Bodies from the Library has become an annual event. I went for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was delighted to be invited to speak this year. Sarah Ward and I will be talking about ‘Forgotten Women Authors’. Sarah’s choice is Elizabeth Daly and mine is Ethel Lina White.
I’ve already mentioned Ethel Lina White on the blog: here and here and I have plenty more to say about her. I love the fact that she didn’t publish her first crime novel until she was fifty-five and yet her third novel, Some Must Watch, became a Hollywood movie and her fifth, The Wheel Spins, was filmed by Hitchcock as The Lady Vanishes. She was a best-seller in her day and wrote the kind of suspense that sets your heart racing. Yet she is little-known now. If you want to know more, come along on the 17th June!
I am often alerted to a book I might enjoy by my good blogfriend, Moira, over at Clothesinbooks.com and that was the case with Ethel Lina White’s Fear Stalks the Village. You can see her review here: http://bit.ly/1JrsBCs. As I happened I already had a ‘box set’ of White’s novels on my e-reader and this gave me the impetus to start reading them. I began with Fear Stalks the Village, went on to The Spiral Staircase, Wax, and The Wheel Turns (the basis for that marvellous Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes). I was on holiday so had more reading time than usual and I just gulped them down.
I had been put off this kind of novel by Julian Symons in Bloody Murder where he disparages the Had I But Known school of crime-writing. It is true that there is rather too much ‘little did they know’ in these novels and I could have done with less authorial comment on the vagaries of fate. But still, I couldn’t stop reading. The atmosphere and the build-up of suspense in these novels is masterly and I liked the plucky young women, struggling to earn their livings. The books are rattling good reads and as the trap closed in on the hapless heroine, they kept me reading when I ought to have been doing other things. There can be no greater tribute to a writer of suspense. If you want somewhere to start, I suggest The Spiral Staircase or Wax, which has a stupendous climax in a waxwork museum.
The picture above refers to the 1946 film based on White’s novel.