Wednesday, March 28, 2018

BARBARA COMYNS, A Touch of Mistletoe (1967)

I've recently been swept up in another of my periodic orgies of interlibrary loan requests, somewhat to Andy's and the SF Public Library's chagrin probably. But this time I have been to some extent getting "back to my roots," trying to read some of the previously unread books by my favorite authors. This one, the seventh novel by an author best known for her first five, has been one of my favorites so far, and I can't believe I waited so long to read it.

I had already, long ago, read those first five novels by Barbara Comyns—Sisters by a River (1947), Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950), Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (1955), The Vet's Daughter (1959), and The Skin Chairs (1962)—which were all reprinted by Virago in the 1980s. Some (though sadly not all) of those remain in print today. I liked them all, particularly Who Was Changed, which is one of my all-time favorites (and which I made my Comyns selection on my Middlebrow Syllabus). Virago also reprinted Mistletoe, judging by the Virago cover I found online, but perhaps in a smaller print run, since, unlike the earlier novels, their edition of this one seems to have become distinctly hard to find.

And indeed Mistletoe might have been a slightly harder sell. Comyns' books in general are hardly "cozy" reading in any traditional sense. Several of those early novels deal with the sometimes joyful, sometimes macabre details of country life as seen from the viewpoints of children. The children's cheerfully deadpan acceptance of both the pleasures and horrors of life lends those novels either a delightfully morbid humor or a very dark sensibility indeed, depending how dark the reader's own sense of humor is. But A Touch of Mistletoe applies the same sort of stark, matter-of-fact narrative voice to the adulthood and early middle age of its heroine and her younger sister, from just after the end of World War I until after World War II. During which time, the two women face, in unequal proportions, the vicissitudes of life, including an alcoholic mother, the struggle for independence, poverty, various more or less degrading jobs, marriage, madness, wealth, childrearing, artistic expression, widowhood, more poverty, abortion, borderline prostitution, and Blitz, among other things.

Not the stuff of cozy novels, for sure. In some ways, it's a bleaker (and apparently more autobiographical) scene than in Comyns' earlier works. And yet, as with the earlier works, Comyns' wonderful voice, calmly—even monotonously at times—intoning both the good and the bad, becomes hypnotic, hilarious, and devastating by turn (or, frequently, all at the same time). And if you're in the right frame of mind, all the tragedy and darkness is somehow as cheerful and life-affirming as a more traditionally cozy tale.

But then, bear in mind that I find Samuel Beckett cheerful and life-affirming as well (and come to think of it, Comyns' books may well deserve to sit on a shelf next to Beckett's)…

At first, the style of Mistletoe seemed a bit dense, but 20-30 pages in it all somehow clicked into place and I was hooked, hopelessly addicted to Comyns' incomparably wonky universe. Mind you, it's still a bit densely packed, but I urge you to persevere, because the density is part of Comyns' brilliance—how she transitions from one subject to another, even more disturbing one, in one seamless paragraph.

Take this longish passage starting on page 2, for example, about how Victoria, Blanche, their stodgy older brother Edward, and their widowed mother came to live with Grandfather:

Grandfather had been a Civil Servant in India and had returned to his family house when he retired on a comfortable pension, and he must have been very contented there surrounded by the things he knew and loved. His wife had been mislaid years earlier. I think she had run away with a young officer and was never mentioned. For years we thought her dead. But Grandfather had his son and when the son became an architect with an office in Cheltenham, he frequently visited his home and after he had married and had us children, we all used to come along too. Then our father was killed during the second year of the 1914-18 war and Mother brought us all to stay with Grandfather. At first this was a temporary arrangement while she looked round, but, as she only had an army pension to look round on, we stayed on and on until Grandfather's house became our permanent home.

The house was large and he seemed quite pleased to have us. It was Mother who hated living there. At first she eased her boredom by organizing a committee to deal with Belgian refugees, and for several years there were fêtes in the garden in aid of some good cause and a great white bundle called the Maternity Bag which provided linen for the village women's lyings in. But gradually she became thirsty and almost retired from village life. Grandfather's dreamy pink face began to wear a bewildered look and he shut himself up in the billiard-room as much as possible. 'I'm afraid my daughter-in-law is poorly' or 'Your mother isn't quite herself today, poorly, you know' were words that frequently crossed his lips, and when we children heard the word 'poorly' applied to anyone who was ill, perhaps an innocent child suffering with measles, we took it for granted that they had been drinking bottles of port or sherry. Our mother rather lost interest in us after the thirst got hold of her and, although our grandfather was vaguely fond of us, he certainly wasn't interested. Edward was sent to a second or perhaps third-rate school recommended by the vicar and Blanche and I had to make do with ever-changing governesses who seemed to know they were doomed as soon as they arrived and hardly bothered to unpack their boxes. The last one was a Miss Baggot, who was old and finding it difficult to get work; although she was frequently in tears, she stayed for nearly a year. Mother finally hit her with a parasol and she left after that.

Quite a lot of ground to cover in a couple of paragraphs (and poor Miss Baggot might deserve a novel of her own)!

If you're a fan of Comyns' earlier work, don't make the mistake I made—jump onto this dark little jewel as soon as you have a chance. Sadly, following an unenthusiastic response to this novel (philistines!), Comyns fell silent for nearly 20 years—until, in fact, Virago began reprinting her work and she was inspired to approach the typewriter again. Her 1985 comeback novel, The Juniper Tree, has recently been reprinted in the U.S. by New York Review Books Classics, but her two subsequent novels, Mr Fox (1987) (reviewed by Simon at Stuck in a Book here) and The House of Dolls (1989), as well as Mistletoe and its precursor, Birds in Tiny Cages (1964) (and indeed, the wonderful earlier novel The Skin Chairs) seem to remain unavailable on both sides of the pond.

I have to confess that I've already put in interlibrary loan requests for Birds and for Comyns' memoir/travel book about her time in Spain, Out of the Red and Into the Blue (1960). And I'm suppressing (for now, with difficulty) the urge to go back and re-read all the earlier novels.

If my raves aren't enough to tempt you, however, here are links to two tempting articles:

First, Camilla Grudova's selection of A Touch of Mistletoe as her "Best Book of 1967" on Granta's website—see here—not only made me feel more confident of my belief that it's one of Comyns's best books, but it also reinforced a rudimentary sense I had in reading it that few writers (and certainly few women writers of this time period) have written about poverty, death, pregnancy, childbirth, illness, and heartbreak as starkly and yet somehow entertainingly as Comyns.

And then, be sure to check out this marvelous piece by Lucy Scholes, which similarly convinced me that I had had many of its insights without realizing it (and which also makes me pine to read Comyns' diaries as Scholes clearly has—I'd consider selling a kidney to do likewise…).

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

More new authors (2 of 2)

Apologies for disappearing for quite a bit longer than I intended between posts. It's been a busy couple of weeks (though one rife with some good reading, which I shall have to report on soon).

It's not often that one of my authors is a ghost (at least that I know of, although I wouldn't mind a ghostly visit from Stella Gibbons or Rumer Godden, if they were of a mind to have some tea and a chat late one night), but anyone who lives in or near South Derbyshire might be interested to know that Minnie Elisabeth Farmer, who published a single novel as ELIZABETH HARRINGTON, is best known as the ghost who occasionally appears in the wooded area surrounding the White Lady Springs Reservoir near Castle Gresley. Sadly, she drowned herself in the reservoice in 1925, and it is believed that her apparition has given the reservoir its name. You can read about her ghost here, among other places. Farmer was the author of Paul Raymond, Revolutionist (1921), which was dedicated to the "children of the underworld," but about which little other information is available. According to newspaper coverage of her death, she was a former schoolmistress and had attended conferences abroad with the Women's International League.

O. SHAKESPEAR's six novels are described by OCEF as "of the marriage problem class," which doesn't make me tingle with anticipation, but on the other hand, apparently she and poet William Butler Yeats had an affair in 1896 and considered eloping together, which makes her a bit more intriguing to me. Valancourt Books has reprinted an additional novel, which was serialized but never before published in book form, Beauty's Hour (1896) (see here).

I'm also not terribly excited about the four romantic novels written by ANNE MACGILLIVRAYIsle of Youth (1957), The Pool of Light (1960), Stairway to Happiness (1962), The Deep Intent (1964)—but it was rather fun trying to identify her. John Herrington was finally able to confirm that she was the Yorkshire-born wife of Angus MacGillivray, head of the MacGillivray clan. 

Crail, Fife

They lived in Crail, Fife, which looks like it belongs on my next Scotland itinerary, and also, coincidentally, was the setting of D. E. Stevenson's Spring Magic, which I just happened to be reading at the same time we were researching MacGillivray—what were the chances? [Wrong, wrong, wrong! See comments below. D'oh!] MacGillivray seems to have begun writing only in her seventies.

DOROTHEA DEAKIN's seven novels were described by OCEF as "fairly tedious comedies of village or country house life," but contemporary critics referred to her work as "frothy," "thoroughly amusing," and "freshly and brightly written," so they could clearly go either way. Add to that that she was the niece of none other than E. Nesbit, and one might consider sampling her work. The novels' titles are The Smile of Melinda (1903), The Poet and the Pierrot (1905), 'Georgie' (1906), The Princess and the Kitchen Maid (1906), The Young Columbine (1908), Tormentilla (1908), and The Goddess Girl (1910). She also published a considerable amount of periodical fiction. She died in 1924 in a clinic in Lugano, Switzerland, which might suggest tuberculosis. She had married in 1910, perhaps not coincidentally the date of her final novel.

Since I've been doing research for this blog, I've discovered that a lot of writers have written books either rewriting, continuing, or completing works by Jane Austen. Some are better than others, no doubt, and some more faithful to Austen's style. Judged by such criteria, surely ALICE COBBETT's Somehow Lengthened (1932), a completion of Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon, is on the lower end of the spectrum. Blogger Deborah Yaffe wrote about it here, noting that Cobbett's version of Austen's story includes "a Caribbean love potion, a kidnapping, a near race riot, a blindfold nighttime journey over rough terrain, a smuggling gang, a dying prostitute, and a filthy-rich countess with a philanthropic bent" but also concluding that it's "quite a lot of fun." Cobbett wrote one additional novel, A Tale of Treasons (1937), about which information is lacking. She was the daughter of a well-known Victorian sports journalist, Martin Cobbett.

MARY WALL also wrote only two novels, which are similarly replete with plot. A Writing-Woman's Romance (1908) deals with the "love-story of the sub-editor of a provincial temperance journal and the manager of a wholesale whisky business," but that's nothing compared to Back to the World (1916). The Month notes that the latter "treats with much psychological insight of the sensations of a discharged lunatic, rendered insane in childbirth by the callousness of an unsympathetic husband, and 'put away' for the space of twenty years." I imagine many of you will rush to your favorite online bookseller to search for those plum titles! Wall remains unidentified, but she also published one volume of poetry, The Millionaire and Other Poems (1913), and John Herrington found a review that suggests she may have been Irish.

Descending a bit further into melodrama, we come across JUANITA SAVAGE, the unidentified author of eight romantic novels with titles like Spanish Love (1924), The City of Desire (1926), Passion Island (1927), Bandit Love (1931), and Spanish Rapture (1934). The City of Desire incorporates elements of sci-fi as it's heroine discovers a lost civilization (as well as true love). John Herrington was unable to trace her in public records, though there is just a slight possibility that Savage could have been a pseudonym of Amy GILMOUR, whose work was similar in style and whom one source suggested was more prolific and successful than her one known title.

Surely one of the most inexplicable of transatlantic retitlings: the UK edition...

...and the American edition

EVELYN ANTHONY published nearly three dozen volumes of historical fiction and romantic suspense, though she is perhaps best known now for her 1971 novel The Tamarind Seed, made into a film starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. Her career began with a "Romanov trilogy" comprised of Imperial Highness (1953, aka Rebel Princess), Curse Not the King (1954, aka Royal Intrigue), and Far Flies the Eagle (1955, aka Far Fly the Eagles). Regarding her later suspense fiction, the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers noted: "The action of her plots often involves more romance than intrigue. … Anthony's lovers in each novel are immediately identifiable to the reader by the strong and immutable sexual attraction they feel for each other. No matter how the book ends, the characters have no choice but to be motivated and controlled by that attraction."

Perhaps Anthony could trace her literary roots back to Caroline Emily Cameron, who published more than 40 novels under the name MRS LOVETT CAMERON. OCEF describes her work as melodramatic, but goes on: "Her practice is to titillate the reader by approaching sexual sin and tragedy and then retreating to romance." One of her most successful works was In a Grass Country (1885). Her brother-in-law, Verney Lovett Cameron, was the author of adventure stories for boys.

Despite having published only six novels over the course of 20 years, DORIS SUTCLIFFE ADAMS seems to have some loyal fans, judging from my online searches for information about her. Her first four appeared under her own name, the last two under her pseudonym, Grace Ingram. Desert Leopard (1958) and No Man's Son (1961) are set in the time of the Crusades, The Price of Blood (1962) in the days of Viking attacks on England, and Power of Darkness (1967) during the reign of King John. The two novels as Grace Ingram—Red Adam's Lady (1973) and Gilded Spurs (1978)—perhaps have a bit more of a romantic focus.

Similarly historical in theme are the seven novels by the unidentified E. YOLLAND. Her debut, In Days of Strife (1896), is subtitled "Fragments of fact and fiction from a Refugee's history in France, 1666 to 1685." A bookseller describes Sarolta's Verdict (1899) as a "Gothic novel set among Hungarian gypsies." And her final novel, The Struggle for the Crown: A Romance of the Seventeenth Century (1912), is apparently aimed at young women and is narrated by a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth of Bohemia, the "Winter Queen." The others are Mistress Bridget (1898), Vanity's Price (1900), The Monk's Shadow (1902), and Under the Stars (1907).

One critic referred to FRANCES MUNDY-CASTLE's The Chemist's Wife (1940, published under her pseudonym Peggy Whitehouse) as "Madame Bovary in a different key". Not terribly revealing, but details of her other seven novels are entirely lacking. She has also been identified as the author of A Democrat's Chapbook (1942), published under the name "Quiet Woman," which was subtitled "a chronicle of some of the events of the present war, up to the entry of America, December 1941, with reflections."

The remaining five authors from my recent update include KITTY LESSELLS, who wrote ten romantic novels in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as four authors whose work mostly appeared before my time period but who just squeak onto the list with a final title or two after 1910.

JESSIE CHALLACOMBE published nearly a dozen works of fiction, at least some for children and all published by Christian-oriented publishers. Her non-fiction Jottings from a Farnborough Note Book (1922) was reprinted in 1980 with the subtitle "a story of an old world village".

GERALDINE EMMA HODGSON was a biographer and author of non-fiction on topics ranging from Christian saints and histories of education to a teacher's guide to Montaigne. She also published at least four novels, as well as one later work, Across the Forest and Far Away (1911), which appears to be children's fiction and thus qualifies her for my list.       

KATHERINE S. MACQUOID was a travel writer and author of more than 50 volumes of fiction, most romantic in theme. Some of her best-known novels are A Bad Beginning: a Story of a French Marriage (1862), Patty (1871), At the Red Glove (1885), "a romantic comedy set in a penson in Bern" (ODNB), and Captain Dallington (1907), about a highwayman. Her final novel, Molly Montague's Love Story (1911), qualifies her for this list.

And finally, ELIZABETH HARCOURT MITCHELL was a poet, hymnist, author of religious-themed non-fiction, and novelist. Her nearly 20 volumes of fiction often featured religious themes, and the last, Harriet's Treasure (1910), allows her onto my list.

Monday, March 5, 2018

More new authors (1 of 2)

I have two more posts featuring new additions to my British list, and then I'll be able to report on the beginning of the American list, which has been bubbling along nicely under the surface. (I can definitely report that there are just as many "lost" American women writers as there are on the other side of the pond…)

In addition to all the newly added children's authors I've reported on recently, there were 32 other new writers, some naturally of more interest than others, but I'll at least mention all of them in passing. Sadly, not so many great covers to share for these posts, though there are two—by different authors—which are strikingly similar...

New authors first appear on my radar in a variety of ways. One of these new authors happened to come from my recent reading of Reggie Oliver's biography of Stella Gibbons, Out of the Woodshed. It's a mediocre biography (the glorious Gibbons deserves better), but it did bring to my attention a friend of Stella's who was also a novelist.

I couldn't find a lot of info about GWEN CLEAR, a poet and author of two novels. About the extent of it is that the Bookman called her first novel, The Years That Crown (1930), "a slender bit of work which betrays a sensitive mind, hovering delicately over the lives of a group of people, but never quite encompassing them." Not a lot to go on, but I'm a bit intrigued. If she was a friend of Stella's…  Information about her second novel, The Undisciplined Heart (1938), is even more sparse.

It was a book catalogue that brought KATHLEEN BARRATT my way, but it was a while back and I've forgotten which catalogue it was. Her debut novel, To Fight Another Day (1947), particularly caught my eye, as it's a grownup school story, and, according to a blurb quoted on Abe Books, "deals with the clash of temperament between the senior mistress and the newly-appointed Headmistress, both of whom had been pupils at the school. … Against the background of life in a busy school and with the help—and hinderance—of members of the staff, the old antagonism between the two women frequently reasserts itself until the final climax is reached."

I have to admit, though, that a blurb from her second novel, The Fault Undone (1949), about an unmarried mother, calls it the "[s]low, frigid, unromantic romance of a pedagogue and a girl who once made a mistake," which doesn't sound nearly so intriguing. Her other two novels, about which details are lacking, were The Bright Lantern (1954) and Future in the Past (1956).

I came across AUDREY JENNINGS in an online Spectator resulting from a Google search for a completely different author. She wrote only one novel, Storied Urn (1933), of which the Spectator said: "Miss Jennings tells the story, common enough in eighteenth-century comedy, of the rival lovers and the unsophisticated heroine: but she treats it with a depth and sympathy of her own." She was apparently a secretary at the Society of Genealogists. There was also an artist of the same name active in the 1950s and 1960s, but I don't have enough information to link them with certainty.

And while I'm stumbling, I'll report that CICELY FARMER came up in a Hathi Trust search result, which means I can report that her last novel, Artemis Weds (1932), is available there for downloading, at least in the U.S. It turns out that Farmer was the wife of "sea scouting" pioneer Warington Baden-Powell (therefore sister-in-law of Robert Baden-Powell). Her other novels are The Painted Show (1924), Waters of Fayle (1925), and Anna (1931), for sure, though I'm not certain if a fifth title, The Bending Sickle (1931), first published in the U.S., is just an American edition of one of her other works or a separate novel. She also published two books about her travels—Dragons and a Bell (1931), about a trip through China, Malaysia, Burma, and Sri Lanka, and Sunrise Over India (1934).

Then of course there's my favorite source of new authors for my list—readers sharing their finds with me.

Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book gave me a heads up about DOROTHY BAKER, a Brit who is not to be confused with her (slightly) better-known American namesake. The American Baker was best known for Young Man with a Horn (1938) and Cassandra at the Wedding (1962). This Dorothy Baker seems to have worked with the BBC and published only two novels, Coast Town Tapestry (1946), subtitled "a novel with a wartime background," and The Street (1951). Simon unearthed a copy of the latter and reviewed it here. According to the British Library catalogue, she appears to have published only one additional book, A Short Guide to English Architecture (1974).

review from The Mercury, 21 Oct 1932

review from Perth Daily News, 21 Oct 1933

Grant Hurlock has long been a friend of this blog, and has provided several other authors for my lists. Ages ago, he sent me info on VIOLA CASTANG, and I'm just getting round to adding her now. She published a dozen novels, now mostly very scarce. Reviews of the first two, At Last a God (1932) and Country Party (1933), suggest romantic comedies—the first dealing with a young girl with her head full of romance novels, and her bumpy path to the real thing. Other titles include Pirated Poet (1935), I Am Your Adventure (1945), Mrs Clements (1947), Lost Within the Hill (1948), This Can't Be Love (1950), Mate in Two Moves (1951), Bitter Honey (1952), Troubled Summer (1952), and The Invisible Cord (1958). After a considerable absence, she returned in 1972 with one final novel, a mystery evocatively titled A Smell of Garbage (1972).

From David Redd came a recommendation to add an all-around intriguing figure, RÈNE RAY, who wrote seven novels, was a successful screenwriter, and had begun her career as a stage and film actress. Among other things, she auditioned for Joan Fontaine's role in Rebecca. Her first novel, Wraxton Marne (1946), was subtitled "The Tale of a Ghostly Ruin and the Family to Whom it Once Belonged". Her second novel, Emma Conquest (1950), was described as dealing with "a girl's fight against a disastrous inheritance," whatever that might mean, and according to one source was a bestseller. She wrote the screenplay for the science-fiction TV series The Strange World of Planet X, which aired in 1956, and the following year she published a slightly different novel version by the same title. Her other titles are A Man Named Seraphin (1952), The Garden of Cahmohn (1955), The Tree Surgeon (1958), and, after an extended absence from writing, a final fantasy novel called Angel Assignment (1988). With her second marriage in 1975 to the 2nd Earl of Midleton, Ray/Creese became the Countess of Midleton. A note regarding her name: Her IMDB entry shows her first name as René, but her book covers and the British Library catalogue both show it as Rène, which—unusual as it is—I believe to be correct.

There are a few authors in this batch I can single out for their interesting personal stories. MRS VERE CAMPBELL was actually the mother of Marjorie Bowen, who has been on my list since very early on. She wrote eight melodramatic novels, with which she supported herself and her two daughters after separating from her husband. Marjorie Bowen once noted that her mother's work "dealt entirely with her own experiences of passion and poverty. She wrote again and again of misunderstood and wronged women and the various attractive, but faithless, men who had crossed their path." The last of her novels, For No Man Knoweth (1910), just barely qualifies her for this list (which is my excuse for not having added her before.

I have to say that when I came across the name HARRIET M. CAPES, I didn't expect it to be a match with two different authors. But, indeed there are two Harriet Mary Capes, both of them authors, and there has been a fair amount of confusion between them. I think I have now sorted out the confusion, but if anyone else has information about these women, please do let me know.

I believe that only one of the two authors fits my list. That Harriet Mary Capes, who often signed her fiction Sister Mary Reginald (later Mother Mary Reginald), was a nun at St. Dominic's Convent in Staffordshire, as well as a missionary, biographer of religious figures, and author of several volumes of fiction. Her first fiction was apparently Footsteps in the Ward and Other Stories (1910). Later titles which appear to be fiction (but for which little information is available) are The Vision of Master Reginald, Friar Preacher (1911), "Pardon and Peace": The Last Chronicle of an Old Family (1920), Within the Enclosure (1923), written under the pseudonym Harriet Delgairn, and Gold or God? (1932).

That's the extent of the literary output of "my" Harriet Mary Capes. The other author is Magdalen Harriet Mary Capes, usually written "M. Harriet M. Capes," who was the sister of novelist Bernard Capes and a friend of Joseph Conrad. Magdalen was the author of nine earlier children's titles, published 1885-1899 (therefore too early for me), as well as one novel under the pseudonym Magdalen Brooke. A 1908 publication called Busy Bee's Day: A Fairy Play for Children is presumably by Magdalen as well, given that Sister/Mother Mary doesn't seem to have written for children at all.

I'm fairly confident that we have now got these two women's lives and works straightened out, but a quick glance at Abe Books will show ongoing confusion about them.

I already reported a while back on the confusions that initially surrounded PRINCESS PAUL TROUBETZKOY (and there turned out to be a second related author there too, as Amélie Louise Rives, who sometimes went by Princess Troubetzkoy, will appear on my American list).

And, okay, it might be stretching the meaning of the word "interesting" to call MRS ARTHUR HENNIKER's story by that name, but her name does turn up here and there in scholarly works to this day because of her one main claim to fame: She was the only author with whom Thomas Hardy ever collaborated on a work of fiction—a story called "The Spectre of the Real," which appeared in Henniker's collection In Scarlet and Grey: Stories of Soldiers and Others (1896). She also published eight other volumes of fiction, the last of which, Second Fiddle (1912), qualifies her for this list. That novel deals with an unhappily married woman, and OCEF called it "genuinely poignant." Regarding Hardy, some sources suggest that he actively pursued a romantic relationship with Henniker but she insisted they remain friends. His letters to her were published as One Rare Fair Woman (1972).

And then there are a few authors who are included only as housekeeping (or, in the case of the first, as an excuse to share cover art).

EVA MCDONALD published nearly 40 volumes of historical romance. Titles include Lazare the Leopard (1959), The Rebel Bride (1960), The Prettiest Jacobite (1961), Lord Byron's First Love (1968), Regency Rake (1973), and House of Secrets (1980).

MARGOT ARNOLD's six novels are so obscure I can find no details about any of them. Titles are The Wall (1935), Evolution of Elizabeth (1936), Fun for Felicity (1937), "—I Had No Shoes" (1938), Birds of Sadness (1940), and A Different Drummer (1941). A later title, Portrait of Caroline (1958), may also be by Arnold. She is not, however, to be confused with American author Petronelle Cook, who wrote a mystery series and other novels under the name Margot Arnold.

JOHN ABBYFORDE was the pseudonym of an Edith May Hollinshead, née Jenkin, who published a single novel, The Flaw (1929), about industrial life in Yorkshire. She reportedly also published a number of periodical stories using the same pseudonym.

And finally, a tidbit I missed the first time around. I've had Paid to Be Safe (1948), a novel about the World War II Air Transport Auxiliary, on my war list for ages, and I've had one of its two authors, March Cost (as Margaret Morrison), on my author list, but had somehow left off Cost's co-author, PAMELA TULK-HART. As far as I can tell, Tulk-Hart didn't publish any other books, but she has now at long last been added to the list.

Along with a miscellany of others, the next post will contain a woman who's not so well known for her one novel as she is for her hauntings…
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!