NB Typepad had an unusual bout of fulminating apoplexy yesterday and many posts plus comments disappeared into the ether.This was one of them so I have re-published but sadly minus the comments which seem to have been lost for all eternity though I am following typepad's phD level instructions for retrieval, it may take some time!
Poor and very un-cricket like Way With Words scheduling placed first time novelist Helen Slavin, the victor ludorum in Susan Hill's annual first novel competition, up against a sell-out deceased but very local author, Mary Wesley, in the form of Wild Mary: The Life of Mary Wesley by Patrick Marnham in The Great Hall followed by a free slap up celebratory lunch in the garden to celebrate her life. One of the major events of the Festival.
Hearsay only, but I gather there were a few sparks in there from someone named in the book without her permission who chose this very public moment to say so and from Xinran, Mary's daughter-in-law who said the woman he portrayed bore no resemblance to the one she knew. All, as I say, third hand information gleaned over breakfast the following day so I couldn't possibly comment.
Back to the far more important event.
Susan Hill, sadly laid low by flu, was unable to attend with Helen, so a stalwart bunch of us herded into The Duke's Room and tried to make ourselves look and sound like a multitude.Helen rapidly overcame that execution-is-nigh look and read the opening few pages of her novel The Extra Large Medium and I was quickly reminded what had attracted me into this lovely novel.Then it was time to field some fairly intense questions on marketing and promotion from a very persistent chap in the front row.
All conducted at full volume to satisfy the lady with the hearing aid who couldn't hear a word.
I got the feeling the room was peopled by thwarted, would-be writers with novels in their bags (except for me who doesn't have one in her) ready to whisk out and show Susan.
Helen conducted proceedings admirably and then moved outside for the signing under the gazebo, placing herself in front of a mountainous stack of A.C.Grayling's books, before signing her own.
We took ourselves off for a rescue lunch far from the madding crowd of the literati, had a Father Ted/Mrs Doyle moment about who was going to pay "let me get yours"..." no I insist".... "please, no my treat"...ended up by some quirk of the till paying for our own and spent a lovely hour chatting, before Helen headed off home looking pleased her ordeal was over and I headed off for an appointment with Carmen Calill.