My own illustrated Wikipedia
Manchester 27 December 1929.
Professional actress 1949-1966. Occasional Press Officer.
Professional writer 1964 onwards.
Founder member Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and
Copyright Licensing Agency. Lay member Industrial (now Employment)
Tribunal panel 1977 –1990 London and Manchester. 1955 married actor
Connor (1926-2008). Two sons, Nicholas
born 1961, Julian 1966.
Virago have reissued my anthology
Women, with a smart new
cover, under the title Suffragettes, to coincide with the release of the film of
that name starring Meryl Streep as Mrs Pankhurst. I rarely re-read my books but decided to have
a go with Suffragettes.
delighted to say I was impressed
by the amount and breadth of my research!
If you’re at all interested in the subject, Suffragettes is available as a paperback or can be
downloaded as an e-book on Amazon . It’s worth a punt.
My suffragette novel Kessie
which won a Best Historical novel award is obviously a different kettle of fish . When I last
re-read it, I was surprised by its sweep
and how well I wove the factually
accurate background into the turbulent love story of feisty suffragette Kessie and charismatic Labour MP Tom. It’s
available as an e-book on Amazon and other sources.
My own favourite novel, The Memoirs of Ellie
Warburton, is basically another love story featuring upper-class Ellie and born-in-a-workhouse
Luke, but this time the background is the First World War. Having edited the Women
and the Great War for
Virago, as with Kessie I’ve woven the factually accurate
accounts of what Ellie and other women did into that horrific conflict into the
wider story. Available in paperback and
as an e-book.
It Doesn’t always Rain in Manchester,
my take on growing up in suburban
Manchester in the 1930s and during the Second World War, can also be downloaded, from Amazon cheaply!
That's enough in the the self-publicity stakes. On now with the original text.
2.0 Acting career
2.1 Repertory theatre
2.1.1 Chorlton and Harry H.
2.1.2 Phillip Barrett
and West Hartlepool
2.1.3 Dan Mulville: my first
2.1.4 Other reps
2.2 Touring Days - Belfast
& Father McPhillips
2.3 West End
and Warren Mitchell
2.6 The End of My Acting
3.0 Press office -
Savoy Hotel London
4.0 Writing Career
4.1 Books Published
4.2 Literary Agents
4.3 A Suicidal Year
4.4 Carol Smith &
Lending Right (PLR) Brigid Brophy & Maureen Duffy, Elizabeth
Jane Howard & Kingsley Amis
Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS)
Licensing Agency (CLA)
The Writers’ Guild
5.0 Lay Member of
6.0 The Gordon
Williams/Terry Venables Saga
6.1 The Losey/Williams
“Kessie” & a new agent
contract, Enter Terry Venables, Kessie
6.3 Legal advice Dog's
accepted Return of Terry Venables
6.5 Contract still a
6.6 Enter Michael
Rubenstein Escrow problems. Agent fired
6.7 Things look up
Hodder & Stoughton on my side
Impasse. Writers' Guild
6.9 Enter Robert
Leeson Contract revised
6.10 A vicious phone
call. Yet another agent. Despair
6.11 Legal fees &
6.12 Two decisions
6.13 Agreement legally
6.14 The end of the saga
6.15 Goodbye Writers’ Guild,
Robert Leeson & Gordon Williams
7.0 What Happened Next -
Books and Tribunals
8.0 Family Matters
9.0 Joyce at 85
William Lees was a first
class decorator but lousy business man. My mother née Mary Thorpe
Smethurst always had some scheme on the go but none of them made much,
They were married in February 1929.
In the December I was born. When asked if she’d chosen a name for
her bonny baby girl my mother
replied, Yes, ‘Hazel’. Whereupon the family doctor exclaimed,
‘You can’t call her that, it was our old cow’s name!’
So Joyce I became.
Decades later my mother confided
she hadn’t wanted a baby straight away but my father told her he
knew what to do. Obviously he didn’t, so she took matters into
own hands. The Unitarian minister’s wife fitted her with a Dutch
cap in front of the kitchen fire. Unitarians were ever a quirky lot.
to plan Anne was born in
1934, Janet in 1936.
months after Janet’s birth,
Anne died of enteritis. I did not attend the funeral but my
devastated mother asked if I wanted to say goodbye. Curtains were then drawn as
a mark of respect for the dead.
Ours were threadbare and the August sun was shining on Anne’s face.
death had two notable effects
on six year old me. Its swiftness - in the afternoon we played in
the garden, in the morning she was dead – showed how unpredictable
and capricious life could be, while the angelic serenity of her face
made me personally unafraid of death.
October 1940 a bomb hit our house but landed in the back garden.
mother, sister, cat and myself emerged unscathed from the cellar.
In 1942, a severe attack of mumps, left
me with virtually no hearing in my right ear and later I had
other health problems. Apart from
those traumas, my childhood was unfashionably happy.
state educated at Whalley Range Preparatory and High Schools in
south Manchester. Early in
1947, impulsively, I left WRHS early. Probably not a
wise action, as I was a clever girl being coached for Oxford but who
knows? Instead I went on an exchange to Paris.
In autumn 1947 I
enrolled at the Bradford Civic
Theatre School. As neither my
mother nor I liked Joyce Lees – Joy Sleaze? – before I left
Bradford we selected Marlow as my surname. I’ve used it ever
since, professionally and personally.
the decade after
the Second World War, major UK cities and many towns had a repertory
company, with summer seasons in coastal resorts. Actors were contracted
for specified periods with others brought in for
“special weeks”, and we all had boxes full of make-up sticks,
notably “5” and “9”. Companies such as Birmingham,
the Bristol and London Old
Vics were at the top of the heap. Twice-nightly reps, mostly
the northern industrial towns, were at the bottom.
Chorlton & Harry H. Corbett
My first job
in spring 1949
was at Chorlton
Rep in south Manchester.
Among the company was a lad named Harry
Corbett. When I checked his website I was
surprised to discover his father had been an army
officer and it was after his
mother’s tragic death that, aged 3, he was sent to
live with an aunt in Manchester. True the aunt lived in Wythenshawe
which was a 1930’s council estate, albeit then a model one, but
Harry harped on about his impoverished working class background so
much that my mother insisted on feeding him. I’m not sure how much
he enjoyed her tea parties. There was already the puppeteer of
“Sooty” fame named Harry Corbett so our Harry later added a
middle “H.” to his name.
Our last encounter was at the
Television Centre when Harry
H. Corbett was at the
height of his fame in the BBC series “Steptoe
& Son”. He had by
then become rather grand – he’d been dubbed “the British Marlon
Brando” and fancied himself as an auto-didact intellectual – but
he chatted graciously to his ex-colleague.
Barrett & West Hartlepool
In 1950 I did a
twice-nightly season with the
Company in West Hartlepool. It was bloody hard work –
twelve shows a week,
rehearsing next week’s offering during the day – but I enjoyed
an interesting but deeply flawed
character. He hailed from a poor family in a Yorkshire mill town –
Halifax? Huddersfield? – and once told me that as a teenager he
spent hours on the moors, reciting Shakespeare to the sheep. He’d
worked for some of the best actor-managers of his day, Johnston
Forbes-Robertson, Sir Frank Benson, and could
still be very good but
all too often some devil made him ham and adlib outrageously.
Once bi-sexual – Eileen
Herlie had been his leading
lady and wife and he was very proud when she had a great, in my
opinion unwarranted, success in a play called “The
Eagle Has Two Heads” and went on to play Gertrude
in Laurence Olivier’s film of “Hamlet” before
disappearing. By the time I knew Phillip
he was 100% “queer”, the term by which
gays were known. We gathered he liked rough trade, as he once came
back from a Sunday in Newcastle-on-Tyne with a bruised face that
needed thick applications of “5” and “9” to disguise.
His post-war seasons
were highly successful but in 1955 ITV arrived, to
sound the death-knell of the old-style weekly reps (and music
Who wanted to turn out on a filthy cold wet night when they could stay
at home to watch exciting American series and top-of-the bill acts from
the London Palladium?
Philip struggled on with
increasingly tatty tours, until he was
declared bankrupt. My mother saw him as an extra in a BBC/TV show,
which greatly upset her. The next thing I heard, he’d committed
For several years he brought touches of theatrical magic into thousands
of drab lives. Saluti.
teenager I’d become aware of
the gulf between Manchester’s inner city streets and leafy Whalley
Range and had been a devotee of George Orwell’s weekly column in
Evening News, but it was my West
Hartlepool landlady Mrs Trotter
who made me a life-long, if at times
infuriated, Labour supporter, by informing me that her house, 43 Tower
Street, was among the 70% back-to-back properties in the town that
had one cold tap in the scullery and an often shared bog in the back
Mrs Trotter enlightened me about
other aspects of early 1950s British society. One set of comments
went something like this: “The police may be your friends, pet, but
they aren’t ours. You see, pet, if you’re an ambitious bobby you
need to make arrests. Who would you choose? Me and Alan
(her son) or
you and your lovely Mum? She’d go straight to a good lawyer,
wouldn’t she? They wouldn’t dare plant evidence on her, would
2.1.3 Dan Mulville
my first lover
season at the Leicester Opera House, Dan Mulville
turned up as the scenic artist, something he’d never before
undertaken but he made a good job of it. I was 21, he 35.
me gracefully, assiduously, and I could not have lost my virginity to
a better tutor, for Dan believed love-making to be an art that far
too few human beings bothered to learn.
soon discovered he
came from an Ulster Protestant family, had been educated at an
English public school (can’t recall which) and his
passion was sailing. Just
before the Second World War started he joined the Palestine Police
Force, an odd choice for such an iconoclast, but perhaps no more
curious than George Orwell’s
stint in the colonial Burma police.
to wartime England to
enlist in the Royal Air Force, another peculiar choice for a
passionate sailor. He served in Bomber Command, as a navigator I
think, but refused to participate in “Bomber” Harris’s blasting
of German cities. Court-martialled, his plea of conscientious
objection accepted, he was banished to a glasshouse in the
After a few
weeks there, having
devoured all available books, bored stiff, he somehow made his way
to the mainland, on to Edinburgh and down to London where he worked
as a taxi driver until the end of the war when there was, I think,
an amnesty for conscientious objectors. Dan knew the site of
ladies lavatory in central London, as
apparently women were in the habit of jumping into his taxi and
saying “Take me to the nearest public convenience!”.
twice married, once to
Rex Harrison’s sister, and twice
divorced. Part of the problem was
his sterility, the result of being kicked in the
balls whilst playing
rugby at his public school. But he was a born wanderer, with no
base, possessions, or permanent job. As Dan himself said, he was
husband material. A pity, as he was the most interesting man in my
life. After a couple of years, that included weekends on the
was looking after on the Hamble River, we drifted apart.
1960 I read good
reviews of a book entitled “Trade
Winds and Turtles”, author
As expected from my intelligent, literate ex-lover it was a well
written, enjoyable account of a voyage that started in the Canary
Islands where Dan acquired “an old French fishing boat, 40 feet
long, rigged as a gaff cutter.” Having taken out the engine, with
only essential equipment and no radio, he and a young Swede set sail
for the West Indies which, as the trade winds had shifted since their
century mapping, they reached after near death experiences. The
“Turtles” of the title referred to adventures once in the West
Indies. I considered re-contacting Dan via the publisher,
I occasionally regret that I didn’t, and have no idea what became of
2.1.4 Other Reps
and early 1960s Bristol
Rapier Players, Wolverhampton,
were among the
reps graced with my presence for longer or shorter periods. The
particularly remember are:
matinee we performed While
Parents Sleep to an
all-male audience from the local prison. Apart from containing the
second act curtain line ”Well, it’s better than a slap in the
belly with a wet fish”, it has a juvenile lead, in this instance
me, who prances around in scanty cami-knickers. There was nearly
riot when I came on stage in mine.
Folkestone Tea matinees
there entailed performing while old ladies balanced trays, clattered
cups, nibbled biscuits and called for more sugar and/or milk. Much
cherished by the theatre’s lessee, Arthur
Brough who had a twilight
success in the BBC/TV sitcom
You being Served,
if not by his actors.
Days - Belfast and Father McPhillips
did several tours,
the most interesting of which was Agatha Christie’s The
Hollow because it took us
I’m short-sighted and on
the first night I glimpsed what looked like a large black bat up in
the flies. In the interval I asked a stagehand what it was and he
introduced me to Father
McPhillips who’d come
down from his perch to have a cup of tea. The year was 1954 but
priests were still forbidden to attend theatres. The Protestant
stagehands took pity on the poor benighted Catholic and on opening
nights hid him in the flies
We were only
in Belfast for the
week but Father Mac
and I established an immediate rapport. In his
Morris Minor he drove me to Newcastle
where the Mountains of Mourne
sweep down to the sea, and a couple of nights collected me for supper
at his rectory. We talked and talked, theatre, books, and Irish
history about which he said I was the first English person he’d
met who had any, never mind a pretty extensive knowledge. For
several years he sent parcels of books and when in London took me to
the theatre - in the very best seats.
West End - Connie and Warren Mitchell
1954 it was The Pet Shop written by Warren
Chetham Strode who’d had
a success with “The Guinea Pig”; in 1962
With a Body. Both
into the St Martin’s Theatre, both were
failures, the latter
one best forgotten.
Constance Wake who
played the juvenile lead in “The Pet
was being groomed for
stardom but it was her husband Warren
Mitchell who became famous, as Alf Garnett in the BBC/TV sitcom
Death Us Do Part. Warren
acquired a reputation for being “difficult” but he was always
fine with me.
The last time I saw him was in Leeds
in the early 1990s when he was playing “Lear”. Espying me In the
post-show crush he shouted something along the lines of:: “It’s
Joyce Marlow as ever was. What do you want to drink?.”
Which caused glances of who-the-hell-is-she variety. It’s nice to
Warren and Connie’s marriage has lasted 50+ years.
There is a
list of my television work on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
web site but some of it is not correct. I do not have all
the names and dates, but I produce my own best recollections
here. In the 1950s and 60s the majority
of producers and directors were men but several of the plays I was
in were directed by women; Caryl Doncaster, Naomi
Barbara Burnham (twice) and Tania Lieven. Another admired female
director with whom I did not work was Joan Kemp-Welsh.
Both were early examples of the “drama documentary”. In
“Chorus Girl” I had to tap-dance
which was not my forte - I’d
studied ballet. Shouted at by the ultra camp choreographer Freddie
Carpenter, for hours I practised my solo routine with top
cane. After transmission, live of course, Freddy said my
expression as I caught the cane and lifted my top hat made his
children’s play about 18th
This House (BBC).
of the first plays to be tele-recorded, it earned me some publicity.
Guess what? - Joyce Marlow was actually appearing on stage as the play
was being transmitted!
Wheeler Show He was a
well-known, not very pleasant variety artist.
An interesting play by J.B. Priestley which alas was
transmitted on ATV’s
Midlands network as I had a
of Us (ITV)
I had a good part in this too, alongside two actors who went on to
a Disney favourite but after her contract ended, so unfortunately did
her career. Her rumbustious marriage to and divorce from actor Ian
Hendry didn’t help matters and she hit the bottle. In
1972 she died
suddenly, aged only thirty-eight. My memories of Janet are of a
highly professional – she’d grown up in the business, her
father, Alex Munro being a Scottish
comedian - self-contained lass who
had the ability to catnap at will.
was never close to Bob but one evening at a party he suddenly told me
about the alcoholism/manic depression that led his doctor father to
commit suicide, and the effect on his twelve year old son. Despite
his success as actor and writer, neither Bob’s own alcoholism, nor
his messy private life and dropping down dead aged fifty-one, surprised
Red Rose for Ransom (BBC).
good play about the Lancashire mill workers’ support for the North
during the American Civil War. It was among the last plays to be
recorded in the grotty, since demolished, Dickinson Road Studios in
Arrow (BBC) (three
episodes) “Goody Hatch” in this adaptation of the Robert Louis
Advertising Magazine (2 episodes)
A play by James Lansdale
Ward 10 (ITV)
(2 episodes) Long
My good French came in
1959 .......Dixon of
Dock Green (BBC) (1 episode)
detergent advert. I did several adverts but I mention this
because the revelation that I was
an actress, not an actual Lancashire housewife, caused a
minor hoo-ha with articles about duping of the public!
Small House at Allington
(1 episode) Adaptation of the Trollope novel.
Maugham series (ITV)
Street (BBC) (three
episodes) Adaptation of Louis Golding’s best selling
Jewish lass and Gentile lad were played by Susan
Marriott and Edward
Woodward. One day I was
having lunch with Sue Marriott and another cast member Patricia
Haines, when Pat told us about having to take her bloody
ex-husband to court to extract
maintenance for herself and young daughter. “I didn’t realise
they’d actually arrest him and lock him up for the night,.” she
said. “Still it served him right.” The bloody ex-husband
was Michael Caine who
ruefully related the episode in his autobiography What’s
it all About?
In her mid-forties
Pat Haines alas died of cancer
and Sue Marriott’s fate was
sad. A lovely, bubbly girl, she was the sister of film
Schlesinger, and her subsequent suicide distressed me.
……Z Cars (BBC)
Recently my son Nick acquired a dvd of black-and-white episodes of
this ground-breaking series – bootleg I suspect - as his actor
father Patrick Connor was
in one of them. To general astonishment Nick’s mother had a part in
another episode. It’s the only recording of myself thus far
traced. I was pleased with my performance.
Although I had a decent part, this was one of the more depressing
experiences of my theatrical life. Following his enormous success
with “Hancock’s Half Hour” on the BBC, the ITV series was a
disaster. In the mornings Tony
Hancock never spoke a word
to his fellow actors and his lines were scattered around the sets on
“idiot boards”. After lunch he was mostly too drunk to work
we were sent home.
Little Big Business (Granada)
sitcom, two series, six episodes each.
IMDb link is a load of
misinformation. My name was not
spelled Marlowe with the final “e”; the series’ writer was
the characters played by David
myself were in all the episodes. Constance
Wake reappeared in my life
to play Francis Matthews’ wife in the first series, to be replaced
in the second by ex-crooner Diana
Coupland who went on to be
Sid James’s wife in the popular ITV
This House. Diana and I had
a neutral relationship, neither liking nor disliking each other.
producer of A
Little Big Business was
Peter Eton who
had master-minded The Goons
on radio. He continued to
receive frantic phone calls from Spike
Milligan, either to babble
in the middle of the night or to be rescued from police stations
after another manic depressive outbreak. Peter Eton liked me but I
had to have an interview with director Cliff
a fine summer’s day in 1963 I
reported to Granada’s head
office in Golden Square, London. Cliff,
an ebullient Welshman, had given instructions that he was not to be
interrupted. When the telephone rang for the second time, he
the machine from its socket and threw it out of the open
looked out and said, “You’re OK. It hasn’t hit anybody.”
Which made Cliff laugh and maybe clinched the part of secretary Miss
was a big name on film, television and radio. His acting persona
the charming, talented Jew but it was Martin
Miller, a refugee from
Hitler’s Europe and one of the nicest men I’ve met, who fitted
that role. David was certainly talented but he had a
personality and acquired a prickly reputation. We hit it
off, perhaps because he decided I had Jewish blood. When Warren
Mitchell turned up in an
episode of the second series I was glad his wife Connie was no
longer with us, as he and Kossoff did not hit it off!
I knew him, David’s pride
and joy was his son Paul who was studying classical guitar. For
whatever reasons Paul switched to rock and in 1976 died from a
drugs overdose. His shattered father set up the Paul
Kossoff Foundation and
devoted the rest of his long life – he died in 2005 - to
campaigning against drugs.
in Night Town
was my husband Patrick Connor,
not I, who appeared in this
adaptation of James Joyce’s book,
directed by Burgess Meredith at
the Arts Theatre, London in
1959. Through Patrick’s involvement I
got to know two of the American actors in the cast.
- When Patrick
told me Carroll knew nobody in London, I invited him and his wife
for dinner .at our basement flat in Earls Court. Carroll did the
talking – his wife was a very quiet woman.- and when Ireland came
into the conversation he launched into a vitriolic anti-English
diatribe. Afterwards he seemed utterly unaware that he might
caused offence. Carroll later had a huge hit playing Archie Bunker in All in the Family,
the American version of Till
Death Us Do Part. Like
David Kossoff’s, his (adopted)
son became a drug addict. When he
too committed suicide, Carroll followed in David’s footsteps by
campaigning against drugs.
Zero Mostel known
as Zee. At
the party we gave for the “Ulysses” cast he insisted on helping
with the washing-up in our primitive kitchen. We had a
conversation and I regret not having had more with him, particularly
about the McCarthy
era when Zee was
black-listed. On his return to
America, to my delight his fortunes revived. He had Broadway
successes in A
Happened on the Way to the Forum
on the Roof
and was gloriously funny in Mel Brooks’s film The
Studios produced television
series and B pictures. Their casting director Ronnie
Curtis had a wall-eye so
you were never sure whether he was talking to you or somebody
else. Ronnie’s office was in central London and if you called in
and he liked you, you’d get the odd day or two at Merton Park. The
occasion I remember is a film starring Kay
Harrison and died far too
young. Harrison had an appalling reputation but she was a
young woman .
remember the title of a
film in which I played a French girl – French approved by the
director’s wife - but I know it starred the Swedish actress Mai
Zetterling who spoke
French as fluently as English and couldn’t have been nicer.
same could not be
said of Laurence
The film was
and I had a very short scene as a hotel maid which involved the two
men. Harvey was doing a season at Stratford-on-Avon which
limousine collected him at lunchtime and I got three days on the
film. During this time neither actor addressed a single
word to me. Apart from his drug induced stupor, Lorre had
spittoons around the
set into which he regularly spat great globules of phlegm.
condition made his lack of civility understandable. For Harvey, I
suppose I simply didn’t exist. The crew took me under their wing
and I had an enjoyable three days.
bits and pieces
in my undistinguished film career aren’t worth mentioning.
End of my Acting Life
this happened in 1966 after a disastrous production of Chekov’s
“The Seagull” at the Palace
Theatre, Watford. Jimmy
Perry was its lessee and
years later we re-met at a Writers’
Guild do. I reminded him of a
backstage conversation, during which he’d talked about his
wartime days in the Home Guard and wondered if there
was any mileage
in a television play about them. I’d thought it sounded an excellent
The rest, as they say, is British television history with Dad’s
Army, as written by Jimmy
Perry and David Croft, one of the BBC’s
most enduring comedy
Glenda Jackson was
another actress who like me did “special weeks” at Watford.
Glenda also acquired a reputation for being “difficult” but we
always got on well, perhaps partly because we were both Labour
supporters. A few years later when she was recording Elizabeth
R, my husband bumped into
her. The upshot was an invitation to lunch at the Television Centre.
My sister Janet’s comment was “Why should Glenda Jackson want to
have lunch with you?” To which the answer is “Why shouldn’t
she?”. We stayed friends and
became a Labour MP she
re-appeared in my writing life.
During my seventeen years as a
professional actress, various directors and
theatrical agents said I
had talent and they’d boost my career. None of them did but maybe
if I’d stayed the course I’d have found a niche, becoming one of
those faces you recognise but can’t put a name to.
office - Savoy Hotel London
The Savoy Hotel:
Room 205 which is
where the Press Office was situated in the 1950s.
manage without taking
other jobs. Having learned to copy-type I did my share of office
“temping” and from the mid-to-late-1950s, via a friend,I worked
intermittently in Room 205.
Jeanne Gilbert first
name pronounced “Jeany” was the actual
Press Officer. How she held
on to the job intrigued me, seeing she drifted in and out of the
office, leaving her staff of three (plus me) to get on with
Maybe the perky hats helped, but I think Jeany survived because she
was a young, pretty American from one of the southern states whom it
was difficult to dislike. Occasionally she came up with a bright
David Merrick was
the legendary Broadway producer renowned for his publicity stunts
and his talent for making enemies. The latter would have been
to see him sitting in .the Press Office, patiently waiting for Jeanne
Gilbert to turn up. He was besotted with her and I suspect she
enjoyed keeping him dangling. Eventually they married but there
no happy ending. After the divorce from Merrick, she and their
daughter returned to London, before Jeanne went home to die of
cancer. Aged eighty-eight, stroke-ridden but apparently as
obstreperous as ever, Merrick died in a London “Rest Home”.
come I don’t know.
John Ford, the veteran director
was in London to make a film with John Wayne.
One afternoon, I was alone in the office when in he walked. My
part-time press officer made my being an actress difficult - I used
my married name - but John Ford and I had such an
conversation I felt impelled to dash off a note in my best
handwriting and deliver it to his suite. An hour or so later the
phone rang. John Ford for me. He said
my note had tickled him pink
and he’d make sure I had an interview for the film. Which he
The top casting director, Robert Lennard, was
intrigued to know how
I’d met Mr Ford but the part, I gathered, would be mine. When
nothing happened, par for the acting course, I accepted another job
and yes, Bob Lennard eventually phoned
with an offer I had to turn
down. I doubt playing a small part in one of John Ford’s less
successful films would have affected my career but it would have
been nice to have had the opportunity.
I never met John
Wayne, but I have a vivid
memory of him striding across the Savoy’s foyer – he was a
genuinely huge man – espying Margot
Fonteyn who looked like a tiny porcelain doll, lifting her up
and whirling her around.
film buffs Roberto
was renowned for gritty, realistic films such as “Open City” but
to the general public he was the man who’d had a scandalous affair
with Hollywood goddess Ingrid
Bergman and fathered her
child before they married.
there was something special going on in the Savoy there was just one
press officer on duty. That evening it happened to be me. Rossellini
stayed the best part of an hour. Feeling lonely, I presumed, I
recall what we talked about but the short, tubby, balding Italian
oozed charm and I saw why Ingrid Bergman
had fallen for him.
has become the icon of the anti-smoking lobby, the lovely man who
never touched a cigarette but died from lung cancer induced by
passive smoking. In those days the Savoy had a classy cabaret which
on this occasion included the up-and-coming Roy Castle.
press officer always went along to see if there was anything the
artiste needed or we could do to help. When I trotted up and said
piece, Roy Castle snarled and
more or less told me to 'f'-off'. Maybe he was feeling nervous,
or maybe he just didn’t like me, but
I saw no reason for his being quite so rude. I still don’t.
the first time I
heard the now common f-word used in public, was in Room 205, the
speaker, a high-powered Hollywood press agent. Having torn us
several strips about something we’d failed to do to his
satisfaction, he turned towards me and snapped, “If you stopped
apologising like all you 'f'-ing' Limeys, you could be a good 'f'-ing'
Haley and the Comets were
the breakthrough rock-and-roll band, mobbed by hysterically screaming
teenagers. One day Haley’s manager came into the office. to ask if
we could find him somebody who knew the British ropes. Answer
me! I swiftly saw why he needed help, as their American publicist
was hopeless. For the duration of the Comets’ stay in London I
assigned to them.
website I’ve learned
that Bill Haley was yet
another alcoholic but I saw no signs of his
addiction. He was always polite and once played the piano in his
suite for me, classical music, very well. My favourite memory is of his
responding to a late morning knock on the door, wearing a silk
dressing gown – very Noel Coward – with a hairnet keeping his famous
kiss curl in place.
manager’s name escapes me but
he just loved
my accent and begged me to be the Comets’
press officer on their
forthcoming tour of Hawaii and Australia, all expenses paid, plus a
good salary. My husband said the decision was mine. In the end I
turned the offer down and sometimes wonder whether I made a big
mistake. I suppose I didn’t want to be an 'effing' press officer.
Swanson had one of the all time great comebacks
Boulevard but by the mid
‘50s interest had waned. Frankly she had no need of a full-time
assistant and I had to work hard to get any interviews. Sharing Ken
Livingstone’s abhorrence of London’s pigeons, she screamed
them through the tightly shut windows.
hand-made luggage filled with pots of lotions each carefully
annotated, and packets of macrobiotic food ditto, the latter
would now endear her to the healthy eating lobby. Miss Swanson also
had a companion, an upper class, slightly seedy Englishman who had
a single room several doors from her suite.
instructed me to phone and tell him to bring the jewels. He always
answered promptly so I assume he sat waiting to be called. On
arrival he unlocked a large jewel box. Miss Swanson
gloated over its
contents with the avariciousness of Volpone. Quite a few of the
glittering pieces were, I gathered, presents from another charmer,
her long-time lover Joseph P Kennedy. After a
week I’d had enough
of Miss Swanson and we parted
press office phoned to ask if I could work for Mrs Burl Ives
who needed a
personal assistant while her husband filmed Our
Man in Havana. For
several weeks I drove from our Earls Court flat to the apartment
the Ives had rented in Mayfair. Helen and I got on famously and
unlike Gloria Swanson she needed
assistance. Their teenage son had to be packed off to a summer
school in Switzerland, the phone was
always ringing with Americans passing through London, there were
letters to write, Burl’s schedules to check, interviews and
invitations to accept or reject, dinner parties to organise Helen
invited me to a couple, which was nice.
Zee Mostel, Burl
had been blacklisted in the dreadful McCarthy era but unlike Zee he
had testified which allowed him to continue working (and earn the
opprobrium of non-testifiers). This was not a subject
day I had lunch with Burl while Helen was out shopping. He
about his days on the road during the 1930s Depression when he
learned the folk songs that made him famous and about playing Big
Daddy in Cat
on a Hot Tin
Roof on Broadway. I had my
own personal performance of several scenes!
the Ives were
next in London, Helen phoned to ask if I would work for her
This time I had to say sorry I was doing a telly. Later I heard they’d
divorced and Burl had remarried which saddened me, as his
and Helen’s had seemed a good marriage.
countless others encountered
in the Savoy days I remember Jack
Lemmon who, unlike Roy
Castle, couldn’t have been more charming when offered press
assistance, and Barbara
Taylor who had always done
her homework before an interview which was by no means true of all
journalists. Soon afterwards she went to America, added her
name to her own and as Barbara
Taylor Bradford became a
best selling novelist.
recall why we had contact with (Sir)
Goldsmith because he didn’t stay
at the Savoy. The young Goldsmith had hit the headlines by
with the daughter of a Bolivian magnate, Isabel Patino who
subsequently died in childbirth. I do recall that he was already
known as “Goldenballs”.
is now the redoubtable
Dowager Duchess of Bedford.
the mid 1950s we were still in the
debutante era and had to deal with their balls (which we all
loathed). One afternoon Mrs Tiarks came into the press
good looks that made her daughter the “Deb of the Year” came from
her but the Dowager Duchess’s personality must have been from Daddy
because I’ve seldom met a more mouse-like woman than Mrs Tiarks.
Her effusive thanks for my being so nice and helpful have stuck in
is not a famous name but one I must include. Junior
Marabel hailed from an affluent
upper middle-class family but like
her mother refused to sit on her bottom doing nothing, and felt it
her duty to help others in difficult situations. The others were to
inveterate traveller Marabel
the insouciance of her Victorian predecessors. Having had her
passport stolen in Brunei she
persuaded the Sultan’s aide-de-camp –
always go to the top! – to issue a document that got her into the
next port of call in Australia. When working in Tehran just before
the Shah was deposed, conscious that she might never have another
opportunity she took the bus to Persepolis. She admitted it
“hairy” journey, with gun-toting men all over the place, but she
achieved her objective and managed to catch the last BOAC flight
out of Tehran. Another “hairy” episode was flying over the
in a single-seater plane that “looked as if it were held together
by elastic bands”.
4.1 Books Published
1964 - The Man
with the Glove
1966 - A Time to Die
1967 - Billy Goes to War
1966 - The House on the Cliffs
- The Peterloo
1971 - The Tolpuddle Martyrs
1972 - Kings and Queens of
Britain ( UK) Famous Kings and Queens of Britain and Scotland
Boycott and the Irish
1973 - The Life and Times of George 1
The Uncrowned Queen of Ireland: The Life of “Kitty”
1977 - Mr and Mrs Gladstone (UK)
1977 - The Oak and The Ivy (USA)
1982 - Flashback as “Julia
1985 - Kessie
1987 - Sarah
1989 - Anne
1991 - Industrial
Tribunals and Appeals
1997 - The ALCS
1998 - Women and
the Great War
2000 - Votes for Women
It Doesn't Always Rain in Manchester. Privately printed for
friends and relations. No also a Kindle ebook.
Literary Agents and Publishers
On my return
Paris in 1947, in longhand, I wrote a novel for older children about
the theft of my favourite Titian painting “The Man With the Glove”
from the Louvre.
By the early 1960s I
had acquired a literary agent, courtesy of David
Walton who’d been Phillip
Barrett’s stage manager and boy friend in West Hartlepool.
Despite his being “um”
- my concerned mother once said, “You do know he’s…um…don’t
you?” - I admit to fancying David who once said “If I ever marry
anybody, it’ll be you” which didn’t thrill me. We
David introduced me
to Ursula Winant,
a stately, middle-aged woman of impeccable Anglo-American stock –
John G. Winant, Roosevelt’s WW2
special envoy, was her cousin.
She sold the re-edited,
neatly typed, The Man with
the Glove to Dennis
The excitement of
meeting my publisher was tempered by having to circumnavigate a huge
pram and mounds of children’s toys in the Dobsons’ Kensington
house-cum-office. Somehow the chaotic husband-and wife-team
to publish some good books, at least until their creditors caught up
with them and they fled to a ruined castle in Scotland.
Having had enough of
working for the Dobsons, editor Ronald Whiting started his own
company Whiting and Wheaton. He published my adult novel A
Time to Die which
was set before and during the First World
War. Ron also commissioned my next book Billy Goes to War which had its genesis
in an article in “TV
Times” about me as Miss Stevens in “A Little Big Business.”
The information that I was also an author with a particular interest
in WW1 prompted George
Martin to write to me. George had kept a
diary and taken photographs on his Box Brownie
camera whilst serving in the most peculiar of Great War units,
Commander Locker Lampson’s
Armoured Car Section of the Royal Naval
Air Service, which travelled thousands of miles across revolutionary
Russia and over the Caucasian mountains into what was then
wrote it as a teenage novel but now wish I’d done it for adults because
it is an extraordinary story.
Four years after
sequel to “The Man with the Glove
“, The House on the
Cliffs, Dennis Dobson
round to publishing it.
Insomuch as I had
a breakthrough book, The Peterloo
Massacre was it. I’m not going into details but
wrote it during a period that led to my taking an overdose and having
my stomach pumped out. Ron
Whiting who’d had his own problems,
stood by me. His problems included Whiting and Wheaton
swallowed up by the monstrous Robert
Ron then formed Rapp
and Whiting backed by the
rich maverick Georg Rapp.
To meet the August deadline of the 150th
anniversary of the 1819 “massacre” on St Peter’s Fields in
Manchester, Ron and I did the copy editing of “Peterloo” over
the telephone with a half-hour break for lunch! The book was
and well reviewed and went into book club and paperback editions.
my everlasting regret my mother died before publication but my father
was duly proud.
can't now recall how it came about, but
Granada tv did a programme
about "Peterloo", produced by Brian
Trueman, directed by Barry
Clayton who'd studied at the prestigious
Polish film school. A
group of actors, plus me, filmed on the
moors outside Manchester, they in costume enacting various scenes, me
as commentator. The film was shot in colour.
Unfortunately Granada and
the unions were having a stand-off
about rates for colour so it wasn't
broadcast for months, then at some unearthly hour like midnight.
wonder if there's a copy somewhere in the archvies? It would be
interesting to see after all these years.
also appeared on the BBC's "Late
Night Review". I had to write my own script about
"Peterloo" which was nerve-racking,
before being interviewed by Joan
Bakewell which was fun.
Martyrs was published not
by Rapp and Whiting but by Andre Deutsch, Ron’s luck
having again run out when Georg Rapp
suffered a heart attack and had
to retire. Andre cherry-picked people from Rapp and Whiting,
including me and Carole
Buick (who went on to marry
high-ranking civil servant Richard
Fries, later the Charity
Commissioner). Carole had edited “Peterloo” and did the same
sympathetic, meticulous job on “Tolpuddle”. We’ve remained
friends ever since.
publicity woman was Carmen Calill who
founded Virago Press and
became a contentious MD
of Chatto &
Windus. The radio and televion coverage she got for
"Tolpuddle" was great.
Perhaps because I was fond of
Ursula Winant, when she took me
to lunch with Andre Deutsch I
loath to believe she was dead drunk. I can’t remember who
confirmed her alcoholism and suggested I see a young man
who’d just joined the
Anthony Sheil Agency
and was in the process of assembling his own stable.
I’ve always been attracted to
extravert, larger-than-life characters and halfway through the
meeting at the Anthony Sheil
offices (then in Covent Garden) I had a
new agent, Giles Gordon. Giles kept a beady eye on who
was doing what to whom and
why in the literary world, and had a puckish enjoyment of
mischief-making. But he cared passionately about his authors and
later accused of setting the benchmark for the megabuck advances that
distorted the market.
For several years Giles was my
literary sheet-anchor. It was he who told me Ursula
Winant twice went into a clinic to dry out and after her second
relapse committed suicide which was ever so sad as she’d been a
very good agent and a really nice person.
the end of 1970s Giles took off
for a year’s sabbatical in India. On his return he and Anthony
Sheil fell out, Giles’s marriage had broken up and after his
wife’s death he remarried, returned to his native Edinburgh and set
up a Scottish office of the literary agency Curtis & Brown.
comparatively early death in 2003 was the result of a bizarre
accident. Emerging from his house, he bent down to tie a
slipped on the icy steps, hit his head and never recovered
consciousness. We hadn’t had contact in several years but I
mourned his passing.
publication of Captain
Boycott and the Irish
which through Giles Gordon had
a US edition, he moved me from Andre
Deutsch to Weidenfeld &
Nicolson. His explanation
was Andre’s notorious parsimony but I suspect it was also because
Weidenfelds were the
publisher of the day and
Giles liked being in the swim.
Weidenfelds did a deal with
Marks & Spencer to produce
well written, lavishly illustrated
coffee table books. Mine, Kings & Queens of Britain, sold thousands of copies but did not make my
fortune as the authors were paid a flat fee, no royalties.
Kings & Queens series
edited by Weidenfeld’s favourite author, Antonia Fraser,
was another flat fee, no
royalties deal, but the series was so popular its authors were
invited to a party to meet readers who’d won a competition. Each
author was handed an envelope containing a cheque, a nice surprise
but it prompted the cynical to conclude Weidenfelds must have made
a fortune from the series.
There followed The Uncrowned Queen of
A Life of “Katie” O’Shea. Giles again got a US edition.
Dismay about its not going into UK paperback was more than offset
by Stella Richman’s taking an
option to produce a tv series about
the love affair between Katharine
O’Shea and Charles Stewart
Parnell that wrecked any hope of a settlement of “the Irish
Question”. Stella Richman
was then the queen of
tv drama but
despite her initial enthusiasm – she treated me to a slap-up lunch
- the option lapsed, as most of ‘em do.
The Oak & the Ivy was
the American title of a dual biography of William Ewart Gladstone and
his wife Catherine. My American publishers did an excellent job,
clear text, attractive jacket; Weidenfelds did not. Their title was
Mr and Mrs Gladstone, they printed (badly) from the American
edition and the pink jacket was truly awful.
I retain one
happy memory of my least
successful book. I’d been granted access to Queen Victoria’s
papers at Windsor Castle and on arrival in my Triumph Herald my
credentials were closely scrutinised. Thereafter the guard
and waved me to my parking space. No ardent
monarchist, I admit to enjoying that! .
4.3 1977 A Suicidal Year
Taking an overdose in 1969
was “a cry for help”, in 1977 it was
not. I don’t think the catalyst
was Weidenfelds making it only too clear
post “Mr & Mrs Gladstone” that they had no further interest
It was more my depressive temperament, plus researching
and writing nine books in ten years, being deeply involved
with writers’ rights for the last four, and coping
with family problems.
I came to the conclusion I had nothing left to give anybody. On a May morning I cleared the breakfast things,
sent younger son Julian to football practice, told my husband I
had a headache, went upstairs,
jammed a chair against the bedroom door and started to swallow my cache
pills. For some reason Julian turned
back. When he couldn’t get into the
bedroom, he alerted his father who forced the door open.
On recovering consciousness in hospital I
the least pleased to be alive. A young doctor
said my life was eminently worth saving and begged me never
to make another suicide attempt. I said I’d do my best.
N.B Unless stoned out of
their minds, nobody accidentally commits
suicide by the pill
method. After about twelve, the throat constricts and
swallowing becomes increasingly
painful. Would-be suicides do not
necessarily leave notes. I didn’t.
4.4 Carol Smith &
Gordon had taken off for his
year in India the Anthony Sheil
agency was always nice but did
nothing to follow through with ideas for another book. I then
the time herself
a literary agent,
subsequently a successful novelist.
Carol was another flamboyant
character who’d had an idea for a series of “creepy-weepys”
i.e romances with a supernatural twist. She’d sold the idea to
Fontana paperback and aimed to sell the television rights.
agreed to write Flashback
under the pseudonym “Julia
Greene”, I left Anthony
Sheil to join her stable. The series actually entitled “Nightshades”
didn’t catch on, nothing came of the tv series, Carol wasn’t the
most reliable of people and we parted company. Which left
without an agent.
4.5 Public Lending Right (PLR)
In 1973 Giles Gordon said
I must join the
Writers’ Action Group
was fighting for PLR i.e.
some payment to authors for the millions of books freely borrowed
from our public libraries. WAG
was brilliantly led, on a shoestring,
by two remarkable women, Brigid
Brophy and Maureen
Duffy who then had a close
personal and working relationship.
Brigid was formidably intelligent,
high principled, innately shy, ever courteous. At meetings
like a Buddha but when she intervened it was with
precision. Maureen had a tougher personality and a more
mind - it was she who grasped the potential of the nascent computer
industry to collect data from the libraries. Maureen
energies on the matter and people in hand, and had no qualms about
I was soon involved in WAG
fund-raising, lobbying and demonstrations. It was at a demo on
George’s Day in London in 1975 that I met Elizabeth
Jane Howard, known as Jane,
and her husband Kingsley
Amis. A tall, striking
looking woman, with a mass of tawny gold hair, Jane was politically
right-wing but a firm believer that the labourer is worthy of his/her
As Victorians collected butterflies, Jane
collected people. For
several years I was happy to be among her specimens. My
Kingsley who according to his wife didn’t like her friends, perhaps
stemmed from a mutual interest in the popular second rank novelists
of our youth such as Rafael Sabitini
and Rider Haggard.
In 1979 a PLR
Bill was the last Act
of the Labour Government to receive the royal assent before Margaret
Thatcher swept to power. The likelihood of the Iron Lady
such a Bill was not high and all writers who have benefited from PLR
payments owe an enormous debt, not only to Brigid
and Maureen but to
in the House of Lords and bibliophile Michael
Foot as the leader of the
celebration of the first PLR payments
in 1984 proved to be Brigid’s last public appearance,
multiple sclerosis that devastated her last years having already
taken hold. We kept in touch until her death in 1996.
Collecting Society (ALCS)
European writers didn’t have
literary agents, they had collecting societies. The German
VG WORT already held money for
British writers that could only be paid
to another such organisation. In 1977, five of us, headed by
and Maureen, met at Jane Howard’s
Hampstead house to form the ALCS
which now collects and distributes millions of pounds to thousands of
From 1983-1996 my sister Janet
Hurrell was the ALCS’s
highly successful secretary general. Her
appointment was nepotism to the extent that I proposed her, but
studiously avoided the selection process.
4.7 The Copyright
I was one of the
authors who helped found the CLA
to exercise some control over the
free photocopying of in-copyright books. The negotiations with
publishers, many of whom thought authors should confine themselves to
writing and leave business matters to them were, to put it mildly,
difficult. At times we despaired that the CLA would ever get off the
ground but in 1983 it finally did.
4.8 The Writers Guild
In 1974 a group of WAG/PLR authors split from the Society
of Authors, then a very
genteel, not to say
moribund organisation, to join the more militant television and film
writers’ Guild. For better - and worse as it turned out - I was
I enjoyed being taken to lunch by
the then president Carl
Foreman to celebrate book
authors entry into the Guild (his daughter Amanda
Foreman is the
best-selling historian). Carl, another refugee from McCarthy’s
black-list, was involved in the most ludicrous incident of that
shameful era. He and Michael
Wilson actually wrote the screenplay
for the hugely successful “The
Bridge on the River Kwai” but as both had refused to testify they
non grata in the USA.
Credit was given to the author of the novel on which the film was
based, Pierre Boulle.
McCarthy’s acolytes were
that Boulle wrote in French and didn’t speak a word of English,
but everybody in the business knew. Neither Carl nor Michael Wilson
was given due credit until after their deaths.
In my early years with the Guild I
was a busy bee, sitting on the Books and Executive committees,
representing it at a Women’s TUC
Conference – yeah, they had
them in those days – and on other occasions.
5.0 Lay Member of
In 1978 it was decided the Industrial (now Employment) Tribunals needed
more women on their panels of lawyer, employer and trade union
nominees. The Guild was asked to submit the names of its
female executives and mine was
chosen, perhaps because of my attendance at the Women’s TUC
Conference or somebody connected me with that milestone in trades
union history “The Tolpuddle Martyrs”.
I have reason to be
grateful for my selection.
6.0 - The Gordon Williams/Terry
concerned my novel “Kessie”,
dragged on for eight long years and produced hundreds
of letters. Having read them
through for the first time in ages, I’m astonished that suicidal me
somehow I did. Compressing the mass
material into a readable narrative ain’t going to be easy but it’s a
story I‘ve long wanted to tell. So here goes!
6.1 The Losey/Williams
Partnership “Kessie” & new agent
met Gordon Williams
during the WAG/PLR years. Starting as a
sports journalist he went on to write
several highly praised novels including The
Siege of Trencher’s Farm which Sam Peckinpah turned
into the film Straw
Dogs. Gordon also shared
Venables, encountered in his sports
writing days, for the novels and tv series Hazell, though anybody who has heard
Venables speak – “The boy done good” -
will know who did the
and I had a very brief affair (no comment) before going
our separate ways. Early in 1980, out of the blue, he
telephoned. During a rambling
conversation, I learned that he and Gavrik Losey
– son of yet another
McCarthy refugee, film director
Losey – had set up a new-style
partnership to commission novels they would then film.
Gordon had just read a book about the suffragettes and immediately thought of me as the person to
write the first novel
the Partnership would film.
I’d expressed interest he said I needed an agent to negotiate
my contract which was true. He suggested Vivienne
Schuster of the highly respected John Farquarhson Agency (which later
merged with Curtis Brown)
partner was Gordon’s long-time agent. This did not then strike me
as a bad idea.
Vivienne and I took to each other, and
who anticipated any sort of problem?
“Kessie” contract - Enter Terry
Venables - “Kessie” savaged
I was concerned about the contract which assigned copyright to the
Copyright was, and currently is, the only control
authors have over their work. So why on earth did I assign
mine? Because Gordon
claimed he and Gavrik needed full control to see their concept through
commissioned novel to edited film. And Gordon was a WAG/PLR mate with whom
I’d had a transitory relationship,
contract, signed in July 1980, was convoluted to say the least.
Due to the various vetting stages and my being rushed to hospital with
a facial carcinoma (Gordon came to visit), I didn't get the final go
ahead until June 1981. Having worked my socks off, at Easter
1982, I delivered 150,000 words to Vivienne
Schuster. She thought
there was a really good novel there but it needed editing. By
this time, what had seemed reasonable remuneration, no longer did and i
badly needed the £1,750 on-delivery money. Early in May 1982,
Gordon's response arrived.
two single-spaced foolscap pages he
tore the novel to shreds. The only character he liked was Kessie
herself, but she was to cease to be Kessie. Her marriage
to the young Socialist MP Tom was to be chucked out and she was to
“sexually ambivalent”, to have affairs with both David Lloyd George and
Whilst re-writing from scratch I was to
“crash through the barriers of taste, gentility and inhibitions.”
There was no
question of my receiving the on-delivery money
for this unpublishable farrago.
the terrible letter arrived, I learned that the Losey-Williams Partnership was
in the process of dissolution. Why I didn’t discover and Gavrik disappeared from the scene.
Gordon wrote: “As Terry Venables
put up the money, he and I will be your Medici-style patrons.”
was the first mention of Venables and I didn’t
take much notice. If you regard the Medicis as villains rather
than artistic patrons, the reference proved only too accurate.
Legal Advice - Dog’s Dinner contract
was by then well dug in as a lay member of the Industrial Tribunal panel at London North. On the
Gordon’s terrible letter I happened to have a sitting. In a
pole-axed state, I took the contract and letter with me. Having
them, the chairman considered the
contract “a dog’s dinner”, but gave
the advice of all good advocates which is not to go to law if you can possibly
help it. Following this advice I asked Vivienne Schuster to
to her, Gordon was in “a nasty, prickly, stubborn mood”.
Eventually, reluctantly, I agreed to the
best terms she said she could obtain. The
was not revised but Gordon apparently agreed to my having copyright in
novel, in return for which he would retain the
film rights, receive 30% of all revenues from any publishing contract, plus £1750 as a first charge.
a jobbing actor, my husband’s income was erratic and mine was reduced to Industrial Tribunal fees and a small
amount from Carol Smith when
“Flashback” surprisingly had a paperback reprint. Had Marabel Hadfield
not loaned me the £1750 Gordon refused to pay, I could not have
cut and edited “Kessie”. Vivienne was
with the revised text delivered at the end of 1982, but it was rejected
accepted - Return of Terry Venables
the autumn of 1983, Maureen Waller
who’d previously rejected
phoned to say it had stuck in her mind
and Hodder & Stoughton were making an offer, only £2000, but it meant
this point, I learned
that my Losey/Williams
contract had been assigned to Terry Venables. Also at
point, Vivienne Schuster and I
started to have
serious disagreements. My position was
that the “dog’s dinner” contract had to
be sorted out, hers, that having signed it I hadn’t
a leg to stand on and was dependent on the goodwill of Gordon and
Not long afterwards “El Tel” became manager of
Barcelona which, in the days
before emails and mobile phones, didn’t help
communication. In one letter Vivienne agreed to act as his agent
for the Spanish
translations of the “Hazell” novels. She said it would help my case, an
assertion I queried! She kept urging me
not stir up a hornet’s nest, particularly
as Venables seemed “a decent
straight-up sort of guy.”
never had any direct
contact with him so wouldn’t know about the decency. I do know
he was not
entirely “straight-up” because in 1994 there was a BBC
about Terry Venables’
dodgy business dealings (I watched it!) During the official 1998
investigations he was accused of lying, bribery,
deception. He was then disqualificatied
from being a company director for seven
Contract still a dog’s
By 1984 Hodder had become enthusiastic about
“Kessie”. Not only was she going into Coronet paperback but in the
they commissioned me to write a follow-up novel focusing on her
Sarah, one of the characters Gordon had wanted chucked into the waste
basket. My publisher's enthusiasm
anybody seen a
document assigning the original contract to Terry Venables?
Did anything exist other than vague promises
in letters to Vivienne Schuster?
Sarah was a character in “Kessie”. Could
Venables claim rights in her, too? My Tribunal lawyer
friends all said I badly
needed to get this dreadful contract at best scrapped, at worst
revised. It was
Marabel Hadfield who suggested my consulting a top copyright lawyer she
6.6 Enter Michael
Rubenstein Escrow problems Agent fired
I first saw Michael in
November 1984. He said the
undated contract was the
second worst he’d ever seen (don’t know what the worst was like) and
agreed to represent me. He also said he would not charge anything
like his full rate and I could pay when the matter was resolved.
Venables could not, he assured me, claim rights
in “Sarah” so I signed a contract
with Hodder for hard and
month later, impressed by Michael
Rubenstein’s name, Vivienne
accompanied me to his office. We
long discussion, and she seemed to
accept that the contractual mess had to be sorted.
returning to her own office the attitude changed.
Farquharson’s lawyers became
involved and letters flew backwards and forwards. When we learned that
they had put the £1000 “Kessie” publication money into escrow i.e. into
third party care, without telling me, on Michael's advise I instructed
cease to act as my agent.
6.7 Things look up - Hodder & Stoughton on my side
1985 started well. The paperback of “The
Tolpuddle Martyrs” was reprinted, the negotiations undertaken by
that had bought Ursula Winant’s
stable. Even better, Stella
another option for a tv series of “The
Uncrowned Queen of Ireland” which this
time must be produced, mustn’t it? Alas no. The BBC later did a mini-series
with Francesca Annis as Katie O’Shea and Trevor Eve as Parnell which didn’t
draw on my extensive research and
wasn’t very good but that’s the way the
“Kessie” won the
Elizabeth Goudge prize for best
historical novel of the year, awarded by the Romantic Novelists’
Guess who sent a congratulatory letter? Vivienne Schuster.
we never disliked
each other, we just got caught up in a
Publishers rarely want to get involved in
but Hodder couldn’t
have been more helpful. Managing Director
Eric Major said they would be
happy to act for me in the sale of subsidiary rights.
When I happily agreed, they sold “Kessie”
for serialisation in “Woman and Home”,
to Australian and Belgian women’s magazines, for a
large print edition and for a Norwegian paperback.
Schuster then contacted Eric to say,
irrespective of who sold the rights, the money had to go into escrow. When Michael said this was unfortunately
true, Eric insisted on Hodder setting up their own escrow account
paying into Farqharson’s.
impasse & the Writers' Guild
lawyer continued to stonewall and by the summer of 1985 we’d got
the modest fee of £10, "Maxi", a delightful, recently retired copyright
lawyer, read all the “Kessie”
documentation. Her succinct opinion
was that a terrible
contract had resulted in a fascinating legal tangle that could keep
lawyers happily occupied for years and go to the Court of Appeal. Another solution had to be found.
What about my trade
relationship with the Writer's Guild
was then fine and I got on well with the
current chair John Goldsmith who came with me to Michael’s
office. Shortly afterwards I heard from John and the
general secretary, Walter Jeffrey with whom I also then got on
the Guild was outraged would act for
Leeson A Revised Contract
In 1986 Robert Leeson
took over as Guild chair. He was, I gathered
a prolific children’s book author and an
ex-communist. Like most communists I‘ve
known, ex or
otherwise, he had a humour by-pass and I didn’t gain the impression he
cared for women in actuality (as opposed to good
socialist theory). Whenever I
asked what was happening, he more or less told me to shut up and
leave matters to the Guild. General Secretary Walter Jeffrey agreed.
was Assistant General Secretary Nick Dalziel
who told me that Terry Venables
back in England. (I can still hear my sons’
delighted screams as they watched the Steaus Bucharest v Barcelona European Cup
on telly. Barca missed the vital penalty in the shoot out and "El
Tel" was subsequently sacked).
to Nick, Venables
had appointed Gordon Williams
as his negotiator and Gordon
being extremely difficult and aggressive. Which
figured. He also told me that Robert Leeson
and Gordon were on
Which also figured.
paid off. I was informed that an agreement had been
reached. Copyright in the
“ was mine subject to
£1750 first charge and 20% of all monies being paid to Venables,
I retained television, he film
rights. The agreement was barely an
improvement on the one Vivienne
had negotiated, but clauses had been clarified and a revised legal
be drawn up by the Guild’s solicitors. My fighting spirit
waning, I didn’t
A vicious telephone
call Yet another agent
A problem arose about
Hodder and “Kessie” and I made
the fatal mistake of telephoning Robert
Leeson to discuss it. I’d
started to explain
before he intervened. In a flat voice he said I
was an exceedingly tiresome, interfering, over-emotional woman who should go down on her bended knees to thank
the Writers’ Guild for
spending untold hours rescuing her from the mess she’d
got herself into. Instead of which I was sullying the Guild’s good name by going behind its back to my
publisher and putting its role as
honest broker in jeopardy.
he rang off I sobbed and sobbed. The implication of the term “honest broker” failed
then Michael Rubenstein had introduced me to his
Hilary who was a partner in the world’s oldest literary agency, A.P.
Watt. Hilary didn’t deal with my
sort of novel so passed me over to Caradoc
did. Hodder had
commissioned me to write a third
book focusing on Kessie and
Tom’s eldest daughter “Anne”. Having become my
(fifth) agent Caradoc
negotiated the best contract of my literary life. “Kessie”
was now out in paperback,
soon to be reprinted and Hodder had sold good
subsidiary rights for “Sarah”.
why did Bob Leeson’s
phone call have such a shattering effect? Why did I descend into
self-flagellating state and have so abject a
sense of failure?
Because I was exhausted and I’m me, I suppose.
6.11 Legal fees & other contretemps
By January 1987, a draft
agreement had been drawn up by Carolyn Jennings, the Guild’s
I then learned exactly what the term “honest broker” meant.
Summoned to a
meeting in the Guild’s offices, I was informed by Robert Leeson that the legal
fees would be paid off the top of the settlement 80% by me, 20% by Terry
stuffed” would have been a reasonable response. A Guild
member paying the lion’s share, non-Guild member, Venables, a paltry
20%. My fighting spirit was in tatters and eventually
I said I’d pay 50%. I don’t
know whether the Guild or Venables paid the rest. Later I asked Michael
what his understanding of the Guild’s involvement had been.
He said, the same as
mine, that it would act for me in the
usual manner of a trade union, paying such legal fees as might arise.
April 1987 I had a bad accident which put me in hospital and did
raise my spirits. A further contretemps occurred when
Hodder’s legal department considered an agreement which
Gavrik Losey, the partner in an
company that remained on the Companies Register, had failed to sign,
invalid. I was advised not to sign the agreement. I
Gavrik gave up on film producing, settled with his family in Somerset
became a part-time lecturer in media studies at Bristol University.
Somehow I hauled myself up from
the Slough of Despond. I
phoned Nick Dalziel to tell him I would now deal
directly with the Guild’s
solicitor Carolyn Jennings
with whom, surprisingly considering the
circumstances, I’d established a rapport.
sons grown up, my husband agreed that paying off the interest-free
mortgage Marabel had loaned me and buying a house in my native north
country would be a good idea. In
October 1987, we settled in New Mills, a
small moorland town just over the Derbyshire border. (Being just
Manchester proved useful for insurance
Agreement Signed. Yet more problems
month later the re-revised agreement between Terry Venables and Joyce Marlow
was signed. Hodder promptly released
their escrow money, just under £3000, minus the £1750 first
20% to Venables. In
days we’d made sure PLR payments were an authorial right so Venables
any claim on them.
So was the
saga finally over? Not on your Nelly. Farquharsons refused to
pay their escrow money, claiming my
involving Michael Rubenstein
had incurred legal fees and stuff about insurers
and underwriters. Until
the matter was sorted, I decided not to
pay the Guild solicitors. When they
sent another bill that included interest
for late payment, I telephoned Michael who’d said if I
further help he would willingly give it.
I’d explained what was not happening
Michael hit the roof and contacted
Carolyn Jennings who told me to ignore
the interest demand which was standard practice. There was then
a barrage of
letters from Michael and Carolyn, both acting for me without further
Between them they won the day.
In March 1988
released their escrow money, minus deductions for
photocopying, postage and other such items.
The End of the Saga
paying the legal fees - £1100 to the Guild solicitor’s and £785 to Michael Rubenstein
who’d waited three years
for his money, I had the grand sum of
£2486. Worth the years of disbelief,
despair, depression, particularly as nothing more happened about
Yet in the early
1980s I didn’t know that.
Nor of course did Terry Venables. After re-reading the mountain of
have a smidgeon of sympathy for him, as
somewhere along the line, I learned that he put £25,000 into the
still not a bad sum and worth a hell of a lot more
in 1980. The only thing he had to show for his investment was a
(who knew) might
earn some real money. It didn’t, but
I can see how he felt.
was only a smidgeon. I regret being too dispirited to contact the
Mirror” which had its knives out for him. A piece about
macho “El Tel”, a suffragette novel and a female author fighting her
corner could have gone down well and earned a few pennies.
the final battle was ongoing I received three identical letters – two, to my old, one to my new address in New
informed me I was no longer the
Guild representative on the PLR
Advisory Committee. This upset me, but the PLR Registrar
John Sumsion’s deep displeasure
at my departure
cheered me up.
wrote a succinct letter to the EC
which included the suggestion that in future the
Guild made clear when it was in
the brokerage business. I took pleasure in resigning my
rejoining the Society of Authors
which with Mark le Fanu as
Secretary had perked up considerably. I always got on well with
helped the move.
Goodbye Writers' Guild, Robert Leeson
had no further contact with the Writers’ Guild but I know Walter Jeffrey sadly died
of Aids. What became of my friend Nick Dalziel I don’t know. I’ve
no idea, and less interest in, what
happened to Robert Leeson.
Should he be
alive and remember me, he doubtless still regards me as an ungrateful,
interfering bitch. Gordon
wife was a wealthy
Australian so maybe the
family moved there. I have since learned from an article
a friend sent me that as of October 2012 Gordon was living
in West London and didn't appear to have done much
in the intervening years.
What Happened Next : Books & Tribunals
1989 to my astonishment “Kessie” was published in what was still East
I spent three fascinating weeks as
the guest of Aufbau Verlag just before
the Berlin Wall came down.
remained interested in me and, having settled into New Mills, I spent
part of a year doing an immensely detailed
outline for a quartet of novels following a diverse group of
people in and around Manchester from the early days of the Industrial
Revolution to late Victorian times. Was
I shattered when Hodder turned
the idea down? Curiously, knowing
I’d made the right decision in
moving back north, I picked myself up and
soldiered on. None of the ideas I subsequently came up was
publishable. First Hodder,
then Caradoc King, lost
interest. When "Kessie",
and "Anne" were in
the libraries my PLR payments
the thousands of pounds, which meant hundreds of people had read them
and provided some finanical compensation.
was able to switch Tribunal sittings from London North to Manchester
and remained a member until
reaching retirement age i.e. 70.
through Carole Fries who was
then editing for Bedford Square Press, I
produced Industrial Tribunals and
Appeals aimed at helping applicants and respondents, which several
letters and comments informed me the booklet did.
In 1997 I wrote another booklet
The ALCS Story to celebrate
the twentieth anniversary.
had introduced me to yet another agent Sara Menguc and through
edited two anthologies for Virago
(with which Carmen Calill was
no longer closely involved). Women
and the Great War was published in
1998, Votes for Women in
2000. Glenda Jackson
and I had
successful readings from both anthologies at the Imperial War Museum, the
Museum of London and the National Gallery theatre. For both
anthologies I was interviewed on "Woman's
Hour", on the first occasion by myself, on the second in tandem
childhood memoirs "It Doesn’t Always Rain
in Manchester" were produced as an audio book, read by my
friend Ruth Holt. Nothing much has
happened, perhaps because the dvds are expensive at £5 each.
8.0 Family Matters
settled into New Mills and became a
Labour councillor. In 1997, the symptoms that had been worrying
fortunately not him, were
diagnosed as the onset of Alzheimer’s
disease. A firm believer that if you
ignore problems they’ll go away, that somewhere at the very end of the
there is a pot of gold, Patrick retained his
sunny temperament through the long sad years of decline. To
begin with I looked after him but eventually he went into
residential, then a nursing home. In 2008 he died just before his eighty-second birthday.
Both my sons continue to
live in the London area. Nicholas works as a
hospital porter, is married to Jilly and has two
children, Callum and Aimee. They come up
to see me
regularly, as does Julian who is an IT Consultant. His
partner doesn’t like me so she doesn’t visit. They have no
think I should have made
more of my talents and the opportunities I was
given as both actress and writer, but I no longer feel a total failure.
In a brief
speech at my highly successful 80th birthday party Julian said, whatever
my faults and foibles, I was never boring. I
With thanks to my
good friend Eve Avery who helped me to publish this web site