Tuesday, 9 March 2010
I was over at my Mum's at the weekend and noticed that she'd just finished reading a battered old novel with a blue binding. I picked it up and have subsequently been engrossed. It is Quorum by Phyllis Bentley, and it has made me realise that I should have done more about Bentley in True North. Here she is, in the pics above, holding the same pose some 30 years apart. She is mentioned in the book, but overshadowed by Lettice Cooper. Let me put that right now, online, and hope that I get a chance to add a bit more about her in future editions of the book. She has the same powers of accurate observation as Cooper, and a similar warmth and sympathy with the views of the different protagonists in Northern industrial dramas. Her best-known book is Inheritance and here's a picture of John Thaw and his leading lady in a 1967 BBC TV adaption which also starred Michael Goodliffe and James Bolam. This sort of 'regional novel' was upended by the much sharper, angrier and therefore more widely appealing books of the 1950s Northern literary renaissance - John Braine, Stan Barstow & Co. But, as I argue in the book, their talents distorted the rounded image of the North as portrayed by the likes of Cooper and Bentley, who to my mind are also much subtler than their more famous contemporary J.B.Priestley. I enjoy his work, but its Dickensian exuberance takes several steps away from real life at the time. We need contemporary Bentleys and Coopers to dispel the last tatters of Grimness Up Here. Helen Cross (My Summer of Love - Bloomsbury 2001) is one such. I'm keen to find and read others, and would be grateful for being pointed in their direction. If anyone knows the name of the actress in the picture with John Thaw, I'd be grateful too. It's either Madeleine Christie or Judy Wilson, I think.