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August 2002
Black BeautyBlack Beauty The first full-scale biography of Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty, is under way.

Born in Great Yarmouth, Anna Sewell came from a long line of Norfolk Quakers and her single novel is still a favourite with children. A number of eminent artists have chosen to illustrate the title (example shown is by Lucy Kemp-Welch) and total sales of all editions are believed to be between 30 and 40 million.

The biographer won the Biographer's Club award eighteen months ago for her proposal for a full-length life study of Anna Sewell. Adrienne Gavin is the principal lecturer in English at Canterbury Christ Church University College and specialises in Victorian and Children's Literature.

The book will have the title 'A Dark Horse: The Life of Anna Sewell' and is due for publication next year by Sutton. The author is looking for any information about Anna Sewell's diaries which were last seen in the 1930's.

Amazing MauriceTerry Pratchett, fantasy writer wins the Carnegie medal for children's literature.

The winning book, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rats, is a version of the Pied Piper story set in Discworld in which a feline felon, Maurice, marshalls an invasion of rats for gain - and is defeated by a young boy.

Speaking at the British Library, Pratchett shared his thoughts on the mainstreaming of fantasy writing: "As a genre it has become quite respectable in recent years. At least, it can demonstrably make lots and lots and lots of money, which passes for respectable these days. When you buy a plastic Gandalf with kung-fu grip and rocker launcher, you know fantasy has broken through," he added.

Over the years over 27 million Discworld books have been sold to children and adults, making Pratchett the best-selling British author of the last six years.

Pratchett was chosen from a shortlist of seven authors nominated by librarians across the UK.

from Margaret Rogers, Hessay Books

Georgette Heyer - Queen of Mystery and Suspense?

Georgette Heyer 

Go into any bookshop today and ask for 'Georgette Heyer' and you will almost certainly be directed to 'Historical Fiction' and a long row of her much-loved 'Regency Romances'.

Few people today appreciate that Heyer was also one of the foremost lady crime writers of the Golden Age of the English detective story, taking her place alongside Christie, Sayers, Marsh and Allingham. Over a period of 20 years she produced 12 mystery crime stories, which gained both critical and popular success.

A Blunt InstrumentHeyer was encouraged to write crime by her husband, the barrister Ronald Rougier, who helped her to work out the highly ingenious plots, which are usually set in the classic surroundings of a quiet English village or a large country house. The settings and situations may be similar to those favoured by the other lady crime writers - but the plots are enlivened by a typical Heyer touch of comedy and romance.

The first mystery ' Footsteps In The Dark' was written in 1932, and is very much a lighthearted first attempt, set in a haunted house. This was followed in 1933 by the more successful 'Why Shoot A Butler?'and in 1934 by 'The Unfinished Clue' a well-plotted country house story.

Footsteps in the Dark and Why Shoot a Butler?
Footsteps in the Dark Why Shoot a Butler

By 1935 she had matured her new style in 'Death In The Stocks', which introduced her detectives, Hannasyde and Hemingway to her readers. Dorothy Sayers said in a Sunday Times review that "Miss Heyer's characters and dialogue are an abiding delight to me... I have seldom met people to whom I took so violent a fancy from the word 'Go'".

Death in the Stocks 

The stories were also a hit in the USA -The New Yorker reviewed 'Envious Casca' of 1941 as 'sharp, clear and witty in the British manner' while The New York Times said 'Rarely have we seen humour and mystery so perfectly blended as they are in this story'.

Envious Casca

The last crime story, 'Detection Unlimited', appeared in 1953 and proved that Heyer still deserved her publisher's description as 'Queen of Mystery and Crime'. The Daily Mail review acknowledged that she had claims to be considered 'the wittiest of detective story writers.'

Sales of the crime novels were never as great as the Regency novels for which Heyer is better known, but they have always continued to sell steadily and are still in print today. Although they might not appeal to the readers of Heyer's historical fiction, the crime novels deserve attention from the devotees of classic English crime fiction for their social observation, dialogue, and convincing and intricate, but honest, plots.

Penhallow Behold here's poison Death Unlimited

To find out more about Georgette Heyer:- www.Georgette-Heyer.com

Magpie Books, up at the crack of dawn in search of shiny items was disappointed to find only the very unpromising sight of six cars with shivering occupants at the new local car boot sale - on a cold Yorkshire supermarket car park.  No tea was forthcoming.

There were a few small boxes of tatty offerings which might delight the heart of the reader but not feather the magpie's nest.  So off for a drive to see if the locality might provide a cup of something warmer.  However, magpies are infinitely curious and can't let a 6.30am start go unwasted - and in any case investigations proved that nowhere is foolish enoungh to be selling tea at that time of the morning.  So the magpie went back round the book boxes to allow the the recently arrived tea lady to make a start on the much needed.  At the bottom of the least promising, covered in best library dust jacket protector and a comfortable layer of stickiness of many years standing sits a first edition of Dick Francis' first book, Dead Cert.  

Magpies aren't very good in the mornings so they don't caw wildly on parting with five pence for the book.  Only on the way home does the rarity of the find sink in. Without its wrapping, it proves to be a very serviceable copy - with the extremely difficult to find dust jacket more or less intact.  Even with a library sticker it's a dead cert that it's worthy of a place in someone's collection.

Next Month:
In September 2002 Peakirk Books will write on the patter of little feet in the book room - the joys of collecting children's literature.

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