Utopian publisher seeks humane thrillers…?

Gollancz

 

A thriller with humanity – a rare commodity nowadays perhaps, let alone a utopian publisher?  This charming letter from Victor Gollancz to Joan Aiken written 50 years ago shows the degree of warmth and encouragement she received from him in the early years of her career, and exemplifies the kind of devoted following she was to gather throughout her long writing life.

Her first thriller – The Silence of Herondale – had earned glowing reviews for the writer and publisher, and only a couple of months beforehand  Gollancz had written to her saying:

Gollancz 2

Of course she already had another one up her sleeve; in fact her imagination was so fertile that from then on, she went on to produce as many as three books a year in every possible genre.

This time, making gleeful use of her experience from a year or so earlier of working for an advertising agency in Mayfair, Joan Aiken had come up with a fantastic follow up – The Trouble with Product X – and I’m sincerely grateful to Mrs H V Aver of London for her five star review and this terrific synopsis – spoilers not a problem, there’s so much more!  ( Find it here )

  “This thriller starts, as many Joan Aiken books do, with a heartbroken and misused young woman trying to move on with her life. This is Martha Gilroy, who works at a London advertising agency, writing snappy copy to sell soup and dishwashers.

When a new client brings them an evocative new perfume, she unwisely suggests as a shooting location a remote Cornish castle where she spent her honeymoon with her husband before he had a nervous breakdown and left her. When the crew go down there and start working on the campaign- using Cara, the beautiful young Italian wife of the client as a model- problems start. The client doesn’t seem to be able to get the formula of the perfume quite right, the monks who live nearby oppose the filming, tins of soup explode with deadly force, a poisonous spider is mailed as a mysterious gift, a wealthy Sheik keeps dragging people out to the disco in the evenings, a baby is kidnapped, Martha’s friend Tom seems altogether too interested in Cara, the weather is dodgy, and who is the mysterious cowled monk who looks so familiar to Martha?

Thrilling sequences include a creepy night-time chase around the perfume factory surrounded by the scent of violets, a gruelling escape to the monastery across the Cornish moors, and of course the patented Aiken Big Dramatic Finish where the heroine battles it out with the eeevil bad guy.

This is one of her best and most fun novels.”

 *******

No surprise then that the modern incarnation of that same publisher is now happy to bring these novels out again as EBooks

Go to Orion’s Murder Room imprint – where you can now find Joan Aiken’s first six Romantic Gothics

Read more about the background to them here

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6 thoughts on “Utopian publisher seeks humane thrillers…?

    • Probably not! I think you personally set the standard for generosity in writing responses to struggling writers – published or otherwise – and I have to thank you for being my top correspondent and commentator in the last year!
      Thank you so much for the encouragement, it always gladdens my heart to see that beware unicorns emblem!

      • You’re too kind, Lizza, but I’m very grateful for your own generous words. I’ve been thinking of writing the occasional post about noteworthy blogs and wonder, would you be happy if I did an overview of joanaiken.wordpress? Nothing too fancy, not really a review, but drawing attention to Joan, her work and this fine blog.

  1. I’m so happy you posted my review here- as a lifelong Aiken fan, it’s always a joyful thing to keep people informed of her less available books. I’m only sorry that I now have her complete output on my shelves- the special thrill of finding a “new” novel and having it arrive in the mail has kept me going many, many times in the past. Especially as they tend to be ex-library hardbacks, which are such beautiful objects in themselves…..a lovely piece of literary history.

    • What a lovely message – I’m truly amazed! I’m going to have to subject you to the full Bibliography test – if there is a single book on this list that you haven’t been able to find, I shall feel honour bound to track it down for you myself! I too have had to supplement my collection from ‘world book searches’ to supply copies for publishers, or treasures for myself, and even found early copies sent by Joan’s proud mother over to her Aunts in Canada and had to pay quite a price for them too!
      I think I must have the complete output , however many that may be, I’ve never counted them all…but yes her contribution to literature has been quite wonderful.
      http://www.joanaiken.com/pages/bibliography.html

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