Wednesday, 30 May 2012


I mentioned Mike Ripley last month in the context of my non-fiction book The Fifties Mystique. He is, of course, an expert on crime fiction which is what I mostly read, write and review. Congratulations to Mike for being involved with Ostara  - a newish firm which is republishing (on paper and electronically) books that shouldn’t be forgotten. My book, FUNERAL SITES, is the only one in  their “Top Notch Thriller” list that is by a female writer.  But now Mike is going to edit a new series called Ostara Crime. Nobody would be surprised to find that the first half dozen to appear were going to be by men. Contrariwise  it’s an almost  revolutionary act  to choose  only women authors for  a general list, and that’s the decision Ostara’s Crime Editor has made. Congratulations, Mike, and good luck……………….and while we’re on the subject, what about including one of mine?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

56 UP

Did it seem odd to contemporary viewers that the TV programme 56 UP was almost all about boys? A perfect illustration of what was taken for granted in the 1950s!

Monday, 21 May 2012

In case you’re in the neighbourhood…………….

clip_image002Waterstone’s Bookshop, Truro
As part of our Jubilee celebrations,
will be talking about the differences between current attitudes and those of the 1950s, as described in her newly published book

T H E   F I F T I E S   M Y S T I Q U E
Thursday 31 May at 7 pm
Further details: 01872 225765

Thursday, 17 May 2012


I’m so grateful to kind reviewers who have praised The Fifties Mystique even if they disagreed with its conclusions. Thrilling to be reviewed by my late mother’s heroine Katharine Whitehorn (in the Literary Review) and by the wonderful writer Penelope Lively in The Spectator.  Here’s the link:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Vanity posting

Quoting my own good reviews is probably the equivalent of vanity publishing but I can't resist it in this case, since only crime fiction enthusiasts will ever see Mike Ripley's kind comments. He is an archaeologist as well as a crime novelist, and contributes a monthly column, Getting Away with Murder,  to Shots Magazine.


The vivacious Jessica Mann has written many a good thriller (one of my favourites being Funeral Sites – her feminist updating of The 39 Steps) and is the respected crime fiction critic for the Literary Review, but her new book is not a crime novel, rather a polemic and part-memoir.

The Fifties Mystique, splendidly published by Quartet Books, attempts (I think – but what do I know?) to explain pre-feminism to the post-feminist generation of women who have little or no appreciation of the situation of women in ‘the long 1950s’ which  can be said to have extended from 1945 (end of WWII) to 1961 (introduction of the contraceptive pill).
    Whilst Jessica goes out of her way to insist this is not an autobiography, the personal memoir elements of the book are the most intriguing and she never plays down the educational advantages she had, nor her flouting, deliberately or accidentally, of the social conventions of the day. All in all, this is a thoughtful, fascinating little book which ought to be on the reading lists of any university offering courses not just in ‘Women’s Studies’ but also  in sociology, history and what I would like to call simply ‘humanity’. In fact, it should be on everyone’s reading list.

Personally, I have to say that my interests lie more in the 450s than the 1950s, as wonderfully elucidated in one of my favourite books,Christianity in Roman Britain to AD500 by the distinguished archaeologist Professor Charles Thomas.
   This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows of my long interest in sub-Roman Britain – which, God knows, I’ve told enough people about – and Professor Thomas’ book is highly recommended. The fact that he is the husband of my good friend Jessica Mann is neither here nor there.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Blockbusters or Little Gems

A friend asks, how many words is my new book? 

I reply that it's only 60,000.

By contemporary standards that is terribly short. Most of the crime novels I receive for  review are at least twice as long and many of them three or even four times that length. Yet when I started writing crime fiction 60 to 70,000 words was the standard length, and I still think that's about right for all but the most complicated and elaborate stories. Almost all  of the novels I read would benefit, in my view, from tightening up. I wonder why it became fashionable to write and publish sprawling blockbusters many of which are too heavy to hold comfortably. When it became habitual to write them is obvious: as soon as people started using computers. Compared with writing by hand or using a manual typewriter, word processing is extraordinarily easy and presents an almost irresistible temptation to go on and on. Except to me: I often sit down to lengthen a book I thought I'd finished, find myself crossing out superfluous words and rearranging inelegant sentences, only to discover when I reach the end that it's even shorter than it was before.

So, short, sweet and elegant or sprawling, generous and long-lasting? Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


It's not unusual for our  house to be plunged into darkness, either because there is actually a power cut, quite out of our control,  or because something has gone wrong with our frighteningly antique wiring. It nearly always happens on Sundays or  bank holidays, but it was peculiarly frustrating not to be able to access the Internet last weekend  when one hoped that reviews of The Fifties Mystique might appear.Connected again and able to turn on my computer this morning, I was thrilled to find a very long article in the Daily Mail by Liz Hodgkinson, based largely on the arguments in my book. Do take a look, and maybe add to the dozens of responses already posted.