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!


  1. Wow - I have heard of none of these, not even the children's writers and the pony book author. I look forward to encountering some of these in your reviews to come.

  2. Cover art for sure! Now, being a librarian, I might have to try some of those Molly stories!
    Thanks, Scott.

    1. I'll bet your just as calm and composed as Molly, Tom, and your patrons are just as orderly and patient, right?

  3. Tom, I'm afraid that both Bertha Lonsdale's career novels are hard to find, but the second one, 'Molly Qualifies as a Librarian' is one of the most difficult career novels to get hold of. If Scott has a copy, he's doing very well!

    1. No such luck, Sue, but the cover art is certainly enticing!

  4. What a cover on Listen to the Wind!! Was that an early incarnation of Big Bird or what?


    1. It's very odd, isn't it? Somehow I don't think the birdcage she's carrying will be large enough...

  5. Hi, I was researching my great aunt, Harriet Orgill Cogie, who wrote under the name Orgill McKenzie, and came across your blog. I am named after her and she is somewhat of a hero of mine. I would be really interested in hearing from you

  6. Hello, I thought you might like to know thatAngela Jeans' Latrh and Plaster is not a novel so much as a very lightly fictionalised account of her time living in the Essex village of Great Sampford having been bombed out in WW2. How do I know this? My late granny and her mother were the next door neighbours, immortalised as Mrs Kettle and her daughter. I came across your blog trying to find out Watts was her maiden name as I've just bought a postcard sent from their house in 1944 - so finding her husband was watts hasn't helped much! If you are interested, contact me at (obviously replace at with @)


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