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The Iron King

Strangled Queen

Poisoned Crown

Royal Succession

The She Wolf

Lily and Lion

Ler Rois Maudits Book 7 Polish

Ler Rois Maudits Book 7  French

Catherine UK Book 1

Catherine UK Book 2

Catherine UK Book 3

Catherine UK Book 4

Catherine UK Book 5

Catherine UK Book 6

Catherine US Belle

Catherine US Mistress

Catherine US Quest

The Cat Who turned on and off in Polish

The Cat Who Turned on and off Audio

Queen Lucia by E F Benson

Lucia in London

Miss Mapp by E F Benson

Lucia's Progress by E F Benson

Trouble for Lucia by E F Benson

Lucia Triumphant by Tom Holt

From the E F Benson Museum

Theatre Poster

In 1995 the John Van Druten adaptation of the "Mapp & Lucia" stories, "Make Way For Lucia" was revived in a version which toured the United Kingdom, starting in the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, Kent and finishing off at the Richmond Theatre, London.  These exhibits are from that tour; on the left is a 'flyer' promoting the show, from the Churchill Theatre (not shown; a list of the tour dates and venues, which was stapled to the back of the 'flyer'); on the right is the excellently presented Programme from the Richmond Theatre dates.  

The production starred Angela Thorne as 'Lucia', the late John Wells as 'Georgie', Marcia Warren as 'Miss Mapp' and John Nettleton as 'Major Benjy', with Lavinia Bertram as 'Grosvenor', David Crosse as 'Mr Wyse', Jill Johnson as 'Mrs Wyse', Brian Hewlett as 'The Padre', Deddie Davies as 'Wee Wifie', Antonia Pemberton as 'Diva' and Dominic Borrelli as 'Signor Cortese'.

It was directed by Alan Strachan, designed by Paul Farnsworth, lighting was by Leonard Tucker and Musical Supervision was by Stuart Pedlar.  It was produced by The Touring Partnership, P.W.Productions and the Theatre of Comedy Company.

Major Benjy original book cover

Lucia in Wartime by Tom Holt

Lucia Triumphant by Tom Holt

In the Fisherman's Shoes by Morris West

Lazarus by Morris West

Penguin Vanity Fair

Rider Haggard She

Rider Haggard She Annotated

Haggard She Israel

She 1920s

She by Rider Haggard Book Cover

She by Rider Haggard Book Cover

She by Hider Haggard in Polish

She by Roder Haggard Ursula Andress on cover US edition

She by Rider Haggard Booc Cover

The Return of She Spanish Book Cover

Ayesha by H Rider Haggard

Ayesha by H Rider Haggard

She and Allan by H Rider Haggard

Haggard Wisdoms Daughter

Haggard Wisdom French

Haggard Trilogy

Haggard 3-in1

EBD School at Chalet

EBD CS and Jo

EBD CS Princess

Head Girl of the Chalet School

The Rival of the Chalet School

Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School

The Chalet School and Jo

The Chalet Girls in Camp

The Exploits of the Chalet Girls

The Chalet School and the Lintons

New House at the Chalet School

Jo Returns to the Chalet School


The Chalet School in Exile

EBD CS Goes to It

EBD CS Twins

Lavendar Laugs at the Chalet School

Gay from China at the Chalet School

Shocks for the Chalet School

EBD CS Bride Leads

Lost Horizon 1933 1st edition

Lost Horizon 1939 first ever paperback

Lost Horizon Pan Books

Lost Horizon 1953

Lost Horizon 2003

Lost Horizon 2015

We just love reading .......

Anything and everything we can get our hands on you can find our preferences here for Andrew and here for Anna or use the sidebar links.

Les Rois Maudits / Accursed Kings - Republishing 2015

Harper Collins have just released the 7th and final book in 'The Accursed Kings' - the third of the French series of books, including 'Catherine' (see below) and 'Angélique', which I have been waiting to read the conclusions of since the 1960s and 1970s when I first came upon them. I have in the meantime read the French and Polish versions of these books, but having started them in English it would be great to conclude them in the same language!

It's just fabulous to see the publishers announce on their website (above the synopsis of the book)

"About the Book

Available for the first time in English, THE KING WITHOUT A KINGDOM is the seventh and final volume of The Accursed Kings series."

And very astute of them to link it into the current craze of 'The Game of Thrones' which is sweeping the internet!

The King without a Kingdon Maurice Druon

The Iron KingThe Strangled Queen The Popisoned Crown

The Royal SuccessionThe She WolfThe Lily and the Lion

The new publication in its entirety (the copies I owned prior to purchasing the hardback editions are shown in the sidebar)

The author, Maurice Druon, in tandem with many distinguished authors, also had an alternative existence especially during WWII.

Catherine Series - Republishing in 2015!

New Catherine Book Covers Link to Catherine de Montsalvy site

Telos have taken pity on the desperate readers and have announced an earlier publishing date for the first two books in the Catherine series. Image courtesy of

"We are pleased to report that the initial titles in our new Romantic Encounters range have now been published, a whole month ahead of schedule! These are "One Love is Enough" and "Catherine", the first two books in acclaimed French author Juliette Benzoni's classic "Catherine" series of historical romances - back in print in the English language for the first time in decades! The books are now available to order from Amazon websites and all good bookshops worldwide, and of course direct from the Telos website. E-book versions are also available on Kindle, Kobo and Nook."

The 'Catherine' saga has long been a favourite of mine and I have never compared it unfavourably to the 'Angélique' series by Anne Golon which has a very prominent section on this website to itself. 'Catherine' also suffered the ignominy of not being completed in the English language. Thanks to the Herculean efforts of Linda, a huge fan of the series, Telos Publishing have undertaken to re-translate, re-publish and conclude the entire series with providing an English version of Book 7 - 'Catherine, Dame de Montsalvy'. Hats off to all involved and a big thank you from me!

Catherine and a Time for Love by Juliette Benzoni A Snare Trap for Catherine

Announced on 21st April & 1st June 2020 respectively - the release of Books 5 'Catherine - A Time for Love' & 6 'A Trap for Catherine' (artwork by Martin Baines)

Belle Catherine by Benzoni Catherine and her Great Journey

Announced on 6th March & 1st June 2017 respectively - the release of Books 3 'Belle Catherine' & 4 'Catherine - Her Great Journey'

Catherine by Juliette Benzoni Catherine - Book 2

And here is the revised projected cover of Book 1 'Catherine - One Love is Enough' released in April and Book 2 'Catherine' in June 2015.

Catherine by Benzoni

Notice the shorter hairstyle? (Artwork by Martin Baines)

My Amazon Reviews of the new-style Books

A welcome return of an old favourite! 22nd June 2017

This review is from: Catherine: One Love is Enough (Catherine Series Book 1) - Recently I have been buoyed by the fact that old favourites from the 1970s are being reintroduced to a whole new 21st century market and being concluded for the original audience who, unless they understood a second language, were unable to conclude the series they had loyally followed from the start. Telos publishing has given this gift to the many who still want to know what happened to Catherine and her Arnaud. They have promised a complete republication including the never before translated 7th and concluding chapter 'Dame de Montsalvy'. (Harper Collins did something similar with the final 7th volume of 'The Accursed Kings' (Les Rois Maudits)). I remember the Catherine books well and still have the originals which I have re-read in the intervening years; yet nothing was going to stop me from investing in the new versions for they promised previous, hitherto omitted material would be included. I make no secret of the fact that I have read the concluding book in two languages, the original French and the Polish translation because I was determined to discover the conclusion, I did the same with the 7th Accursed King and other series English speaking publishers abandoned, but the fact remains that if you start a book in a particular language you tailor yourself to that style and the nuances you grow familiar with. Reading a continuation in an alternative language with different nuances sheds a different light on the characters, they can become strangers - think of any old film you may love and then compare it to its remake! I was therefore, more than a little surprised that I experienced this estrangement on reading this republication which is why I cannot award it 5 stars. Remarkably it did not occur when the very welcome additional (unknown) material was added, that was indeed a bonus, it happened when I found that some of the originally beautifully translated grammar had been exchanged for 'modern' idiom, vernacular grammar. 'He was stood by the fireplace' was just one such example. I cannot, for the life of me see why 'was' had been added, simply 'he stood by the fireplace' is not only grammatically correct but is the language, the late great author Juliette Benzoni would have expected to see in any translation. Every time I came across this 'modernisation' (there were at least 50 instances before I stopped recording them) it ruined the read for me. In all fairness when I used the 'feedback' facility, Telos responded (yes, they did!) that they would not be continuing the style after Book 3 (book 2 had also already been published), they had, they said, introduced it as a means of appealing to a wider, younger audience. Somehow I can't see a younger audience relating to the price of these books! All in all though, it is a big boon to have these books back and I do hope they appeal to a younger audience. I cannot wait to get to Book 7 to see how it has been translated as a new translator will also influence the nuances and to see if it will fit seamlessly into a well-beloved series. It is such a shame that Madame Benzoni did not live to see the triumphal conclusion to her 'œuvre'. I am full of admiration for Telos taking on this project and hope it proves a 'great journey' for them also.

Juliette Benzoni - The Catherine Series

Catherine - Dame de Montsalvy Ever the feminist (well mild tendencies anyway) I really object to the way Arnaud treats Catherine, especially as his shortlived brother, Michel, is such a gentleman beside his brat of a brother! Michel is blonde and Arnaud (such an evocative name) is dark and brooding - probably a Heathcliff type!

This series of books, like 'Angélique' ends with the penultimate book entitled 'A Snare for Catherine' - the 7th and concluding book 'Catherine, Dame de Montsalvy' was never translated into English - luckily it is available on a tribute web-site created by Mistral.

Also, in the time honoured tradition, three of the original titles were re-named for American audiences and which, in some cases, caused confusion as readers, searching the internet, years after the latest novel had been released, believed that they had somehow missed out on some of the books. The listings below show the titles as they appeared in the UK / in the US / and how they will appear when they are republished in their new format. The new titles have been slightly 'tweaked' to differentiate them from the originals and to convey a more accurate translation of the originals. As with Angélique's 'Route de l'Espoir' so Catherine's 'Les Routes Incertaines' cause a headache in translation. In the UK it ended up as 'Catherine and Arnaud'. It does not really convey the content of the book accurately.

Black Mourning RibbonJuliette Benzoni Juliette Benzoni Black Mourning Ribbon

We have just learned of the death of Juliette Benzoni on the night of Sunday/Monday 8th February 2016

(Titles : UK / US / 2015)

Book 1 - Catherine, One Love is Enough / Belle Catherine / Catherine: One Love is Enough
Book 2 - Catherine / Catherine - Royal Mistress / Catherine
Book 3 - Belle Catherine / Catherine's Quest / Belle Catherine
Book 4 - Catherine and Arnaud / Catherine and Arnaud / Catherine: Her Great Journey
Book 5 - Catherine and a Time for Love / Catherine's Time for Love / Catherine: A Time for Love
Book 6 - A Snare for Catherine / A Snare for Catherine / A Trap for Catherine
Book 7 - Catherine: The Lady of Montsalvy

As you can see the titles have been 'tweaked' in some places, not necessarily enhancing them, but a republishing has got to be good whatever the reasons for the re-naming!The Cat Who Turned On and Off

Lilian Jackson Braun - The 'Cat Who' series

My favourite in this series is 'The Cat Who Turned On and Off' set in Junk Town and featuring the regular cast of Jim 'Qwill' Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum the male and female Siamese cat sleuthing partnership.

The books have also been turned into audio books but I have not yet heard any and have been translated into several languages, I have definitely seen them in French and Polish.

I was interested to find that the books which have been translated into several languages, including Polish and French, used the artwork of Louis Wain on one set of French covers.

LJB TCW Backwards LJB TCW Danish LJB TCW OnOff LJB TCW Saw Red

The Cat Who: Read Backwards / Ate Danish Modem / Turned On and Off / Saw Red

LJB TCW Brahms LJB TCW Post Office LJB TCW Post Office alt LJB TCW Shakespeare

The Cat Who: Played Brahms / Played Post Office x 2 / Knew Shakespeare

LJB TCW Sniffed Glue LJB TCW Underground LJB TCW Ghosts LJB TCW Lived High

The Cat Who: Sniffed Glue / Went Underground / Talked to Ghosts / Lived High

LJB TCW Cardinal LJB TCW Mountain LJB TCW Was Not There LJB TCW Closet

The Cat Who: Knew a Cardinal / Moved a Mountain / Wasn't There / Went into the Closet

LJB TCW Breakfast LJB TCW WhistleLJB TCW Cheese LJB TCW Thief

The Cat Who: Came to Breakfast / Blew the Whistle / Said Cheese / Tailed a Thief


The Cat Who: Sang for the Birds / Saw Stars / Robbed a Bank / Smelled a Rat


The Cat Who: Robbed a Bank / Went Up the Creek / Brought Down the House / Talked Turkey

LJB TCW Bananas LJB TCW BombshellLJB TCW 60 Whiskers LJB Secret Life

The Cat Who: Went Bananas / Dropped a Bombshell / Had 60 Whiskers

The Secret Life of 'The Cat Who'

There was at least one more book left in the series and the title 'The Cat Who Smelled Smoke' was announced to her adoring public - but unhappily LJB died before it was written.

E F Benson - the 'Mapp and Lucia' series

Mapp and Lucia by E F BensonI didn't read these books until I had seen the television series, which was coincidentallyLucia in Wartime by Tom Holt brought to the silver screen by my old boss at BBC Drama Plays - Gerald Savory. Gerald had already had a full life when I met him as a twenty-something and he had already retired once and I can believe that the Mapp and Lucia lifestyle was something that appealed to him for more reasons than one! I wish I had worked with him on these instead of 'Churchill's People' which has gone down as one of the BBC's greatest flops ..... On that show I also worked with the delectable Brian Rawlinson of 'Onedin Line' fame - he was Robert Onedin to Peter Gilmore's James Onedin.

Although the original six stories (and there is a bit of debate as to their chronology so I'm not going to enter that arena) came to a natural conclusion, Tom Holt secured the services of these to protagonists for two further forays into their peculiarly original lifestyle, patriotically in 'Lucia in Wartime' and ending with the aptly named 'Lucia Triumphant'. Since creating this page, I have learned of a new trilogy being written - two books are currently available entitled 'Major Benjy' and 'Lucia on Holiday' by Guy Fraser-Sampson who fortuitously discussed his books on a Radio 4 programme which was being listened to by a good friend of mine. Luckily she knows of my love of the Mapp and Lucia books and also that I do not listen to Radio 4 so she tipped me the wink and I was able to catch the programme via the internet facility - so it's nice to have good friends and I still maintain that coincidences such as these are indeed 'signposts.' As I had not heard of Guy Fraser-Sampson it is unlikely that I should have come across these books for a long time (after all I had already missed out on 'Major Benjy' and it proved difficult to source) if ever, possibly after a Google search for some artwork some time in the future when I may have noticed alternative titles in the search facility?

E F Benson Folio Society boxed version

Who knows? But as I am now aware of the books I shall look out for the third title of the trilogy although it has not yet been released. I immediately placed 'Lucia on Holiday' on pre-order and now have the anticipation of reading two of the books probably in quick succession!

Major Benjy Book CoverLucia on holiday

Au Reservir

The third and final book has been announced for publication in April 2014 - since originally announcing this, as you can see the final book in the trilogy has now been published and the cover artwork compliments the second printing. Without giving anything away, Guy Fraser-Sampson has ensured that no further books will follow with a neat plot which firmly closes the door behind him.

I particularly like the Black Swan editions of these books as they have lovely cover illustrations that capture the 1920s (as we think of them) but the Folio Society published the original 6 novels and I was lucky enough to acquire them at auction some months ago.

Mapp and Lucia's adventures, including those written by Tom Holt have also become audio books and make ironing (almost) a pleasure whilst listening to them!

In March 2014 a new television adaptation, of the original books, by the BBC has been announced!

From Guy Fraser-Sampson's personal blog:

Major Benjy by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

I have heard writers say many times that their motivation for writing a novel is difficult to explain. If so, how much more so when you are actually writing a novel in somebody else’s style and using their characters?

For me with Major Benjy I think the reasons were partly general and partly specific. The general ones were admiration for the writer and a desire that the world should have another “Mapp and Lucia” book to enjoy. Specifically, I wanted to fill in a key gap in the narrative (including the total disappearance without trace of one particular character) and flesh out the supporting cast (an acknowledged issue with Benson’s writing). It’s not for me to say how well I might have succeeded, but thankfully the reviews to date have been very kind.

It is probably worth mentioning a few words about the copyright situation, since I know others may be considering writing sequels to well known books or series. The rule in the UK at the moment is that copyright runs for 70 years from the end of the year of death; thus Benson, who died in 1940, goes out of copyright in the UK at the end of 2010. Not in the US, though, since they have a different rule which operates for 95 years from the date of publication of the work, and there is currently much discussion about the US rules being adopted in Europe (but no word on what might happen to books which would fall into a hole (i.e. would have gone out of copyright and then would apparently go back into it) if that were done. This is an important point since I know many enthusiasts like to write fan fiction and post it on the net. This is actually in breach of copyright and you are putting yourself at risk should the relevant estate choose to do anything about it.

For my part, though my written agreement covers only Major Benjy, there is a gentleman’s agreement with the estate that I will also be writing two more: Lucia on Holiday and Au Reservoir. However that can only happen if Major Benjy is a success. Nobody (not even Picnic!) is going to publish a book which is unlikely to be commercially successful, so please run out on 1st September and order it (preferably supporting your local bookshop in the process).

Friday, August 29th, 2008

E.F. Benson died in Rye, which he had made his home for the last twenty years, in 1940, having written over one hundred books: a diverse mix of history, biography, fiction, plays, and books on ice skating, of which sport he was a pioneer. The vast majority of these books are today known to us only by their titles, and that is probably no bad thing since their quality is very patchy. There is growing recognition though, that the best of them, of which the Mapp and Lucia series would probably be the best known examples, are very good indeed. So good, indeed, that a major re-appraisal of Benson’s stature as a writer is probably long overdue.

Benson was both well-known and well-connected during his lifetime, numbering Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Henry James and Queen Mary (wife of King George V) amongst his acquaintances. He was widely read by the likes of W.H. Auden, Noel Coward, Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh; I personally believe that Major Benjy, whom we first encounter in Miss Mapp, coloured the character of Apthorpe in the latter’s Sword of Honour trilogy. In other words, his influence as a writer was much more widespread and important than many might today suspect, particularly since he also found time amongst his hectic writing schedule to be a very active reviewer of other people’s books.

His ghost stories are said by those who know about such things to stand comparison with Dickens and M.R. James. Some of his novels such as Paying Guests and Secret Lives have survived in print on a stand-alone basis, while The Blotting Book is an excellent courtroom drama. It is the Mapp and Lucia series, however, by which he is inevitably best-remembered.

There is a great deal of evidence that he originally conceived both Queen Lucia (1920) and Miss Mapp (1922) as one-off books. He revived Lucia for Lucia in London in 1927, but it was not until 1930 that he had the stroke of genius for which we will all ever be grateful and brought these two hilariously dreadful creations together in Mapp and Lucia, following that with two more books, Lucia’s Progress and Trouble for Lucia, the latter being published just a few months before his death.

The central theme of these last three books (the true Mapp and Lucia series) is a battle for social supremacy in the fictional town of Tilling, which was in fact the Rye Old Town which Benson knew in real life. No deception is too devious, no lie too monstrous, no stratagem too outrageous in this ongoing duel. A glorious supporting cast includes the effeminate Georgie, a compulsive embroiderer and doily maker, the rumbustious, bibulous Major Benjy, the unconventional artist Quaint Irene, a vicar from Birmingham who speaks determinedly with a Scottish accent, and Susan Wyse MBE, who wears furs on even the hottest of days and negligently leaves her medal in full view whenever friends come to visit.

Part of the reason for Benson’s reappraisal is being driven by gay fiction courses in the States. There is no doubt that he was gay, living openly with different men at various times and in the early books both Georgie and Quaint Irene are clearly signposted as gay characters, but these references are dropped abruptly in the later books – was he warned off by a friendly word of advice, and, if so, by whom? Such studies are probably unhelpful. Nowhere does Benson’s fiction depend on any gay plot device, and in any event Georgie is camp rather than gay, while Irene is also hinted to take a healthy interest in male anatomy.

The true scale of his achievement, however, lies in the simple fact that his books have endured for the continued pleasure of a consistently loyal fan base in a way in which no others have, apart of course from the Jeeves and Wooster stories, and here there are clear parallels, with their highly stylised characters, and high drama woven from what are actually fairly mundane happenings, albeit of highly charged social importance. None of his contemporaries writing supposedly humorous fiction have survived to anything like the same extent, no matter how wildly popular they were at the time; Dornford Yates would be a perfect example.

So, if you have not been fortunate enough so far to have been introduced to these wonderful books, please go out there and get reading. In my next post, I will be talking about my own modest contribution to the canon.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

In the first of my blog entries here on the Picnic authors’ site I really should start with a huge apology, since by some unaccountable oversight I am not actually a Picnic author at all, at least not yet. My new “Mapp and Lucia” book, Major Benjy, is in fact published by Troubadour in Leicester (already out in the US, out in the UK on 1 September). However, the good Major has sent Picnic a very sweet letter acknowledging that this was not the conduct to be expected of an officer and a gentleman and that he will try to do better in future.

I have a theory that all good writers (and I know that Picnic only take on good writers!) start off as good readers. After all, what greater motivation can there be for wanting to write a book than an existing love of the things, usually coupled with cardboard boxes scattered around various locations full of old friends from which we really cannot bear to be parted, because to take a few to the charity shop, as our partners frequently urge us to do, would feel uncomfortably like boiling a beloved golden retriever down for glue.

This was certainly true in my case. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house without TV and therefore would begin reading a book when I woke up in the morning, and would continue until it was time to go to bed. Even there, the story did not end, because I used to take a transistor radio to bed with me, hide under the bedclothes with it turned down as low as possible, and listen to “A Book at Bedtime” on Radio 4. It was in exactly this way that, at the age of ten, I first made the acquaintance of the redoubtable Mrs Philip Lucas (as she then was) when I experienced Queen Lucia. Even though I now think (as probably most Benson fans do) that this is probably the weakest of the “Mapp and Lucia” books, I was captivated and resolved to get them out of the library one by one.

There was a slight problem here in that they were in the senior library whereas I only had a ticket for the junior library next door, but my mother rose to the challenge and insisted that I should be issued with a full ticket six years early with the simple but effective argument that I had in any event already read everything in the children’s library at least once.

The books have been firm favourites since then (there are also two sequels by Tom Holt which are now sadly out of print, as seems to have become a badge of honour for good writers), and they are looking at me now as I write this from the couple of shelves I keep for books which I re-read over and over again (The Alexandria Quartet is also there, but I will leave you guessing about the others – a man must have some secrets).

For those poor few unfortunates who have not previously encountered the “Mapp and Lucia” stories, take heart! You still have the pleasure of reading them for the first time (there are six by Benson, the first couple of which you could safely ignore and come back to later, plus two by Tom Holt and now Major Benjy by yours truly)! Briefly, they tell the tale of two absolutely frightful ladies who end up inhabiting the same genteel seaside town, which Benson calls Tilling, but is actually Rye where he lived in Lamb House, as he has both Mapp and Lucia do in turn (though in the books it is called Mallards), and where he was twice Mayor, as he has Lucia be.

Neither can bear to be anything other than the acknowledged number one in any matter affecting Tilling, but of course there can be only one absolute ruler, and so the books may be compared to two prima donnas in constant search of the same role. The stratagems, untruths, and downright deception that attend these efforts have ensured that the books have endured as acknowledged comic masterpieces in a way which is rivalled only by Jeeves and Wooster.

Later in the week, I am planning to tell you more about Benson the writer, and attempt to place him in context. Then I will write specifically about Major Benjy and what I was trying to achieve when I wrote it. But now, dear ones, I shall collapse positively drained by the effort of it all, and retire with a nice cup of Earl Grey.

Morris West

One of my all time favourite books is by this author - "The Clowns of God" Cover of Clowns of God by Morris Westbecause it deals with two very, in today's turbulent society, improbable situations! This book is a sequel to 'The Shoes of the Fisherman' which was an enthralling Vatican thriller in itself introducing the daring concept of a non-Italian Pope being elected (written pre-John Paul II and Benedict XVI ascension to the throne of Peter). In Clowns this same non-Italian Pope is forced to abdicate by his peers who do not believe that he has received visions from God - they prefer to think he is possessed by the Devil instead. In living memory no Pope has yet abdicated although a few have, historically, been usurped and murdered along the way. The 'Clowns' turn out to be those considered 'weak' (disabled) by today's invigorated society. So giving hope that the 'meek shall (sic - indeed) inherit the earth. I am reminded that there was a concluding and third book in this trilogy (see extract below) but it cannot have made much impact on me as I don't remember that much about it!

Frighteningly - Pope Benedict XVI 'resigned' on 11th January 2013.

"The Shoes of the Fisherman started West's "Vatican trilogy". Jean Télémond, whose ideas on evolution are condemned in the story by the new Pope, Kiril Lakota, was based on the character of the famous theologian Teilhard de Chardin. However, in general, the Pope is portrayed in a positive light. The trilogy continued in THE CLOWNS OF GOD (1981), in which the Pope resigns from his office, believing that the world is on the brink of Armageddon, and LAZARUS (1999), a story about the election of a "law-and-order" candidate to lead the Church. This work foretold the rise of a pope from the East Europe fifteen years before it occurred: it was published just before Pope John XXIII died." (Thank you to for this extract)

William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair cover

Vanity Fair (a novel without a hero!) - how I love this book! This is one of the greatest satires of British Literature, the 'Punch' of its day. Penguin books sum it beautifully in this sentence "Though written in 1847-48, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair is peopled by types who remain familiar today." Becky Sharpe (by nature, in an intelligent way, as well as in name) is dealt a bad hand, but she uses the rest of the pack of cards to win her way to the top. She cheats, manipulates and gets caught out - but even as she falls to the depths of degradation (although never penury it seems) she fights her way back to the top and sashays her way back into the sunset. A book that is worth reading and re-reading on a regular basis as I for one could never tire of the twists and turns and with most books, a re-read usually brings forward something that was missed before. I've never felt much empathy for Amelia (despite her kindness to Becky), her husband George (a real bad lot), Dobbin (too soft) or Amelia's brother (Sedley), a secondary character. Penguin also tell us "Dobbin alone comes through the book with dignity. He is, as Thackeray declares, a true gentleman. But in the end, having achieved what he long sought—marriage to Amelia—Dobbin too is disillusioned, fonder of his daughter and his History of the Punjab than he is of his wife, though he would never admit as much." I don't have that much respect for Dobbin I'm afraid!

Victorian Web has several illustrations from the original magazines which capture and convey the satire and slightly 'sleazy' feel of the whole story - I have chosen four of the illustrations to whet your appetites for more:

Miss Sharp in Schoolroom

Miss Sharp in her School-room (precursor to St. Trinians?) - Chapter 10

Miss SwartzJos Polonaise Virtue rewarded

Miss Swartz rehearsing for the Drawing Room - Chapter 21 / Jos Performs a Polonaise - Chapter 63 / Virtue is rewarded - Chapter 67 /

H Rider Haggard

He by Rider HaggardI have long been fascinated by the whole history of 'She who must be obeyed' and have several versions of the original book - I particularly like this cover which is one of the Hodder and Stoughton Yellowjacket variations. The number of reprints testify to the popularity of this supernatural being and the number of films made, based on the first books alone is astonishing! There is a little known 'prequel' novel called 'Wisdom's Daughter' which I have not yet read, and two subsequent sequels. 'Ayesha' chronicles the return of 'She' inspiringVery old She dusjacket Leo Vincey (Kallikrates) to begin his search for her all over again, and stays true to the original characters despite all of us witnessing Ayesha having been consumed by flame at the end of the first book. The final book pairs up Allan Quartermain, a stoic Haggard hero, with Ayesha in an obvious materialistic effort to keep the interest going in both characters' adventures - most disappointing!

There is one cover I have been unable to obtain and that is pictured here and is very old:

It was available once on ebay and I was too inexperienced to make more than one bid and so lost out to somebody, who, I think, like myself likes to collect either unusual books or unusual versions of this particular book! At least I was able to get a copy of the scan and am still on the lookout!

There appears to be someone even more fanatical about the many changes of 'Ayesha' - Violet Books web-site can be found here: since starting this page, the Violet Books website has ceased functioning but has been captured (like Harvey's page and 'World of Angélique) by a conservation group whose link I am now using.

Film Posters of the various adaptations will appear in the Films section of this web-site.

She by H Rider Haggard She by H Rider Haggard 1921

He and Allan 1921 He and Allan 1921

Ayesha by H Rider HaggardWisdom's Daughter 1929

Lost Horizon by James Hilton

I have just re-acquainted myself with this book by listening to an audio version on the BBC - wonderfully the former 'Sheriff of Nottingham', Alan Wheatley plays Father Perrot and 'I, Claudius' star Derek Jacobi stars as Conway, chosen successor to the great Lama. What wonderful voices they both have! The book was first published in 1933 (as warmongering was looming through Germany due to the rise of Hitlerism) with a modest dustjacket (see sidebar). As its popularity grew 'Lost Horizon' was the first ever modern paperback to be published in America, by Pocket Books in 1939.

First ever paperback ad for Lost Horizon

This book, as war loomed, must have given people hope that they could find their own 'Shangri-La' a euphemism much still used today. in 1937 a film of the book was made. From IMDB - "Based on a novel by James Hilton, this fantastical drama follows a group of plane-crash survivors who have landed in the mythical Shangri-La, a valley hidden deep within the mountains of the Himalayas. Rescued by followers of the High Llama (Sam Jaffe), the outsiders grow to love the remote paradise, but British writer and diplomat Robert Conway (Ronald Colman), suspecting that the crash was no accident, begins to investigate, leading to a surprising revelation." A musical based on the book appeared in 1973 (interesting transposition of the numbers of the year in which both were made) and is adequately described in the IMDB "This retelling of the classic tale of James Hilton's Utopian lost world plays out uneasily amid musical production numbers and Bacharach pop music. While escaping war-torn China, a group of Europeans crash in the Himalayas, where they are rescued and taken to the mysterious Valley of the Blue Moon, Shangri-La. Hidden from the rest of the world, Shangri-La is a haven of peace and tranquility for world-weary diplomat Richard Conway. His ambitious brother, George, sees it as a prison from which he must escape, even if it means risking his life and bringing destruction to the ancient culture of Shangri-La. " Suffice it to say I love the 1937 film and pre-ordered the restored copy, I do not have a copy of the musical version. The book remains popular and was lucky enough to have had several re-prints by Pan in its designer hey day!

1962 version of Lost Horizon by Great Pan Alternative Pan Books Cover

Two very different examples of the designs produced by Pan Books

The Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

EBD CS LavendarI'm a big fan of school stories and the Chalet School Series and 'The Silent Three' (about which there is a dearth of information) are my two outstanding favourites. The Chalet School ran to over 60 books with the setting for the school starting in Austria, removing to Guernsey and the Welsh mountains on the UK mainland (during the war years and immediately after) and finally relocating, as all good finishing schools do, to Switzerland. As a child I had the full set of books in hardback which were then passed down to younger family members and most likely lost, destroyed or sold on ebay. I resurrected a collection in paperback but they were terribly abridged and some of the titles had changed and in some cases the books were divided and given completely unrelated titles which must have caused confusion. The series has been saved by dedicated fans who own their own publishing house Girls Gone By and they now have the rights to the Chalet School and many other popular series and are reprinting them in the original (or as close as possible to the original) versions. The added bonus is that they are using the original first covers designed at the time of publication, so the first few are beautifully '30s in their style. However, my overall favourite comes from the forties 'Lavender Laughs at the Chalet School' (renamed 'Lavender Leigh' in the paperback format). An added bonus is that over the years, dedicated fans have also written 'in-fills' to supplement the gaps that were left by EBD and in most cases they make excellent reading and complement, but do not have the magic of, the originals.

First Edition 'The School at the Chalet'

I was lucky enough to have found a first edition with all its 5 plates in tact and have reproduced them below. The dustjacket was missing, but the front of the book was beautifully tooled and did not miss the paper cover. I sold the book on as although I realised its worth, I would not have appreciated it whereas someone else did. I have other books that I cherish more in their original states although one edition I have is a 5th but you wouldn't know the difference unless you were an expert!

EBD CS 1st Ed

There was a second printing of the first edition but the weave is grey as opposed to the 'brown' hue shown here which is the only way they can be told apart as the second printing also has five plates. All subsequent printings only kept the frontispiece.

The illustrations are by Nina K Brisley and are absolutely delightful.

Chalet School 1st Ed

The narrative reads "Then Joey, feeling her way carefully, was beside her" page 296

EBD Full frontispiece EBD CS Full Plate page 49

Frontispiece as above / "She reduced the man to a horrified silence" page 49

EBD CS Full Plate page 108 EBD CS Full Plate page 252

"There, in a little heap, lay Simone" page 108 / "Looking curiously lifelike in the half-light" page 252


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Page updated : 1st June 2020 (G)