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Guy has often stated in interviews that his start in writing came early in part through the consistent encouragement of his mother, who had written three novels that had been published before the war.
She was published as Elizabeth M. Weale, though she went by Margaret, at least in later life. I met her on a number of occasions at Guy's house, where she lived from 1996 until her death in 1999.
In the local press of the early thirties, in which she featured heavily, she was almost always 'Miss Elizabeth M. Weale', a title occasionally prefaced by 'authoress' or followed by 'Tamworth's young novelist'.
Searching the British Newspaper Archive does mention her novels, but they're mentioned a lot less than the social events which she either attended or ran, whether in an official capacity or not. This was because she was the daughter of the Mayor of Tamworth, Mr. A. H. Weale. Accordingly, the Tamworth Herald reported on most often, but the Lichfield Mercury and the Derby Daily Telegraph also paid some attention.
Just from the free excerpts, it's easy to see that she organised a number of shows of her own, presented at meetings (for groups such as the Tamworth Women Unionists) and wrote and produced 'potpourris' for charity, whatever they might be. I presume they were variety shows of some description.
In a more official capacity, she organised fancy dress parties, judged events and awarded prizes. She gave sashes to beauty queens at the Tamworth Carnival, trophies to bowling clubs and even lent a gilded stage coach to the Hopwas May Festival, at which she also chose the May Queen. Often, she merely attended events to support her parents in their civic duties: whist drives, garden parties or at homes and even the inspection of ambulances.
I knew about those novels, of course, and bought two of them through Guy, which Margaret was kind enough to sign for me. All were published by the C. W. Daniel Company in London.
However, for some reason I'd never read these books. Perhaps it was because I'd always heard them described as 'historical' novels, not one of my genres of choice. However, researching them, I found that they seem to be regarded more as 'adventure' novels in the vein of H. Rider Haggard, adventures which merely happen to be set in historical times. I've been thoroughly enjoying Rider Haggard lately, so clearly I should add these two to my 'read soon' pile.
The other discovery that surprised me was how young Margaret was when she wrote these novels, given that the first two were published before she turned eighteen years of age and the third before she was twenty!
Here's a brief article about the publication of the first of them, Sword and Scythe, from the Tamworth Herald for Saturday, 15th March, 1930, with a transcription.
Here's another article from the Tamworth Herald, for Saturday, 28th March, 1931, that speaks to her second novel, Cups of Fate:
And, finally, here's another about the publication of Koroli, from the Tamworth Herald for Friday, 16th March, 1934:
Here are details of the three novels, where known:
Sword and Scythe
I don't have a copy of Sword and Scythe, there's no image online and the only copy currently available for sale doesn't have a dustjacket, so I don't know what this one looked like.
As the Tamworth Herald article highlights, however, it's a romance of the French Revolution that was published in March 1930.
It seems to have been well received, not only because C. W. Daniel promptly published two further novels by Elizabeth M. Weale, but from this selection of quotations from press reviews that was printed at the back of Cups of Fate:
Cups of Fate
Cups of Fate was published in early 1931, possibly also in March, and featured an earlier historical setting, that of ancient Assyria. I don't know if C. W. Daniel were ahead of the game in obtaining quotes from the press this time out of if I'm just benefitting from owning the cheap 1932 edition.
That may well stay the case, given that the signed first edition available for sale on Amazon is priced at £350!
Even though my copy of Cups of Fate is the 'cheap edition', it looks more substantial than my regular first edition copy of Koroli, published in 1934.
While the front flaps (the part of the dustjacket that folds inside the front of the book) are blank on both of these books, the entire back cover is blank for this one. Never mind a synopsis or quotations from the press, the front cover and spine were it!
In this instance, the synopsis was moved inside to the page after the title:
"Pythagoras compared human life to the crowd that gathered at the Olympic Games, where some came to gain wealth and win glory. Others came merely to watch the spectacle. The philosopher, he said, despised honour or gain and cared only for knowledge.
This is a story of three people—two girls and a man—all friends and all sharing the same religion. But, as in the crowd at the Olympic Games, one thirsting for honour and glory; one content to be an onlooker; and the other—a philosopher."
This time out, we appear to begin in eastern Europe but be swept adrift as the First World War engulfs the continent. The title refers to Count Coloman Koroli, who literally falls for a young lady named Elise de Sczaras, having collided with her while skating on the frozen moat in the Városlijet in Budapest. From a quick perusal, the third wheel appears to be her sister, Erzebet, but I'll need to read the book to figure that out.
I don't know how much else Elizabeth M. Weale wrote, but I do know of one short story, which Guy showed me during a trip to the Black Hill for research purposes in a bound edition of Snapdragon.
This was the annual of the Norwich Hospitals, released at Christmas as a charity fundraiser and the 1932 edition, which was the third, features a short story called The Mummy, which I'd really like to read.
At some point, Guy wrote an article called A Look at Snapdragon which was sparked by picking up this bound volume. I don't know if this was ever published.
Sadly, it doesn't talk about his mother's story much, concentrating instead on reproductions of watercolour paintings and an article that tasked various people with predicting what the city of Norwich would look like a hundred years hence. Spoiler: most of those predictions are plainly ridiculous but someone seems to have foreseen delivery by drone pretty well.
By the way, the title appears to tie to a sort of mascot character, as it's on on other covers too. Here are later covers for 1933, 1937 and 1938, which are stunningly similar:
The Secret of Roman Valley
There may well be other writing out there that carries the name of Elizabeth M. Weale, but it's hard to tell. If you thought that tracking down Guy's work was tough, try doing it for someone writing forty years earlier!
The only other piece I'm aware of by name is The Secret of Roman Valley, which was serialised in Guy's first book catalogue, Caerlaverock, in 21 parts from issue 20 to issue 40.
It doesn't say so in Caerlaverock, but, when I bought these issues from Guy (well, 20 of the 21, sassinfrassin), he noted that he'd written The Secret of Roman Valley in collaboration with his mother and that Caerlaverock was reprinting it from the Tettenhall Observer, which had originally published them in the 1950s.
The Tettenhall Observer and Advertiser, to provide its full name, was where Guy was first published as a twelve year old boy in the early fifties to the tune of at least 56 stories. In chapter four of Pipe Dreams: An Autobiography, he points out that this publication streak was largely due to his mother having taken on 'the task of writing and editing both the women's and children's pages of a Wolverhampton based, weekly newspaper'. No prizes for guessing which one!
This particular serial doesn't appear in the standard list of what he claims to have published there, but, the more time passes, the more I wonder if that list is just what Guy had to hand when he was selling off his older manuscripts and there was other work too that hasn't been detailed. Certainly he claimed that this serial was published there and it isn't in that list. What's to say he wasn't right this time and there are other lost stories from his youth as well, languishing in the archived pages of The Tettenhall Observer and Advertiser.
I think someone needs to spend some time at the Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies (blackcountryhistory.org) repository working through issues to build a proper bibliography of that period of Guy's work. I'm 5,154 miles away from Wolverhampton. Anyone closer?
Guy certainly wrote other work during this time period. I have a handwritten manuscript of a children's adventure novel that he wrote when he was presumably still in school and I've highlighted this in the Unpublished Books page. In the same chapter of Pipe Dreams mentioned above, he talks about his mother subscribing to his childhood publications, Smoke Pole and The Thrill, which he published weekly, her copies of which she gave back to him in later years. I haven't seen either of these but maybe a fan somewhere has them now.
If Elizabeth M. Weale wrote three novels in the early thirties (two before she turned eighteen), if she wrote at least one short story that we know of and if she wrote the women's and children's pages for the Tettenhall Observer for some years, then surely there's more writing out there than what I've covered here. Any confirmation of further work would be much appreciated!
Last update: 4th June, 2019