Monday, December 5, 2016

A perfectly good exc-, er, reason for book splurges

This post is really for my fellow book fetishists. I know you’re out there.

I felt that my post about my UK book shopping, which I wanted to get posted before you had all forgotten that I even made the trip and which I therefore didn’t take a lot of time to put together, was a big negligent in really letting you get up close and personal with the books I acquired—especially the fair number of them with enticing cover art. So I wanted to share some of the cover scans once I finally had time to get them together.

But then I thought of another good reason for a new post about the books—and also an extremely cogent reason why compulsive book shopping is, in fact, not an indulgence but a sheer necessity for my research. Because the books I accumulated while pillaging Oxfam shops actually led me to unearth several potential new authors for my Overwhelming List. So I thought I would share those with you while also sharing some of the best book jackets.

As you already know from previous ravings about them, I particularly love when dustjackets contain lists of other books or authors released by the same publisher. These lists have led me to dozens of new authors, often ones that are congenial to me since the publisher has obviously felt they were of interest to readers of the book in my hand.

Faber & Faber is a favorite publisher of mine because they always seem to lavish the backs of their books with lists of other titles. Winifred Peck was a Faber author, and so, it turns out, was Eilís Dillon, so the back of her Sent to His Account made for a fun half hour or so for me. It contained a few women already on my list—Lucy Boston, Phyllis Bottome, Louise Collis (found, I believe, because she was on the back of Winifred Peck’s books)—and also Antonia Ridge, who always pains me because her books sound enticing (especially Family Album, which has been recommended to me here) but she was actually Dutch so she doesn’t fit my list.

But other names jumped out at me. Victoria Lincoln was, I found, American, but what of ANGELA JEANS? And MARIGOLD ARMITAGE (what a wonderful name!)? I’ve added both of those to my list to research further. And then I also looked into the initial-heavy names, sometimes a signifier of women writers. Alas, however, C. A. Alington is really Cyril Argentine Alington (another impressive name) and although G. R. Levy turned out to be Gertrude Rachel Levy, The Violet Crown is actually a memoir and her other work seems to be scholarly. I have assumed so far that folks like David Stacton and Showell Styles, whose names are unfamiliar, really are men, but you never know!

Some of the girls’ books led me only to authors I already knew. From Mollie Chappell’s Cat With No Fiddle (which I was happy to find, as I’ve read two of her other books), I knew the name Carol Rivett sounded familiar, but had to search my database to discover she’s really Edith Caroline Rivett, who also wrote mysteries under the name ECR Lorac. I wonder if some of those boys’ stories are also by women using male pseudonyms, but haven’t had a chance to explore deeply yet.

Elisabeth Smedley’s The Jays gave me two more possibilities. Among the many initials here, there is one set I didn’t know about. Has anyone come across C. R. MANSELL before? 

Inscription from my copy of The Jays

I also didn’t recognize ELSPETH PROCTER, and I hope no one tells me that she’s absolutely stupendous and her book is incredibly valuable, because I passed up a copy at the York Oxfam shop! Interestingly, I double-checked the one man listed here and he really is a man, but elsewhere he did use a female pseudonym, Linda Peters.

The back flap of Dorita Fairlie Bruce’s The Best House in the School gave me two more possibilities. What of JOYCE BEVINS WEBB and D. KATHERINE BRERETON? Has anyone come across either of them before?

The cover of Winifred Norling’s The Leader of the Rebels (one of the books kindly given to me by Gil when we were in Cambridge) didn’t give me any new authors, but it reminded me of one very strange chapter in the history of girls’ school stories. According to Sue Sims and Hilary Clare in their marvelous Encyclopaedia of Girls’ School Stories, Margaret Lisle is a pseudonym for—of all people—prolific thriller author John Creasey! He only wrote two school stories, which Sims and Clare describe as "intensely tedious", but one can’t help but wonder what on earth prompted him to try his hand in this arena.

Award plate from Looking After Thomas

While I’m talking about children’s authors, there were three more whose names I jotted down in that York Oxfam shop. Natalie Barkas? Pamela Mansbridge? Heather Prime? Do these ring any bells with any of you?

And then there was Mary Bosanquet, who doesn’t seem to fit my list as she’s just a bit too late with her first novel (1962), but who may have to go on my TBR list anyway. The novel (which Andy did a good job of photographing in lieu of my actually purchasing it) sounds interesting, but I’m far more intrigued by the memoir mentioned on the back—Journey Into a Picture is described as her “discovery of Italy under wartime conditions.” Hmmm…

I mentioned Joy Packer’s unremarkable novel The Man in the Mews when I posted about what I read on vacation. Sadly, as I mentioned, Packer herself turned out to be South African, and while the back flap does have a list of other authors published by the Book Club, they are mostly the usual suspects. 

D. L. Murray was a new name, but he’s David Leslie Murray, and F. L. Green is Frederick Laurence Green, author of Odd Man Out, which was made into a film by Carol Reed and which was reprinted last year by Valancourt Books. Oh, well.

From my upgraded copy of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence came the name Janet Lim, who is actually, it turns out, Singaporean, but whose memoir, Sold for Silver, sounds quite gripping. You can read a bit about her life here.

I was happy that the reprint of Anthony Gilbert/Lucy Beatrice Malleson’s The Spinster’s Secret I picked up had a short intro that mentioned an array of other mystery writers planned for the same series, but alas it bore no fruit. Josephine Bell, Pamela Branch, Nancy Spain, and Christianna Brand were all already on my list, and the others—Ina Bouman, Sarah Dreher, Katherine V. Forrest, Miles Franklin, Hilda Lawrence, Marion Mainwaring, and Sara Shulman were all either too late or of another nationality. Woe is me.

And last but not least, there’s the book I found that’s actually by an author who belong on my list. DOROTHY VERNON WHITE’s Frank Burnet even has a very handy author bio that makes clear White belongs, which I greatly appreciated:

Dorothy Vernon White was born in 1877, the daughter of Horace Smith, police magistrate for Westminster and a minor poet. Later, her family moved to Beckenham, Kent where at the age of twenty-two she began taking Bible classes for poor boys. A lively, independent character, she also ran a week-day club and a cricket team, becoming 'famed as a demon over-arm bowler in an era of lobs and long skirts'. Her short stories appeared in periodicals such as the Academy and Outlook and in 1907 her first novel, Miss Mona, caught the attention of the novelist William Hale White ('Mark Rutherford'). She already admired his writing and, although he was seventy-five and she thirty, their first meeting was the start of an intense relationship leading to marriage in 1911. Dorothy published two more novels, Frank Burnet (1909) and Isabel (1911), but after Hale White's death in 1913 she virtually ceased to write apart from editing his journals and letters and the remarkable Groombridge Diary (1924), her account of their life together. She continued to teach and, in the 1930s, published three books for children. She died at Sherbourne in Dorset in 1967, at the age of ninety.

I can’t help but wonder what makes her memoir remarkable, but if I become a fan I’ll probably be tracking it down to find out.

Well, that’s it for the potential new authors. But I still have some more photos to share, so if you're interested keep scrolling!

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!