The Pram in the Hall
Crime writer Christine Poulson on reading, writing, and all things literary.
There's a free podcast of the first story I ever had published on http://crimecitycentral.com. It's 'The Lammergeier Vulture' very ably read by Jonathan Danz. Do visit the web-site, run by Jack Calverley. There are lots of other stories there by well-known crime-writers.
The full title is Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties and it's by Rachel Cooke. It's had some very good reviews and I must admit that it is a terrific read and that I gobbled it up. But - you knew there was going to be a 'but', didn't you? - I do have some reservations and some of these are, I suspect, to do with editorial decisions. I was a few pages in when I turned to the index, wanting to check something, only to find that there wasn't one. I don't like it when a densely textured work of non-fiction like this doesn't have an index. And I don't like it when there are no proper footnotes, either. There are a lot of quotations. Sometimes they are attributed, sometimes not. I think this matters. I really want to know who said or wrote what and when. I can imagine the discussion leading to this decision: 'oh, we won't have footnotes . . . too stuffy . . . holds up the narrative . . . ' But it is important especially when, as here, the private lives of real people are presented in a somewhat unfavourable light.
These days there are plenty of books aimed at the thirteen to fourteen year old female market, but when I was that age, books weren't categorised in the same way. There was no Judy Blume or - these days - Louise Rennison and I'm not really sorry. I didn't want to read books that reflected my own teenage occupations. I wanted to be transported to other worlds. Three of my favourite writers were Gerald Durrell, P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie.
The Independent on Sunday has declared its intention not to review any children's books that are marketed in such a way as to exclude either gender. My feeling too is that children's books should be available to whoever wants to read them. This chimes in with a comment on my previous post from Moira at ClothesinBooks, who remembers reading Biggles as a child. When she mentioned that, memories came flooding back. My friend Linda and I adored them when we were ten or eleven, and I don't think it occurred to us for a moment that these might suitable only for boys. Quite why we adored them, it is hard to say now. I am amused to read in the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature that the Biggles books, written by Capt. W. E. Johns, are regarded with contempt by librarians and critics as being racist and jingoistic. No doubt they were, but I guess they were also gripping yarns.