in the 2008 film The Edge of Love. She published four novels, but she's best known for the memoir Two Flamboyant Fathers (1966), which tells of her childhood moving freely between two households—her own, led by an eccentric Irish poet father, and that of the family's neighbor, artist Augustus John, who was leading a bohemian lifestyle with numerous friends and family members. A subsequent memoir, Susanna's Nightingales (1978), traces the maternal line of her family. See here for more information about her.

Jumping just slightly out of order, to another famous connection, though this one's not exactly a household name: CLAUDE DU GRIVEL (born Florence Marie DuGrivel Oxenford), who wrote three historical novels in the 1940s and 1950s, was the mother of actress Daphne Oxenford. Google had to tell me who she was too, but some of you in the U.K. may know her voice from the opening of the radio show Listen With Mother. She was also an early cast member on Coronation Street and apparently a shop owner in To the Manor Born, so I must have seen her but I can't for the life of me recall a shop owner at all. I know even less about her daughter, though King, Queen, Knave (1946) is apparently set in "the stirring days of King John and Magna Carta."

JANE DOE, meanwhile, was best known for her "Through the Glad Eyes of a Woman" columns in the Daily Chronicle and Sunday News in the 1920s and 1930s, but she did publish a single novel, The Enchanted Duchess (1931), described by one source as a "bodice-ripper." She also published three collections of her columns in the 1920s.

And last but not least is WATSON DYKE, whose output of four novels in 32 years could hardly be called prolific. The Monthly Packet said that her first, Craiktrees (1897), was "monstrously overweighted with dialect." I'm a bit intrigued by her second, though—according to the Outlook, As Others See Us (1899), is about "a silly but open-hearted, a deceitful but ingenuous governess in a seaside boarding school." It will appear on my Grownup School Story List whenever I get around to updating it next. Dyke (real name May Bradley) lived in the U.S. for many years, basing her third novel, The Hunter (1918), there. Late in life, she returned to England and lived in Yorkshire.

I have to confess that from this batch of newbies, there are probably only a couple of titles I'm adding to my TBR list, and those both non-fiction. Several readers recommended Mary Bosanquet's Saddlebags for Suitcases when I mentioned her before, and I am certainly intrigued by Nicolette Devas's Two Flamboyant Fathers. What about you? Do you see anything that catches your eye here?
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