I'm full speed ahead annotating the new edition of Margery Allingham's The Oaken Heart ready for the 2011 Essex Book Festival. I'd urgentlylike to hear from any Tolleshunt D'Arcy resident with family memories of the village in the early years of WW2. Trawling the internet I've found a posting from a D'Arcy resident on the BBC People's War site. Well worth reading but is located in Kingston on Thames where the author was a child. More from Essex please.
Steve Holland's Bear Alley blogspot has just featured Margery Allingham. The entry itself probably tells an Allingham-ite little that s/he wouldn't already know but a trip to the website is a pleasure in itself and provides an entry into the world of Herbert Allingham (Margery's father) and 'Ralph Rollington' (her 'wild uncle John'). Additionally Bear Alley was an address for her grandfather James Allingham's printing works from 1874 to (approx) 1883. All good stuff and plenty of pictures.
Just the briefest of announcements - and I will write more - to say what fun it is to be embarking on another edition of The Oaken Heart. In 1987 it was the book that brought me to an appreciation of Margery Allingham the Essex village dweller, filling out the Margery Allingham wonderful novelist who I'd been reading in a collection of green Penguins. I met Joyce, got permission to republish (previous editions were in 1941 and 1959) and then bished the whole thing by deciding to re-type the book myself to save on setting costs.
I am NOT a good typist and had no in-house proof reader so, while I loved the text I felt that I had let it down. All was not loss - Joan Hickson read it on Woman's Hour and quite a number of copies were sold. But it's not an attractive book. Ironically I was trying to produce something in larger type that would be easier for older eyes. Good try - failed.
This time is going to be different. Working together with the Margery Allingham Society and Tolleshunt D'Arcy Primary School (via the 2011 Essex Book Festival). There'll be some illustrations, explanatory notes and my friend Heidi is busy typing out Margery's 1940 and 1941 diaries for inclusion in the new volume. I even hope we may get a Foreword from Ronald Blythe - Mr Akenfield himself!
I can't believe that I didn't write an entry after the Margery Allingham Society convention in Ipswich at the beginning of Septemeber. But I didn't and Mike Ripley did. Here's his account from the October edition of Shotsmag.
My personal debt to Mike comes from his recommendation of the Ostara list of Top Notch Thrillers. After the convention I brought Brian Callison's A Flock of Ships. Loved it! Callison was in the merchant navy from age 16 and that was in the days when we had a merchant navy. Ships still had an individuality - and so did their masters and men. Callison is good on the tensions within a ship's company and the wider tensions when merchant ships had to work with the Royal Navy in WW2 convoy system. A Flock of Ships recounts the bloody tragedy of a fictional convoy which appears to have been exploited and let down by the Senior Service. Yet perhaps the most moving - lump in the throat - moment in the book is the last view of an elderly RN chief petty officer methodically pulling the fuses from his own ship's depth charges in order to minimise the harm to the merchant ship which has sliced them in two and is steaming on without making any attempt to rescue survivors. The body count is high and the plot full of twists but the sheer knowledge of what may happen when two immense metal hulls are pushing the same masses of water towards one another is incomparable. I could go on - instead I recommend both Ostara's list and Callison's work. (I have another volume just arrived ...)