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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Plaque for James Hadley Chase


You just never know where your random blogging will lead you. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post on the subject of authors who had inspired me to write. I wrote about crime thriller writer, James Hadley Chase (1906-1985). He was a prolific writer, known as the Thriller King of Europe in his heyday. He wrote around 90 crime novels, with around half of them being made into films.

However, I wasn't aware of any of this when I first picked out one of his novels from the library shelves when I was a young teenager – probably too young to be reading his style of books!

James Hadley Chase
As a child I would go to the local library with my mum, a big Agatha Christie fan. And while I did try reading her books, I have to admit they didn't really grab me. By chance I picked up a James Hadley Chase book - and I was hooked!

He wrote fast moving, page turning stories. Many of them set in gangland America. They're action packed with intriguing characters who have a knack of digging great big holes for themselves through their own greed or jealousy. I thought at the time that he was an American author, but I later learnt - when researching his background for the aforementioned blog, that he was an English author who created his authentic settings and dialogue by making use of American street maps and an American slang dictionary. 

As a teenager, I had no intentions of trying to become a writer, but when I caught the writing bug in my early 20s, I recalled JHC's writing style and did my best to write fast moving page turners with cliffhangers in all the right places - just as he did.  

So with that blog done I didn’t give it another thought, until April of this year when I got a phone call out of the blue from a man called Simon Cole. He explained that he lives in the house that James Hadley Chase was born in. The mention of the author’s name was like a blast from the past. And I listened with great interest as he explained how he and his late wife had been liaising with the Ealing authorities to be allowed to have a plaque erected on his house, marking Chase’s birthplace. After a five year stint of negotiations, permission had been granted. And Simon went looking for someone who JHC meant something to, to unveil it.

Simon Cole and I
I didn’t just want to get a local councillor to unveil the plaque,” Simon told me. “So I Googled 'writers inspired by James Hadley Chase' and up came a blog by Ann Evans.”

Simon then asked me if I would come down to London on 15th May to do the official unveiling of the Civic Plaque. Would I!!

Beforehand though, I thought I'd better re-read some of his books, and I was dreading it in case I no longer appreciated him so many years later. But I need not have worried. Within the first few lines I was hooked all over again. And every time I go to the library now, it's to try and find more of his novels.

Admittedly I was a little nervous when I had to deliver a short speech about the novelist to Simon's invited guests on the day, which included the Lady Mayor and a former mayor, the new MP for Ealing, members of the Ealing Civic Society, friends, neighbours and Simon’s family.

And when it came to the actual unveiling, I could only just reach the cover. Thank goodness for high heels! Then it was everyone back into the house for a garden party which I had no problem with! 

It was a fantastic day and something I was thrilled to be asked to do. And the most amazing thing is that the opportunity arose from simply writing a blog post.

In case you don't know very much about James Hadley Chase, here's a few details:

Crime thriller novelist, James Hadley Chase was born on 24th December 1906. His real name was Rene Lodge Brabazon Raymond and he wrote under a number of pseudonyms, namely: Raymond Marshall, R Raymond, James L Docherty and Ambrose Grant.

He left home at 18 and worked selling books and children's encyclopedias. Just before the 2nd world war he realised there was a demand for American gangster books and so at the age of 33 he tried his hand at writing one.

His first book was No Orchids for Miss Blanchett, which it's said he wrote over six weekends. It provoked considerable controversy because of his explicit depiction of sexuality and violence. Nevertheless - or maybe because of this, it became the best selling book of the decade. It was also turned into a successful stage play which ran for over 200 performances in London's Prince of Wales Theatre. In 1948 it was made into a British film, and then in 1971 the American film The Grissom Gang was based on it. Not bad for a debut novel!

Another of his novels – Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief which was a lurid account of the White Slave Trade, was actually banned by the British authorities and both he and his publisher were fined £100 for publishing an obscene novel.

Having a book banned certainly didn't lessen his popularity and he went on to write around 90 crime thriller novels, about half of which have been made into films. He earned the reputation of being regarded as the king of thriller writers in Europe.



How about you? Has a blog post led to something special happening in your life?

Thanks to Rob Tysall of Tysall's Photography (http://www.tysallsphotography.org.uk) for coming along to take the photos.

Please visit my wesite: http://www.annevansbooks.co.uk




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