Monday, April 28, 2014

Mysteriously romantic (3 of 3)

For my third and final (for now) update dedicated to mystery and romance authors, 17 more writers of varying degrees of interest.  I'm riveted by the cover of MARGARET MACGILL's Her Dancing Partner, which, you have to admit, is striking.  What else it is might be up for discussion…


And imagine my surprise, after all this time, to be adding an author to my list who actually has a book in print.  Amazing but true, SYBIL G. BRINTON was the author of one of the earliest Jane Austen sequels, Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen (1914).  This novel, rather intriguingly, combines previously unmated characters from all six Austen novels into a new romance.  Reviews online seem to be mixed, but it is actually in print from American publisher Sourcebooks.


FIONA SINCLAIR could be a rather intriguing mystery author, but sadly she apparently committed suicide just as her career was picking up, with the result that several of her novels were only published posthumously.


And HELEN MARY KEYNES, who was the author of adventure and mystery novels, is attracting me because of two late novels written under her pseudonym, Clementine Hunter—Salute to the Brave: A Thrilling Story of the Gestapo in England (1940), and Queens Have Died Young and Fair (1947), which, judging by its cover, is also set during wartime.  I am a sucker for WWII novels, so perhaps I should be on the lookout for these.


Meanwhile, PHYLLIS MACVEAN is another mystery novelist who was quite prolific from the 1920s to the 1960s, mostly under her pseudonym Phyllis Hambledon.  She must have been rather successful, and at least one of her novels, No Difference to Me (1948), was adapted as the film No Place for Jennifer (1950), but this doesn't seem to make it easier to find out much about her.  Another example of the essential perishability of fame!


I'm adding a couple more rather mysterious figures as well.  PHYLLIS GORDON DEMAREST has already inspired a fascinating research post here, detailing some of the challenges of tracking down the most obscure authors.  And even expert researcher John Herrington—who has often helped me out when I hit a wall in my search for an author's details—was unable to trace ANNE STANTON DREW, who published several romantic novels in the 1930s.  Intriguingly, he has found information leading him to believe that this was the pseudonym of a well-known actress, but he's been unable to identify which one.  Ah, imagine the possibilities of fantasizing about our favorite Thirties actresses secretly scribbling romance novels! 


And finally, although I know precious little about her, ARMINE GRACE is a satisfying addition to my list because I do love linking up family and other kinds of relationships between women writers.  Grace was the pseudonym of Amy Grace Catherine Lowdes, sister of Dorothy Lowndes, who published novels under the pseudonym Dolf Wyllarde.


The complete list of 17 authors is below and has already been added to the main list.  Maybe you'll find others of interest among them!


ELIZABETH MADELAINE C[AROLINE?]. BALFOUR-BROWNE (1876-1968)
(aka E. M. C. Balfour-Browne)

Author of two story collections during my time period—Solway Tides and Other Tales (1928) and "If All Tales…" (1936), as well as an earlier novel, The Beetaley Jewels (1901), which may be a mystery; little information seems to be available about her.

JUDITH BRUNDRETT BICKLE (1886-1965)
(née Bower, aka J. Tweedale, aka Judith Tweedale)

Primarily known as a poet (her Collected Poems appeared in 1948), Bickle also wrote two novels—The Unimaginable Flowers (1935), described as a romantic novel, and Village of Rosemary (1965).

SYBIL G[????]. BRINTON (dates unknown)

Apparently the author of only one novel, Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen (1914), which combined characters from all six Austen novels into a new romance; the novel has been reprinted by Sourcebooks and is actually in print as of this writing.

HAZEL [MARY FAITH] CAMPBELL (1891-????)
(née Marlow)

Author five mysteries and/or thrillers in the late 1920s and early 1930s, including The Servants of the Goddess (1928), The Secret Brotherhood (1929), The Burqa: A Detective Story (1930), The Makra Mystery (1931), and Olga Knaresbrook—Detective (1933).

ANN DELAMAIN (dates unknown)

Author of romantic novels including All Our Dear Relations (1935), as well as intriguing later novels like The Best Butter (1948), about a bored widow who adopts two children and runs for political office, and My Bee Stings (1949), about a successful playwright facing the death of her husband.

PHYLLIS GORDON DEMAREST (1908-1969)

A somewhat mysterious author (see here), Demarest published several novels in the 1930, including Lady Gone Wild (1933), The Past Is Ours (1934), and This Strange Love (1939), as well as at least two later ones, The Naked Risk (1954) and The Angelic City (1961).

ANNE STANTON DREW (c. 1890-????)
(pseudonym of ????)

Author of at least five romantic novels in the 1930s—Overture (1931), Starlight (1933), The Gay Road (1934), Haven (1935), and The Capable Girl (1937); according to John Herrington, this seems to be the pseudonym of a well-known actress, but her true identity remains murky.

ARMINE GRACE (1867-1939)
(pseudonym of Amy Grace Catherine Lowdes)

Sister of Dorothy Lowndes (aka Dolf Wyllarde), Grace also worked in the London theatre and published two novels of her own, which sound as though they could be mysteries or thrillers—The Cloak of St. Martin (1913) and The House of Silent Footsteps (1917).

JOHN IRONSIDE (1866-1945)
(pseudonym of Euphemia Margaret Tait)

Author of nine novels, most of them mysteries, in the 1910s to 1940s, including The Red Symbol (1911), Forged in Strong Fires (1912), The Call-Box Mystery (1923), Jack of Clubs (1931), The Marten Mystery (1933), Lady Pamela's Pearls (1941), and The Crime and the Casket (1945).

HELEN MARY KEYNES (1892-1975)
(aka Clementine Hunter)

Author of adventure and mystery novels, including The Spanish Marriage (1913), Honour the King (1914), Salute to the Brave: A Thrilling Story of the Gestapo in England (1940), and Queens Have Died Young and Fair (1947), which, judging by its cover, may also be set in wartime.

MARGARET MACGILL (1887-1966)
(née Gibbons, aka Margaret Gibbons, aka Mrs. Patrick MacGill)

Author of at least twenty romance novels from the 1910s to 1930s, including The Rose of Glenconnel (1916), The Bartered Bride (1920), Molly of the Lone Pine (1922), Love's Defiance (1926), Dancers in the Dark (1929), Painted Butterflies (1931), and Hollywood Madness (1936).


PHYLLIS MACVEAN (1892-1967)
(aka Phyllis Hambledon)

Author of romance and mystery novels from the 1920s to 1960s; titles include Autumn Fires (1926), Leading Strings (1932), Hogmanay (1935), Turn Over the Page (1943), Invitation to Terror (1950), Keys for the Criminal (1958), and Murder and Miss Ming (1959).

SHIRLEY MURRELL (dates unknown)
(pseudonym of Olive Scott Hansen)

More research needed; author of more than a dozen novels from the 1940s to 1970s, about which little information is available; titles include Perilous Rock (1948), Physician Extraordinary (1949), Squire Neptune (1952), The Man from Martinique (1957), and The Young Josephine (1960).

MAX SALTMARSH (1893-1975)
(pseudonym of Marian Winifred Saltmarsh, née Maxwell)

Author of several mystery/thrillers of the 1930s, including Highly Unsafe (1936), Highly Inflammable (1936), The Clouded Moon (1937), and Indigo Death (1938).


FIONA SINCLAIR (1919-1963)
(pseudonym of Fiona Peters, née Blaines)

Author of several mystery novels in the early 1960s (just barely fitting my time frame here), including Scandalize My Name (1960), Dead of a Physician (1961), Meddle with the Mafia (1963), Three Slips to a Noose (1964), and Most Unnatural Murder (1965).


MARIGOLD WATNEY (1886-????)

Author of more than a dozen novels 1932-1960, at least one of which—Laugh When You Can (1945)—was a murder mystery; other titles include Ducks on a Pond (1932), What Shall We Do with Anne? (1937), Her Name Was Cornelia (1947), and The Other Side of the Wall (1949).

I. WRAY (1894-1969)
(pseudonym of Iris Elaine Bickford, married name Palliser)

Author of two mystery novels in the early 1930s; The Vye Murder (1930) was praised by The Spectator for its portrayal of women, and Murder—and Ariadne (1931), is about a murder following a “rowdy house party” and was praised by the West Australian as “ingeniously constructed.”

Friday, April 25, 2014

GWENDOLINE COURTNEY, Sally’s Family (1946)


“Six of them!” Mrs. Rees exclaimed, staring aghast at her master, who, his damaged leg propped up on a stool, was lying back in his chair, looking up at his housekeeper—and quondam nurse—with apprehensive amusement.

“Yes, six of them.  And five of them under eighteen.”

Mrs. Rees sank down on a chair, as if unable to stand up to the shock of finding that Charles Selwood, having reached the age of thirty-six and still a confirmed bachelor, was now to stand in loco parentis to six—no, five children!

So begins Sally’s Family, and it’s a promising beginning for my first experience of a Girls Gone By reprint—the tale of 24-year-old Sally who, in the days immediately after the end of World War II, comes out of the A.T.S. and must try to make a home for her five orphaned brothers and sisters.

This is made more challenging by the fact that the children have been split up in different households for most of the war.  Their father has been killed in Burma, after having saved Charles’ life.  Sally joined the A.T.S. right after the beginning of the war.  Initially, the other children had been left with an elderly aunt, but when the Blitz began the school-age children had been evacuated with their separate schools.  The aunt took Robin and Jane to the countryside but died soon after, leaving Robin with a clergyman and his wife, while Jane went to live with an Oxford don and his wife.

The novel’s introduction by Jilly Day makes clear that this type of reunion was not particularly unusual, though I can't recall coming across it in any other novels of the time, and it’s a wonderfully intriguing premise for a family story.  Charles—who has resolved to help the family and make sure they’re okay, but nevertheless make them stand on their own feetfinds himself drawn to the whole family (and one member in particular).  He rents them a filthy, run-down house that has been commandeered by a Civil Defense Unit for the duration of the war, and Sally must dive in to make it livable.  Fortunately, she has some help from the redoubtable Mrs. Rees, from whom Sally begins to catch the joy of housekeeping, which here sounds a bit like a contagious disease—perhaps contracted from Kay Smallshaw in Persephone’s How to Run Your Home Without Help, published around the same time:

She was already filling a kettle that had been left standing in the hearth, and found that she was actually catching a little of Mrs. Rees’s enthusiasm as that admirable woman proceeded to disinter various cleaning materials from the basket that had held the overalls.  Even to make this room clean would be an achievement one could feel proud of.

The arrival of each of the children to the family’s ramshackle new home is entertaining, but none so much so as the final arrival—of the youngest daughter, Jane, who had always (before the war) been known as Pookum:

She opened the door wider, and a small, demure figure clad in quaker-like grey walked composedly in.  A long dark plait hung over each shoulder, and solemn blue eyes surveyed her elder brothers and sisters without the slightest trace of shyness.  While they all stared in dead silence the blue eyes singled out Sally, and Jane advanced towards her, a small hang—for she was very small for her ten years—held out with all the aplomb of a woman of forty.

“How are you, Sally?  I remember you per-fectly despite the fact that I was so young when our family was un-a-void-ably split up,” she said staidly, articulating each syllable with care.

It’s hard not to love Jane/Pookum, as she approaches life in such a calm, practical, prematurely intellectual way, and she was the high point of the novel for me.  (But perhaps that’s because I rather identify with her?)  And, although the entire novel is light and cheerful and entertaining, Jane is really the only proper, giggle-out-loud comic relief.  Her background does, however, provide some challenges—not least to her poor teacher at the local school:

“She’ll be all right once lessons start,” Miss Leigh said quietly as the girls parted from her at the door.  “If she’s never been to school before she’s bound to be a little nervous at first.  But she’ll soon settle down,” and she returned to her scholars, blissfully unconscious of just how soon Pookum, who was not customarily given to fits of panic, would recover and settle down.

When Jane gets home, she tells the girls of her critiques of the “babyish” stories Miss Leigh tells in history class, stories that “have been en-tire-ly dis-cred-it-ed and dis-proved by his-tor-ians.”  She even, as Miss Leigh tells them later, “started quoting Latin on one occasion.”  But fortunately Miss Leigh—like just about everyone else in the novel—is unflummoxable and immediately recognizes Jane’s intelligence and potential.

Obviously, we are not in the realm of hard-hitting, gritty, postwar realism here.  There is perhaps more than a little propaganda here about the joys of housework (not unlike the Smallshaw book), and each family member’s sterling character and enthusiasm for hard work might occasionally stretch the limits of credulity.  Some of the family’s lucky breaks are as convenient as those in E. Nesbit’s The Lark—finding furniture in the attic when they finally get around to taking down the lingering blackout there, receiving cases of handy materials salvaged from their bombed-out former home in London, Charles’ frequent gifts of chickens, eggs, and cream.

Cover of 1962 Collins reprint

On the other hand, this is not just an idealized “cozy” (though it is certainly cozy enough for any rainy day), and the difficulties Sally and her siblings face do contain some insight into the realities and hardships of postwar England.  Even better, the family dynamics and the children’s unique personalities from growing up in such different environments are believable and completely entertaining.  Perhaps they even contain a sort of underlying message about how this microcosm of Britain as a whole would have to work together and sacrifice in order to survive postwar austerity?

Oddly, Sally’s Family kept reminding me of a very, very different novel, but one which also manages to turn relatively uneventful day-to-day life into something that’s hard to put down.  RC Sherriff’s The Fortnight in September, about a middle-class family’s perfectly ordinary vacation to the seaside, is one of my favorite Persephones, and as in that novel, Courtney here manages to create a compelling story from the most mundane details of domestic life.  Kitty has been billeted with the well-to-do Mrs. Howard, who has spoiled her and given her a taste for the good life, and she must be brought around to the joys of housekeeping and family life.  The siblings play trivia games to help Jane and Robin with their schoolwork.  Guy and Lucy start cramming to try to win scholarships.  Sally badly injures her foot and brings Tom, a young doctor home on leave from the military, into the novel’s cast.  Not exactly the events from which page-turners are usually made. 

And yet, somehow, I found I could barely put it down.  For those of you interested in fiction about wartime and postwar England, and fiction about domestic life, this one should prove irresistible.  And now, of course, I’m itching to read more of Courtney’s work.  Fortunately, Girls Gone By have reprinted several of her other titles as well—and hopefully will continue to do so, since the ones they haven’t gotten to yet are often shockingly pricy.

Also, as an aside, I was interested to learn from the book’s introduction that Courtney was the only civilian to have worked on Operation Overlord, the code name for the D-Day invasion of Normandy.  And, more sadly, she is one of a fair number of the women on my Overwhelming List to have been injured in a bomb blast during the war: Courtney's hearing was damaged, and her resulting extreme sensitivity to noise affected her for the rest of her life.

Oh, and by the way, the original cover, which GGB uses for their edition (the back is shown below), is quite irresistible as well.  Sadly, however, Courtney herself seems to have been camera-shy, as I could locate no photo of her.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Update: School stories (more or less)

My favorite cover from this batch; great use
of color and just a tad surreal?

While I'm still absorbed by all the loot from my recent bookshopping, it's time to get back to the Overwhelming List.  I do still have one more update pending on mystery and romance authors, but decided I'd take a break from that.  After finalizing my recent series of four updates on children’s authors, I realized I had already come across enough additional writers for yet another couple of updates.  Some of the new additions specialized in school stories and others didn’t, and since they divided roughly into two halves I decided to split them up that way.  So, coming up soon will be an update on more general children’s authors, but in the meantime here are 15 more writers who all published—or seem to have published, in the case of one or two about which information is sparse—school stories, and of course a bunch of cover images as well, which are as seductive as ever.  (And by the way, the next edition of the list will contain a whole slew of additional girls' school authors, courtesy of The Book.)


I should acknowledge that at least a couple of these were suggested to me by Tina, who has given me lots of other useful suggestions already.  One of those was VIOLET M. METHLEY, who published children’s fiction as well as novels for adults, both of which seem potentially of interest.  AGNES MIALL, who wrote The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Everything (1916), reprinted in 2008, may also have written for adults as well as children, but she is still a bit shrouded in the fog of time.


Jacket blurb for Mabel Tyrrell's The Enchanted Camp

MABEL L. TYRRELL definitely wrote for adults as well as children.  She was the author of Give Me a Torch, one of the titles I passed up on my post-Christmas shopping spree at Russell Books in Victoria, Canada.  I haven’t learned enough about her yet to know if I should regret that decision or not, but for now some of her school stories, such as Miss Pike and Her Pupils (1928), seem just as intriguing.

A stray Kathleen Millar Macleod title

I’m always a sucker for World War II-era fiction, and so OLIVE DOUGAN’s wartime girls’ school stories, such as The Schoolgirl Refugee (1940), Schoolgirls in Peril (1944), sound seductive.  But—like so many lesser-known school stories and so much wartime fiction—it looks like tracking down copies will be an adventure in itself.


At least three of the writers in this update—KATHLEEN MILLAR MACLEOD, J. P. MILNE, and ELIZABETH FRANCES MEDLICOTT SMITH—wrote boys’ school stories as well as girls’.  I wonder (but don’t have time to research at the moment) if boys’ school stories were as popular and prolific as those for girls?  I haven’t come across all that many, but that may be simply because, for the most part, male writers wrote boys’ school stories and women wrote girl’s school stories.  At any rate, a bit of dabbling into a boys’ school story or two could, I suspect, be fun and interesting as a comparison.

Oh, to be a madcap someday...

And finally, all of my exploration into school stories has led me to one rather burning question.  What exactly, I wonder, constitutes a “madcap”?  In this update alone, we have MARJORIE BEVAN’s Madcaps of Manor School (1949), KATHARINE LOUISE OLDMEADOW’s Madcap Judy (1919), and SIBYL BERTHA OWSLEY’s A Madcap Brownie (1929).  And I’m pretty sure I could compile a substantial list from my previous updates.  It does give one pause.  Was there a particularly virulent strain of madcap mania among young girls in the early to mid-twentieth century?  And how, should I wish to do so, might I myself become a madcap?  Well, perhaps it’s just as well I don’t know…


The full list of new authors is below, and they have all already been added to the main list.  I hope you enjoy them!


MARJORIE BEVAN (1900-1966)
(married name Bennetton)

Author of children's fiction, particularly several girls' school novels of the 1920s to 1940s, including Five of the Fourth (1926), The Fifth at Foley's (1936), Mystery Term at Moorleigh (1937), The Luck of the Veritys (1938), Merely Belinda (1939), and Madcaps of Manor School (1949).


EDITH MARY DE FOUBERT (1873-1967)

A lesser-known author of girl's school novels, de Foubert published around ten of them in the 1920s and 1930s, including That Term at the Towers (1927), The Fourth Form Mystery (1930), For the Sake of Shirley (1935), The Vac at St. Verda's (1938), and Sally's Sporting Chance (1938).

Illustration from Edith de Foubert's
Penny in Search of a School

OLIVE DOUGAN (1904-1963)

Author of several girls' school novels, including some intriguing wartime titles; works include The Bendon Bequest (1934), The Schoolgirl Refugee (1940), Schoolgirls in Peril (1944), Princess Gwyn (1946), Nancy Finds Herself (1947), and The Forbidden Holiday (1948).


MARGARET HUNTER IRONSIDE (1884-1970)

Author of six girls' school novels in the 1920s and 1930s, including The Girls of St. Augustine's (1920), The Mysterious Something (1925), The Black Sheep of St. Michael's (1928), Young Diana (1931), The Tale-Tellers' Club (1932), and Jane Emerges (1937).

A great Kathleen Millar Macleod cover; Julia
is so confident and perky she's walking
right off of the cover!

KATHLEEN MILLAR MACLEOD (1892-1964)

Children’s author who seems to have written both boys’ and girls’ school stories, as well as other family-oriented novels; titles include Grafton Days (1932), Father of Five: A Tale of Scottish Home Life (1935), Brothers at the Brae House (1936), and Dilys at Silverburn (1946).

A somewhat disturbing Violet Methley cover?

VIOLET M[ARY]. METHLEY (dates unknown)

Playwright, children's author and novelist; her children's books include girls' school stories like The Bunyip Patrol (1926) and The Girls at Sandilands (1934); novels for adults include The Loadstone (1914), The Husband-Woman (1926), and The Last Enemy (1936).

And one that, should it ever be reprinted,
will, I suspect, be retitled...

AGNES M[ACKENZIE]. MIALL (1892-1977)

A prolific author on sewing and homemaking, as well as The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Everything (1916), reprinted in 2008, Miall also published novels for children and perhaps adults, including Sweet Wine of Youth (1939), The Schoolgirl Fugitives (1943), and The Holiday Camp Mystery (1950).

Honestly, perhaps a new title here too?

J[ANE]. P[ATERSON]. MILNE (????-1976)

Author of nine boys' and girls' school novels from the 1920s-1950s, including Mystery at Towerlands (1929), The Mysterious Term at Merlands (1937), The Boys of Moorfield School (1939), Harriet G. at St. Hilary's (1949), The Chums of Study Ten (1949), and The Mystery of Gaily More (1955).


KATHARINE LOUISE OLDMEADOW (1878-1963)
(aka Pamela Grant)

Author of girls' school stories and other girls' fiction from the 1910s to 1950s; titles include Madcap Judy (1919), Princess Charming (1923), The Pimpernel Patrol (1927), Cheery Chums (1930), Schooldays of Prunella (1932), The Three Mary Anns (1948), and Under the Mountain (1952).


SIBYL BERTHA OWSLEY (1883-1968)

Author of numerous school novels for both boys and girls, including Eardley House (1912), Skimpy and the Saint (1923), The Upper Third Twins (1926), Dulcie Captains the School (1928), A Madcap Brownie (1929), The School Knight-Errant (1934), and The Guides of North Cliff (1944).

Sally looks a bit like a possessed doll, doesn't she?

IERNE LIFFORD PLUNKET (1885-1970)

Historian, playwright, and author of girls' school and other children's fiction, including Sally Cocksure (1925), Joanna of Little Meadow (1926), The Dare Club (1931), The Dadlingford Mystery (1936), The Secret of High Marley Wood (1936), and The Mystery of the Tor (1943).


EVELYN SIMMS (1883-1968)

Poet and author of at least four girls' school novels—Her Freshman Year: An American Story for Girls (1924), Stella Wins the School (1929), The School on Castle Hill (1935), and Mystery at Rossdale School (1937).


ELIZABETH FRANCES MEDLICOTT SMITH (1900-1970)

Author of three children’s books—The Discovery of Mr. Nobody (1957), The Hidden Way (1961), and Roger at Ravenscrag (1968)—the last of which, at least, is set in a boys’ school.

One of Irene Swatridge's alter-egos; ah, the
"swirling mists"; what is it about isolated
houses that makes mist behave thus?

IRENE MAUDE SWATRIDGE (1904-1988)
(née Mossop, aka Irene Mossop, aka Fay Chandos, aka Theresa Charles, aka Leslie Lance, aka Jan Tempest, aka Virginia Storm)

Prolific romance author under several pseudonyms—titles such as Gay Knight I Love (1938) and Hibiscus House (1955)—and about 15 girls’ school novels as Irene Mossop, such as Well Played (1928), Feud in the Fifth (1933), The Taming of Pickles (1933), and Gay Adventure (1937).


MABEL L[OUISE]. TYRRELL (1884-1962)

Playwright, children's author, and novelist; starting with children's works such as Victoria's First Term (1925) and Miss Pike and Her Pupils (1928), Tyrrell later wrote at least 18 novels, including The Mushroom Field (1931), Pull the House Down (1938), and Give Me a Torch (1951).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book sale afterglow

Ah, the warm glow of new book acquisition.  Though in this case, of course, I mean the glow of new-to-me book acquisition, which is even better really, since for me books are even more glow-inducing when one happens across them unexpectedly and at bargain prices than they are when they are pristine and crisp and smell of fresh ink and paper. (That glow is pretty warm too, but more expensive to acquire and necessarily more premeditated.)

At any rate, as most of you know by know from all the anticipatory references to it in the past week, last night was the spring version of our semiannual Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Big Book Sale, and I rushed home afterward and promptly (well, after a good dinner and a lot of ogling of the books) started scanning covers so I could share with you far more about my "new" books than you were ever likely to want to know.  It has taken me a couple of days to put it all together, but here it is.

First, although I've shared this before and it looks pretty much the same every year—even down to the lovely Bay Area weather—a glimpse of the line outside the sale:


And, also much the same as always, the view as we entered the lovely Fort Mason Center space:


Andy and I made our usual bee-line to those first few tables on the right of the picture, loaded down with fiction. These days, I mostly bypass the paperback fiction tables.  Now that my interests have led me deeper and deeper into obscurity, I instead dash to the hardcover tables, where I am far more likely to find the dusty, yellowed tomes by women writers, many long forgotten and never reprinted in paperback to begin with.


Some years at the book sale are better than others.  This year, I nabbed one of my best finds within 15 seconds, a new record.  Although I haven't reviewed it here, I have certainly mentioned my love for Margery Sharp's The Stone of Chastity, a zany novel about a stepping stone across a river upon which, supposedly, no impure or unfaithful woman can step without slipping and falling into the water. At a previous book sale, I found an old Tower Books reprint, a cheap mass-market edition, but still with a cute dustcover.  But that version can hardly hold a candle to a first U.S. edition from 1940, with, not a dustcover, but a gorgeous and amazingly well-preserved image on the cover itself:


Sharp's sales in the U.S. must have been significant to have warranted such a lovely edition, and this copy is as pristine as if I'd picked it up on its day of release.  I even have to share an image of the spine, also illustrated:


I was off to a great start, and by the end of the evening, I had come across several other great finds, which—although perhaps few other buyers would have given them a second glance—are coveted finds for me.  Two of them were naked (i.e. no dustcovers) but are no less desirable for that.


Susan Ertz was a bestseller in her day, but not a lot of people read her these days and I'm looking forward to sampling her work with Madame Claire from 1923 in a quite well-preserved American edition.  Also naked but also well-preserved is my "new" copy of Helen Ashton's The Half-Crown House from 1956.  I've actually read one Helen Ashton—probably one of her least-read works, a WWII hospital drama called Yeoman's Hospital—and enjoyed it, but somehow I've never gotten around to Bricks and Mortar, the one that is actually in print and readily available from Persephone.  Obviously, I just love the hard-to-find ones!


I've never read anything by Honor Tracy, best known for her humorous novels about Anglo-Irish culture clashes and for some works of humorous travel.  No idea what to expect from her, but I couldn't pass up a nice hardcover of her 1963 novel The First Day of Friday.


I always get excited when books have author photos and bios for writers who aren't very widely known, and this one doesn't disappoint:


But Honor Tracy is really only moderately obscure.  What would be really exciting would be a gloriously intact dustcover, author photo, and informative bio for an author I know almost nothing about (and originally had listed twice on my Overwhelming List, because I had no clue her pseudonym and her real name were one and the same person).  Wouldn't that be cool?  Well, it doesn't get too much more obscure than Margaret Mackie Morrison, who published under her real name as well as her pseudonym, March Cost:


Previously, I had a tiny, grainy photo of Morrison, but now:


And previously I knew almost nothing about her, but now I have a rather decent publisher bio for her:


Though now I wonder who else is part of the "well-known literary family in the West of Scotland"?  Hmmm.  But anyway, apart from the research benefit of this acquisition, it actually sounds kind of intriguing:


And the fact that this was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection only highlights the fact that even the fame and success of being a book club selectee doesn't guarantee longevity.  An amazing array of forgotten women on my list were Book-of-the-Month Club selectees in their day.  (One of my most coveted wishes, by the way, is a full list of selections of BOMC and Book Society and other such clubs. Does anyone know if such a thing exists?)  And of course, intriguing descriptions such as this one can be deceptive, so I will be reporting on it here soon...

And finally, this one isn't particularly rare or obscure, but somehow I had missed out on it.  Artist Gwen Raverat's memoir of her late Victorian childhood, Period Piece (1952), looks to be quite entertaining.  She was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin and grew up in the scholarly environs of Cambridge, and I have already been thoroughly charmed by a glimpse through the introduction.



Of course, in addition to exciting unexpected finds, the book sale is always a good place to expand one's collections of old favorites.  This was an extraordinary year for Elizabeth Cadell titles, all of them found by the incomparable Andy when we divided to conquer.









I also fleshed out my mystery collection a bit with two titles by Christianna BrandCat and Mouse (1950) and her classic WWII-era thriller, Green for Danger (1944)...



...and two by my new favorite Patricia MoyesThe Coconut Killings (1966, originally To Kill a Coconut) and The Curious Affair of the Third Dog (1973).  Although dog-racing isn't an atmosphere that seems very enticing to me, I'll trust that Moyes' charming style and loveable main characters will carry me through.



I picked up two Georgette Heyer novelsPowder and Patch (1923, originally The Transformation of Philip Jettan) and The Foundling (1948)—in rather nice Book-of-the-Month Club hardcover editions, and I will now be able to replace my tattered old Virago edition of Gladys Mitchell's The Rising of the Moon with an enticing hardcover edition.  



But more exciting still was my one (intentional) American acquisition.  I don't think I've mentioned Mary Lasswell here before, but she's one of my favorite Americans.  She's what is sometimes condescendingly referred to as a "regional humorist," best known for her series of six novels (1942-1962) following the exploits of three beer-swilling middle-aged women who make their home together in the San Diego junkyard one of them owns.  They're a slightly bawdy, rather tipsy, broadly funny, and completely life-affirming, rollicking good time—even if they're not British!  I came across Lasswell's debut, Suds in Your Eye (1942), at a bookshop a few years ago and promptly borrowed the rest from libraries, but I'm always on the lookout for copies to grace my own shelves.  At last year's Big Book Sale, I came across the fifth, Tooner Schooner (1953), and this year, happily, I've added the fourth, Wait for the Wagon (1951), complete with a well-preserved dustcover.



Lasswell's books are also entertainingly illustrated, as you can see from the endpaper below.  But what made me laugh at this was the notation and price in the upper right-hand corner: "Rare 50¢".  I guess for that bookseller rarity didn't add much value!



And finally, a couple of question marks, and maybe you smart, incredibly well-read folks can help me out.  I found a charming original Jonathan Cape edition of Beverley Nichols' 1932 novel Evensong.  I know I've heard of Nichols in relation to his humorous gardening books, but I know nothing whatsoever about his novels.  I couldn't resist picking it up, but is it something you think I'll enjoy?



And I've always meant to read one of the handful of mysteries written by Irish author Eilís Dillon, but what I came across the other night was one of her children's books, A Herd of Deer (1969).  Glancing through it, it seemed intriguing, though I know nothing about it.  Have any of you read it?



And while I was at it, I picked up another children's book. Although I haven't yet been seduced by all the many horse stories that are out there, I know that a lot of readers are devoted to them, so when I saw one I didn't recognize, I figured that if nothing else I could find it a good home.



It turns out Young is an American writer, which perhaps makes it even more likely I will put the book up for adoption, but are any of you familiar with the book or with Young's work?  Is this something I simply must read?  Or is it something one of you simply must have for your own collection should I decide it's only paying a short visit to my bookcase?

And that's that: more than you could ever possibly have wanted to know about my book shopping!  Although there were some particularly exciting finds, I actually showed admirable restraint—I only acquired 25 books in all this year, which pales by comparison to years when I came home dragging as many as 50...
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