Friday, September 27, 2013

Coming soon: Three novels by Gillian Freeman

We've been working to add more women writers to our 20th century list, and we're extremely pleased to be able to announce that we've signed three early novels by Gillian Freeman (b. 1929): The Liberty Man (1955), The Leather Boys (1961), and The Leader (1964).

Like many terrific novelists who got their start in the 1950s and 60s, Freeman was initially connected with Anthony Blond, who was first her literary agent and later her publisher.  Blond is best known, of course, for discovering and publishing Simon Raven, and the list of other young authors he helped discover -- which includes a number of Valancourt authors like David Benedictus, Jennifer Dawson, and Colin Spencer -- is formidable.

Freeman's books are consistently engaging reads and often dealt with controversial topics.  Her first book, The Liberty Man, deals with a taboo romance between a middle-class schoolteacher and a sailor of rather dubious sexuality, who happens to be the brother of one of her pupils (one memorable scene finds her accompanying him to a gay sailors' bar).  The book was one of the best-reviewed novels of 1955 and was reprinted in paperback through the 1970s but has been out of print for some time.  This is the first edition's cover:

Freeman is probably best known for The Leather Boys (1961), which was filmed by Sidney Furie in 1964, and which was reprinted in the 1980s as part of the Gay Men's Press Gay Modern Classics series.  Racy by 1961 standards, this short novel follows two working-class youths in a biker gang (hence the title, 'leather boys') who fall in love, with the relationship of course ending in tragedy.  The book was originally published under the pseudonym of 'Eliot George' (a play on yet another pseudonym, George Eliot), perhaps out of fear of controversy.  Acclaimed novelist Michael Arditti, whose new book The Breath of Night was just published in the UK by Arcadia Books to rave reviews, will provide an introduction.  The original cover, and some others:

The third of our reissues, The Leader (1964), concerns a loser, Vincent Pearman, about forty years old, still living with his mother (his only friend) and working at a dead-end job in a bank.  Pearman is bitter about his failed life and has managed to convince himself that the problems in his own life and in the country as a whole are attributable to racial and religious minorities.  A collector of Nazi memorabilia, Pearman comes into contact with other crazy right-wingers like himself and begins a political party, Britain First, whose platform is anti-immigrant, anti-Jew, and anti-black.  The novel charts his rise and fall in a book that resonates eerily today, with the rise of crazy far-right political extremists in the US and throughout the world. Historian and critic Alwyn Turner, whose excellent 'Trash Fiction' website contains reviews of several of Freeman's books (, will provide an introduction.

We hope to have these three novels out in early 2014.  A fun Gillian Freeman fact to close this post with: her 1978 novel Nazi Lady, published as though it were actually the memoirs of a well-connected woman of the Third Reich, is so convincing that a 2004 anthology of World War II diarists mistakenly presented excerpts of the book as fact:


  1. A suggestion: gothic thrillers from the 30s-50s by women writers, basically the Daphne DuMaurier school of writers, many of whom had their novels filmed during the heyday of film noir. Though marketed in the 60s as gothic romances with lurid paperback cover art, I understand that some of these novels are quite good and aren't mysteries in the conventional sense, more like harkenings back to Sheridan LeFanu and Wilkie Collins. I can't vouch for anyone in particular yet, other than DuMaurier, as I'm just digging into this genre myself, but some writers that seem to be coming up over and over again and look very promising are Ethel Lina White (author of Some Must Watch, a.k.a The Sprial Staircase, and famously filmed), Joseph Shearing (one of Marjorie Bowen's pen names and author of So Evil My Love and Blanche Fury, both filmed), Margaret Millar (quite well loved as a psychological noir author; no film adaptations that I know of), Marjorie Carleton (author of Cry Wolf, filmed with Errol Flynn and Barbara Stanwyck), and Anthony Gilbert (pen name of Lucy Malleson, author of The Woman in Red, which was filmed as My Name Is Julia Ross in the 40s and again in the 80s as Dead of Winter with Mary Steenburgen). These seem worth investigating, and with the exception of Some Must Watch and a couple of Millar's novels, none seem to be currently in print.

  2. Thanks, these are good ideas. We recently picked up a 1st ed. of Ethel Lina White's WAX (1935), which I think is about murder/horrors in a wax museum. There are some intriguing things to be found among those 60s Gothic paperbacks -- on eBay the other day, I came across one that was a novelization of a Patrick Hamilton play, and another trying to pass off Caroline Lamb's Glenarvon as something you'd actually want to read! Marjorie Carleton and Anthony Gilbert are names I don't recognize at all -- but will keep them in mind. Thank you!

  3. Wax looks really intriguing. Turns out White also wrote The Wheel Turns, which was the basis for the many film versions as The Lady Vanishes. Looks like Gilbert was actually more of a standard detective novelist, save The Woman in Red, which intrigues me because the movie versions were so good. But she doesn't really fit with the others save that one diversion. I'd love to read more R.C. Ashby as well! Thanks for the ongoing amazing reissues! I think I'll try the Birkin collection next.

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