A Surprise in Store! By Ann Evans
You just never know where your random blogging is going to lead you. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post on the subject of authors who had inspired me to write. I wrote about crime thriller writer, James Hadley Chase (1906-1985). He was a prolific writer, known as the Thriller King of Europe in his hayday. He wrote around 90 crime novels, with half of them being made into films.
I wasn't aware of any of this however when I first picked up one of his novels as a young teenager – probably too young to be reading his style of books!
I was probably around 13 or 14, maybe even younger, when my local librarian decided I was old enough to venture out of the children’s section of the library into the big grown up world of adult books.
As I’d always go to the library with my mum, who was a big Agatha Christie fan, I browsed the crime shelves just as she did. But I have to admit, Agatha Christie didn’t really grab me, but by chance I picked up a James Hadley Chase book, and I was hooked.
If you'e never read any of his books but you like fast moving stories with twists and turns, and characters that leap off the page, then I’d recommend you get hold of some of his books, and see what you've been missing.
Until I wrote that aforementioned blog, I thought James Hadley Chase was an American writer because the majority of his stories were set in gangland America. I loved his pacey style and I particularly liked the way his characters seemed to dig great big holes for themselves through their own greed or jealousy.
Eventually, I either read all of his books that my library held, or I just moved onto other authors, but the memory of his style stayed with me, and I'm sure inspired me to try and write that way too. So, blog done, I didn’t give it another thought. Until April of this year when I got a phone call out of the blue from a man called Simon Cole. He explained that he lives in the house that James Hadley Chase was born in.
The mention of the author’s name was like a blast from the past. And I listened with great interest as Simon explained how he and his late wife had been liaising with the Ealing authorities to be allowed to have a plaque erected on his house, marking Chase’s birthplace. After a five year stint of negotiations, permission had been granted. And Simon went looking for someone who had been inspired by the writer to unveil it.
“I didn’t just want to get a local councillor to unveil the plaque,” Simon told me. “So I Googled 'writers inspired by James Hadley Chase' and up came a blog by Ann Evans.”
Simon then asked me if I would come down to London on 15th May to do the official unveiling of the Civic Plaque. I was over the moon!
However, I thought I'd better re-read some of his books, in case I no longer appreciated him after so many years. But I needn’t have worried. Within the first few lines I was hooked again.
|Simon Cole with me in full flow!|
I had to say a few words to the invited guests and there was quite a few people present, including the Lady Mayor and the new MP for Ealing, members of the Ealing Civic Society, friends, neighbours and Simon’s family.
When it came to the actual unveiling, I almost couldn't reach! But there was a round of applause when I managed it. Thank goodness for high heels!
It was a fantastic day and something I was thrilled to be asked to do. And I’m still amazed that it all came from a blog.
After the speeches and unveiling, it was back into Simon's home for a garden party with a few glasses of wine, some lovely food and a chance to socialise.
As a background to James Hadly Chase here's some information on him - this is a potted version of my little talk.
Crime thriller novelist, James Hadley Chase was born on 24th December 1906 – an easy date for me to remember as 1906 was the year my mother was born and 24th December is my birthday.
Not so easy to remember is James Hadley Chase's real name, which was Rene Lodge Brabazon Raymond. He wrote under a number of pseudonyms, namely: Raymond Marshall, R Raymond, James L Docherty and Ambrose Grant.
He left home at 18 and worked selling books and children's encyclopedias. Just before the 2nd world war he realised there was a demand for American gangster books and so at the age of 33 he tried his hand at writing one.
His first book was No Orchids for Miss Blanchett, which it's said he wrote over six weekends. It provoked considerable controversy because of his explicit depiction of sexuality and violence.
However, it became the best selling book of the decade. It was also turned into a successful stage play which ran for over 200 performances in London's Prince of Wales Theatre.
In 1948 it was made into a British film, and then in 1971 the American film The Grissom Gang was based on it. Not bad for a debut novel!
Another of his novels – Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief which was a lurid account of the White Slave Trade, was actually banned by the British authorities and both he and his publisher were fined £100 for publishing an obscene novel.
|The garden party after the unveiling|
Having a book banned certainly didn't lessen his popularity and he went on to write around 90 crime thriller novels, about half of which have been made into films.
When I first discovered his books, I assumed he was an American writer because so many of his works are set in America,and whether he's writing about millionaire bankers in the big cities or the petty criminals of the back streets slums, he brought those scenes to life with his descriptions and detail.
It came as quite a surprise to discover that he's only been to the States twice, and wrote all those books by studying detailed maps and consulting an American slang dictionary.
|Me multi-tasking - talking, drinking & eating!|
But however he worked to create those fast moving, page turning books, he did it extremely well, and deservedly earned the reputation of being regarded as the king of thriller writers in Europe.
It's funny when I think back to being a 14-year-old, reaching for James Hadley Chase books from the library shelves, and then half a century later (Yikes!!!) I end up unveiling a plaque to him. And all because of a blog.
How about you? Has a blog post led to something special happening in your life?
Thanks to Rob Tysall of Tysall's Photography for the photos.
Please visit my wesite: http://www.annevansbooks.co.uk