My writing career began when in 1970 I plunged into the political movements of A the time. Inspired by socialist feminism I was soon writing pamphlets and articles in the underground press – Frendz, Come Together, and Red Rag. When the initial polemics of women’s liberation extended into academic research and the new field of women’s studies a move from social work to the university gave me time to undertake research and led to the publication of a series of books on culture and modernity.
Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life the Control of Disorder and Women, Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts, Cultural Passions and Love Game: A History of Tennis from Victorian Pastime to Global Phenomenon may appear to cover a wide range of topics. They are united however by a single theme: the importance of the aesthetic in modern life. So-called Bohemians, for example, however they are defined, lived their lives on aesthetic terms and the figure of the aesthete, widely distrusted and even despised as a poseur addicted to ‘art for art’s sake’, challenges the Puritanism that still marks modern culture. Adorned in Dreams was partly responsible for the growth of the now flourishing sub field of ‘Dress Studies’. What fascinates about fashion is the ways in which individuals and groups use clothing to make statements, individual and collective, to assert or to challenge authority. Garments may also be beautiful as objects in their own right and the history of objects is the history of civilisations. Similarly, performance whether in dance, the wearing of clothes or sport invariably has cultural and political dimensions.
COLD WAR BLUES: TALES OF THE AUSTERITY AND AFFLUENCE YEARS
This is a series of linked crime novels set in the late 1940s and 1950s exploring the changed world of Britain and specifically London after 1945.
The series is anchored by thoughtful Special Branch detective, Jack McGovern and his louche counterpart, crime reporter Gerry Blackstone. Each is in flight from his social background: McGovern rejects his ‘Red Clydeside’ childhood, while Blackstone seeks in the crime ridden slums he explores an alternative to the suburban gentility of his father, a wealthy undertaker.
These contrasted sleuths are flanked by a supporting cast of participants and commentators. The Twilight Hour, the first in the series, is set in the freezing winter of 1946-47 and introduces the reader to a colourful assortment of individuals coming – or failing to come – to terms with the realities of post-war Britain. The narrative follows the fortunes of the film maker and soon to be successful broadcaster, Alan Wentworth and his hopeful young wife, Dinah, the property magnate, Stanley Coleman and the drunken painter, Titus Mavor.
In the second novel, War Damage, the story spreads outwards from London’s bohemian Fitzrovia to a Hampstead of postwar intellectuals, among them the femme fatale and literary hostess, Regine Drownes and her gay heartthrob sidekick, Charles Hallam, but also takes in the shadowy world of lingering fascists and the outposts of diehard communists.
In The Girl in Berlin, an MI5 plot takes McGovern as far afield as ruined postwar Germany, while the flight of the ‘missing diplomats’, Guy Burgess and Donald Mclean, galvanises the British press; and in She Died Young, (publication March 2016) Gerry Blackstone is firmly established as a top crime reporter, exploring a vibrant West Indian Paddington and the rougher parts of the East End, where he encounters boxing promoter Vince Mallory and his sinister wife Sonia as he seeks the truth behind the death of a beautiful Marilyn Monroe lookalike in a sleazy Kings Cross hotel.
In the fifth novel of the series, Lighten Our Darkness, Blackstone and McGovern investigate a mysterious bombing incident in a South London lodging house and encounter the glacial beauty, Ann Howard. At first sight a prim school mistress, she is destined to betray her own most cherished values in attempting to save the man she loves.