Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 6
In Richard Hughes’s ‘A High Wind In Jamaica’, some British children living in the Caribbean survive a hurricane and are sent back to England, but are captured by pirates. It’s an adventure about children, but certainly not aimed at them. Because in a turnabout, it’s the pirates who have to be afraid…it’s a haunting book you can’t easily forget.
James Hadley Chase supposedly wrote the whole of ‘No Orchids For Miss Blandish’ on a transatlantic flight. It was a tale of kidnap and rape that caused outrage in the UK and became a smashing success.
Gladys Mitchell’s investigator Mrs Bradley was a wizened crone who tested the constraints of the murder novel by pushing them to breaking point. Like the more successful Miss Marple she provided insights into the cases the police overlooked. Unlike Miss Marple she could be a total bitch.
Sébastien Japrisot wrote ‘The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun’. Was there ever a better title for a crime novel? All six of his novels were filmed many times over, but he vanished from print in the UK until recently.
Pamela Branch was beautiful and glamorous and died young. She was born on her parents’ tea estate in Ceylon, trained as an actress, married, learned Urdu, trekked the Himalayas, trained racehorses and moved to a 12th century Greek monastery to write brilliant novels. As you do.
And one final story – a personal one that I hope might inspire you to conduct your own search. Once upon a time, there was a book that was considered ideal for every young child’s bedroom. It was called ‘Where The Rainbow Ends’ and in it, one terrifying illustration showed a tiny girl being yanked into a shadowy forest by imps with razor-sharp claws. The author was Clifford Mills, a woman who had written the book as a Christmas entertainment under her husband’s name. For the next 40 years ‘Where The Rainbow Ends’ was as big a hit as ‘Peter Pan’ – it had everything; heroes, goblins, elves, a magic carpet, a battle between good and evil, a dragon and a cuddly pet lion cub. I looked for the edition I’d owned as a child, and after much hunting I found a copy for sale in Kent. A very nice lady said she’d send it to me for the princely sum of £7. When it arrived, it was exactly the version I’d owned. I opened the front cover and found my name written inside, Christopher Fowler, aged 7.
At this point I gave a little show-and-tell, producing some of the books about which I’d been talking, including the book returned to me from my younger self. The best part is trying to find the exact point where you engage the audience, when they go ‘ah-ha!’ and start to pay more attention. It’s why actors can perform the same script every night without getting bored, because no too events are even remotely similar. And nothing ever goes quite the way it’s planned.
I’m still doing some more public events, mostly early next year. But what I want to do most of all right now is start writing something fresh.