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December 2004



Luton-born author Arthur Hailey has died at the age of 84 at his home in the Bahamas where he had settled in 1969.

The son of a factory worker he left school at 14. After service with the RAF in WW2 he emigrated to Canada in 1947 where he worked as a salesman for a tractor company before becoming editior of Bus and Truck magazine.

He started by writing TV plays in his spare time, one of which 'Flight into Danger, was later adapted into a book with John Castle (1958). His novel 'Hotel' (1965) was a major success and 'Airport' (1968), on the New York Times bestseller list for 65 weeks, was adapted into the Hollywood movie in 1970. The last of his eleven books was 'Detective', published in 1997.


Post early for Christmas!

The final recommended posting dates from UK for delivery by Christmas to most places outside Europe have now passed and the remaining recommended deadlines are:

  • 1st December - Surface mail - Western Europe
  • 6th December - Airmail - South and Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, New Zealand and Australia
  • 10th December - Airmail - Japan, USA, Canada and Eastern Europe
  • 13th December - Airmail - Western Europe
  • 15th December - UK - Standard Parcels
  • 18th December - UK - Second class
  • 21st December - UK - First class
  • 22nd December - UK - Special Delivery

Hay-on-Wye mini Festival

Sponsored by The Guardian there is a mini-Festival at Hay-on-Wye this coming weekend, 3-5th December. With the usual mix of personal appearances, workshops, talks, debate, music and fine food and wine the programme can be viewed at the Hay Festival website.

John Strickland Goodall, 1908-1996,
Artist, Illustrator and Gentleman
Brenda Brown of Brown Studies

I first became enchanted by the pen and ink illustrations of J.S. Goodall in the late 1950’s when I discovered the first two books,’ Village School’ and ‘Village Diary’ by the fictitious village schoolmistress ‘Miss Read’.

His delightful drawings, as well as the author’s whimsical and so very astute comments on human nature, made me laugh out loud. They produced over 30 more books together, spanning the decades right until the early 1990’s. A perfect partnership, which led me to collect, enjoy and re-read them regularly to this day. And I still laugh out loud!


The third book in this series,’ Storm in the Village’ was even more attractive. The front cover sported a charming watercolour painting, as have the others in my collection. Almost all were painted by Mr. Goodall and are a constant source of pleasure.

In 1993 I wrote to him, care of the publisher, Michael Joseph, to thank him for the pleasure he’d given me over 30 years. He replied from his home in Wiltshire, not only acknowledging my letter but enclosing a clutch of samples of his work; only a true fan will understand my joy in receiving these tokens and the warmth of his personality that shone through his very thoughtful and personal letter.


The illustrations for the Miss Read books were only a very small part of his output. He illustrated books by many other people and recently the Radio Times alone found 350 of his drawings in their archives. In the 1930-1950’s he worked for a range of magazines and provided advertisements for companies such as Shell and the Midland Bank. Each, to me is a small masterpiece in its own right, with his style and sense of humour so strongly in evidence.

His early work was mostly in pen-and-ink and oils, with his watercolour work appearing from the early forties onwards. This has become possibly his most admired medium, and the exquisite landscapes of his travels around the world, as well as around his home in Wiltshire are much sought after.

Portraits, family groups and a Royal commission were among the large range of material he produced but his Edwardian and Victorian paintings, with so many intricate details of contemporary life, are extremely popular in galleries throughout the world. No wonder they have been reproduced in the form of postcards, greetings cards and even jigsaws. He commented on the latter in his letter to me, and obviously found it most amusing.

To a great many admirers his own wordless books are his greatest achievement of all. He began to produce these little books in the late 1960’s with The Adventures of Paddy Pork and many other children’s titles. He alternates the full-page pictures with half pages that can be turned over to change the story. No words are needed in these books as they are full of detail and a myriad of tales can be woven around the feast before ones eyes.

He carried on with this technique in his series of slightly larger books about English life through the ages. ‘The Story of a High Street’ is one of my favourites in this series, followed closely by ‘The Story of a Village and ‘The Story of a Country House’. The scenes in the country house kitchen, for example, can be altered to reflect the time of day by just turning the half page to one side or the other.


Another very popular series produced by Mr. Goodall in the 1970’s and 1980’s is small format again. Titles include ‘Victorians Abroad’, ‘An Edwardian Summer’ and ‘ An Edwardian Christmas’ to name just three. These tiny books illustrate the life of the times in memorable and beautiful detail.

In ‘An Edwardian Christmas’, for example, we share the children’s excitement of Christmas Eve; shopping in the bustling, snowy high street; decorating the Christmas tree; gathering holly and mistletoe for the house and then bedtime with the hanging up of the stockings.

Next day the present opening; the Christmas dinner and, of course, in the days ahead the trip to the pantomime and lots of fun and games in the snow and ice. All the Edwardian clothes are beautifully painted and the atmosphere is enchanting. No words are needed, the excitement is almost tangible and the sound of laughter and the tang of the snow is in the air.

From a very early age, it was apparent that John Strickland Goodall was destined to deviate from the family tradition of attending Harrow then embarking on a career in medicine. He was determined to be an artist and was fortunate enough to be able to train under two distinguished painters; Sir Arthur Cope and John Watson Nicol. Next he attended the Royal Academy schools and embarked on his desired career, which lasted until his death in 1996.

My life, and that of his many admirers worldwide, has been made so much richer for having been able to enjoy and share in his gift.


Lost Capote manuscript at Sotheby's, New York

A manuscript of Truman Capote's unpublished first novel has been found in a box of papers and will be auctioned Friday at Sotheby's, New York. The first draft of Summer Crossing - the story of a 17-year-old girl who has been left in New York while her parents spend the summer in Europe - was at the bottom of a box of Capote manuscripts and photos that was consigned by a relative of Capote's former house sitter.

Written in 1943 it is contained in four notebooks, each signed on the cover, with additional loose sheets which appear to be later revisions. Sotheby's estimates the manuscript will sell for $70,000 to $100,000


Ian Fleming interest at Bloomsbury's

There was a greater than the usual sense of excitement at Bloomsbury's auction rooms in early November for its Modern Fiction Firsts sale. A number of quality lots from the collection of Geoffrey Boothroyd, the inspiration for the "Q" character in the Bond novels, ensured a solid gathering of Ian Fleming and James Bond collectors from all over the world.

Geoffrey Boothroyd, who died in 2001, was an amateur fire arms expert, a regular contributor to Shooting Times and author of a number of books on guns. In 1956 he wrote to Ian Fleming suggesting that Bond's .25 Beretta was not an appropriate fire arm for his secret agent hero, labelling it a "lady's gun" and suggesting an alternative. Fleming came to rely on Boothroyd's expertise, eventually employing him as a paid adviser. Fleming even borrowed Boothroyd's customised Smith and Wesson so it could be painted by Richard Chopping to appear on the dust jacket of "From Russia, With Love". In Dr No, Fleming used Boothroyd's persona as the basis for the armourer, describing him as "a short, slim man with sandy hair" who believes Bond's beretta is a lady's gun. Just prior to the character's first appearance, M comments to Bond, "You may not know it, 007, but Major Boothroyd’s the greatest small-arms expert in the world".

Presentation copies of From Russia, With Love and Dr No attracted strong interest - not just because of Boothroyd's particular association with these works but also because in general Fleming signed very few of his books. A presentation of "From Russia, With Love" quickly reached £22,750 (against Bloomsbury's pre-sale estimate of £4,000 - £5,000) and the hammer fell on a presentation copy of "Dr No" at £19,450 (also with a pre-sale estimate of £4,000 to £5,000).

The highlight of the sale was a collection of 20 typed letters from Fleming to Boothroyd, together with a further 10 related letters, concerning the choice of gun that Bond should carry, all written between 1956 and 1963. Prior to the sale, Bloomsbury's catalogue estimate of £15,000 to £20,000 looked optimistic but given the record prices reached for the other items from Boothroyd's collection by the time this lot was reached the estimate began to look conservative. The hammer fell at £44,750.

Other items of note in the same sale included a very rare two volume set of the first English edition of Johanna Spyri's "Heidi's Early Experiences" which reached £5,875 and a collection of Philip Pullman's ‘His Dark Materials’ reached £3,878. A somewhat tatty, ex-library first edition of Terry Pratchett's earliest discworld novel, ''The Colour of Magic'', failed to reach the even the lower end of the pre-sale estimate, with the hammer falling at £940.

Hobbit's birthplace gains official protection

The eight-bedroom house in suburban Oxford - 20 Northmoor Road - where J.R.R. Tolkien lived from 1930 till 1947 and where he wrote The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy has had a preservation order imposed on it. A very ordinary house, with no redeeming architectural features, the reason for the order is to ensure care is taken over decisions affecting the house's future and that any alterations respect the particular character and interest of the building. Its interior has remain unaltered since Tolkien lived and worked there.


Next Month: The feature for January 2005 by Stephen Foster




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