Zane Grey’s ‘The Day of the Beast’ (1922)

Zane Grey is, of course, very well known as an author of Westerns, but in The Day of the Beast (1922) he deserts the romance of Old West for a topical theme and a deliberately unromantic and stereotypically modern setting:

Middleville […] a prosperous and thriving inland town of twenty thousand inhabitants, identical with many towns of about the same size in the middle and eastern United States.

The book is a fierce and stormy (and indeed steamy) melodrama, and an indignant denunciation of American postwar society. Three wounded privates return from the war, too late for a hero’s welcome:

Read More »

Playing with FaceApp

What kind of poet would Wilfred Owen have become had he survived the war? It’s one of the unanswerable questions that it’s fun to occasionally consider. It happened to be in the back of my mind when I was playing with the silly but clever little computer program, FaceApp, which takes any photo portrait and offers to age it by twenty years.

Read More »

Rose Allatini – A Woman Writer

Read a sample of the book by clicking here.

My monograph on Rose Allatini is now properly published and on sale.

It is the first book to examine the full career of the author of the 1918 novel Despised and Rejected. It considers her whole output, over seven decades (and under several pseudonyms) and questions several myths.

Read More »

Firestep to Fokker Fodder

Not many comprehensive schools possess chapels, but Magdalen College School Brackley, where I taught English for over thirty years, inherited one from the grammar school from which it took over in 1973.

During chilly assemblies in the chapel, my attention often wandered to some wooden crosses on the wall. These are ex-students’ crosses from First World War battlefields, sent home when they were replaced by the uniform Portland stone grave markers.

I never did find out the stories behind the crosses, but am delighted to learn that Andrew White (whom I taught over forty years ago) has taken up the challenge. He has investigated the journal of William ‘Jack’ Lidsey, who enlisted in the Ox and Bucks in August 1914, fought on the Salient and the Somme, and joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

Read More »

Rose Allatini in Hampstead

This is a supplement to a post from last year, in which I described my wanderings round West London, looking at houses where Rose Allatini lived.

Recently, I happened to be in Hampstead, so took the opportunity to look at 142 Fellows Road, the house where Rose Allatini was living at the time when her novel Despised and Rejected was on trial under the Defence of the Realm Act as prejudicial to recruiting. (In the British Library there is a letter from Rose Allatini to Sidney Schiff, with this as the address.) It was presumably a multiple-occupancy house where she had a room (or rooms).

Read More »

Writing about Rose

For the past year I’ve been writing about Rose Allatini, and the book is nearly ready for publication. It should be available to buy by the start of June.

I’ve called it Rose Allatini: A Woman Writer. Why? Because Olive, the novelist heroine of …Happy Ever After, her first book, declared: ‘I want to be a woman writer, not a lady novelist.’ Her novel is called Hilary, and it is definitely not conventional romantic fiction. She explains:

I’ll never go into the sevenpenny editions, because Hilary, bless his heart, wasn’t written with an eye to please the British Public. The young person who enters the library and vaguely demands ‘something to read’ won’t like my book, because the heroine neither dies in the snow on Christmas Eve nor marries the eldest son of a peer [….] and to cap it all, my hero ends badly – no, they don’t marry – so you see that in the eyes of the young person I am wholly and completely damned.

Read More »

What Helen Zenna Smith did next

It’s good to read someone enthusiastic for Not So Quiet… by ‘Helen Zenna Smith’ (alias Evadne Price). On the Paris Review website, Lucy Scholes makes a strong case for the book (admiring it with fewer reservations than I did in my 2014 paper on Evadne Price and her rather wonderful life of untruths.)

The cover of the first edition of ‘Not So Quiet…’, presented by its publisher, Albert Marriott (alias Netley Lucas), as a factual account of the War.

Lucy Scholes is worth reading, but I’m going to register a disagreement with what she says about the later books that Price published under the Helen Zenna Smith pen-name:

By popular demand, Price—again as Helen Zenna Smith—went on to pen four consecutive sequels: Women of the Aftermath (1931); Shadow Women (1932); Luxury Ladies (1933); and They Lived with Me (1934). A victim of its own success, Not So Quiet is tarnished by its association with these unworthy, increasingly romp-like successors, none of which were able to match the powerful ingenuity of the original.

Read More »

Arnold Bennett at the MOI

I’ve just added a new piece to my online ‘Pieces of Longer Writing’.

It’s the text of a paper I gave at an Arnold Bennett Society conference in Stoke in 2017, giving an account of Bennett’s work when he was at the Ministry of Information in 1918.

Read More »

Robert Blake (and Sexton)

Sanjay Sircar, a reader of this blog, has sent me an interesting footnote to my long-ago posts about the Sexton Blake detective magazines. His mother , Rani Sircar, wrote a memoir, Dancing Round the Maypole: Growing Out of British India (New Delhi: Rupa, 2003). In this she records that at school in Madras in the 1930s: ‘the burning interest in my life was the continuing story of Robert Blake as retailed to me in Bengali.’

Read More »

Kipling advertises War Bonds

I spent a pleasant day in the British Library at Boston Spa yesterday, looking at copies of the Star evening newspaper for 1918. Among the things that caught my eye was this advertisement for War Bonds, featuring Kipling at his most rhetorically fierce.

I’ve read quite a bit of war propaganda over the years, but rarely anything as fevered as this.

Read More »