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February 2003


The death of Peter Tinniswood on 9th January 2003 at 66 has brought to an end a distinctive literary voice.

Tinniswood brought many memorable characters to radio and television and has left a legacy of quirky and entertaining novels ranging from cricketing stories in Tales from a Long Room and its sequel, More Tales from a Long Room to his off-beat fantasy novel Stirk of Stirk.

One of his best-remembered characters was Uncle Mort, an indomitable northerner who contracted cancer in the screenplay I Didn't Know You Cared.

Born in Liverpool, Tinniswood grew up in Sale, Greater Manchester, where he lived above the dry-cleaners run by his mother. As a young boy he would sit under the counter among the dirty laundry, listening to customers' conversations.

"It was like live radio," he said "it sharpened my ear for dialogue...I became a good mimic." He began his working life as a journalist, writing fiction in his spare time until it was able to provide him with a livelihood.

The Liverpudlian writer was diagnosed with oral cancer in 1995 and had undergone surgery to have his larynx removed. He continued to work throughout his illness. He said that writing about what was happening to him was the only way he could cope.

Among his new plays were Croak, Croak, Croak and The Last Obit. "I am writing better than I have in my life," he said shortly before his death.


Hugh Trevor-Roper, who died 26th January 2003 aged 89, became a life peer as Lord Dacre of Glanton in 1979 and was arguably the leading historian of his generation.

His career began not as an historian but as a classicist and he was a research fellow of Merton College, Oxford, when he wrote his first book, Archbishop Laud (1940). In WW2 he served in the Radio Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service and after the war travelled through Germany, tracking down and interrogating survivors of Hitler's court and reconstructing not only the circumstances of the Fuhrer's death but the power structure of his regime.

The classic that made his name was The Last Days Of Hitler (1947) but Trevor-Roper's interests could not be confined to a single period or country. In 1957, at the age of 43, he was appointed to the Regius professorship of modern history at Oxford, a position he held, in conjunction with a fellowship at Oriel, until 1980 when he moved to Cambridge as Master of Peterhouse.

His reviews and essays in the press, ranging widely in subject matter reached an audience well beyond the academic community. He also wrote Hitler's Table Talk (1953) and edited the books, Hitler's War Directives, 1939-45 (1964) and The Goebbels Diaries (1978). His work had a popular touch and he paved the way for the modern television historian, appearing on programmes regularly and also working as a journalist.

In 1985 he made the gravest of those errors of over-confidence to which he was occasionally prone when he examined the fake 60 volumes of the 'Hitler Diaries', supposedly the personal thoughts of the dead dictator, which were in fact the work of a German fraudster. Amid all his public controversies, he remained an essentially private, even a shy man. In retirement he lived at Didcot, a town convenient for both Oxford and London.


D. J. Enright, poet, critic and anthologist has died of cancer aged 82. The unsung hero of postwar British poetry, he was an outside bet - and reluctant candidate - as poet laureate in 1984.

He worked much of his life outside the UK, in Alexandria and in several South Asian universties, before returning to UK as co-editor of Encounter and was subsequently on the board of Chatto and Windus. A pupil of F. R. Leavis at Cambridge, whilst abroad he mixed with locals and was stubbornly independent, an object of mistrust to both British Embassies and foreign governments. His most notable endeavours included The Oxford Book Of Death (1983) and The Faber Book Of Fevers And Frets (1989).


The vintage children's book series 'Mr Men' are to be rejuventated - 15 years after the death of their creator Roger Hargreaves.

The books will be posthumously credited to Roger Hargreaves - although his son, Adam, has written and illustrated a set of new books featuring six new characters - Mr Cool, Mr Rude, Mr Good, Little Miss Bad, Little Miss Scary and Little Miss Whoops.

Adam took over the running of the multi-million pound Mr Men empire after his father died of a stroke at the age of 53. He provided the original inspiration for the books when he asked his father what a tickle looked like. From there, the little round figure, with impossibly long arms and an urge to tickle anyone within reach, was born.

More than 100 million Mr Men books have been sold since 1971, making Roger Hargreaves the second best-selling UK author after Harry Potter creator JK Rowling. When they were originally published, Mr Tickle cost 15p in 1971. Early first editions are still relatively inexpensive - and could make a fun collection.

Marvel Comics plans to break new ground in the comic book industry by introducing the first openly gay title character in a comic book. The character will appear in a revival of the 1950s title, "The Rawhide Kid". Marvel expects a February debut.

The Rawhide Kid has been a Marvel character since the 1950s both as a main and a secondary character. Although shy with girls, the original Rawhide Kid was not intended to be gay. The new version uses double entendres and euphemisms to reveal his homosexuality without saying anything explicitly.

In a bubble in the first edition of the series, Rawhide Kid comments about the Lone Ranger: "I think that mask and the powder blue outfit are fantastic. I can certainly see why the Indian follows him around."

Marvel is planning six stories over the next six months. After looking at the response to those issues they will decide whether to continue production and whether they would be interested in more series with gay title characters.

The Whitbread Book of the Year

The overall winner of the 'Whitbread Book of the Year' prize of £25,000, awarded in January 2003 for the best book of 2002, is Claire Tomalin for her biography of Samuel Pepys 'Pepys: The Unequalled Self'.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop led the judging panel which included authors Joanna Trollope, poet Wendy Cope and Sunday Times fiction editor Peter Kemp. The award was announced at the the Whitbread Brewery in central London on 28th January and was chosen from the winners of the five categories: Novel, First novel, Poetry, Biography and Children's book.

It was the way that Tomalin had "filled in the gaps" in Pepys' eventful and bawdy life that had really impressed the judges. His notoriously frank diaries, first published 150 years after his death, covered only nine years of his life.

The 27 years that precede the diary - of Pepys' family, childhood, education, professional advancement and marriage and the 34 years that follow it, when the death of his wife and public disgrace were followed by rehabilitation, distinguished years of naval administration, an active retirement after 1688 and a second long relationship, all had to be tracked without the diary.

Claire Tomalin has done a mighty labour of research amongst thousands of letters, Pepys' work-papers and trial documents, naval histories, Admiralty papers, contemporary diaries and memoirs and many histories and biographies and has brought to life London as it was before, during and after the great fire - its river life, the chaos of its streets in the civil war, Whitehall and Westminster where the young Pepys worked - all these leap from the page.

The five main category winners from which the winner was chosen were:

  • Novel: Michael Frayn, Spies
  • First novel: Norman Lebrecht, The Song of Names
  • Poetry: Paul Farley (above), The Ice Age
  • Biography: Claire Tomalin, Pepys: The Unequalled Self
  • Children's Book: Hilary McKay, Saffy's Angel

Publishers Michael Joseph are to cease publication of the much-loved and much collected Wainwright Guides to the Lake District.

These unique guides, written in Wainwright's own meticulous hand-writing and illustrated with cross-hatched drawings and ink-diagrams are in a class of their own. Wainwright's guides are not just route-maps for interesting fell wanderings but often take in the history and pre-history of the area - like taking a particularly entertaining and knowledgeable uncle along on the walk.

Alfred Wainwright was the son of a Blackburn stonemason. Born in 1907 he first visited the Lake District in 1930. The current publisher Michael Joseph, part of the Penguin group, says that it can no longer print the books because of declining sales.

First and early editions of the guides, originally published by the Westmorland Gazette, continue to hold their prices - often hundreds of pounds - showing that discerning collectors appreciate the value of their clarity, simplicity and elegance.

The copyright in Peter Pan is in dispute over the proposed US and possibly UK publication by a Canadain author.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London was granted the rights to the work in perpetuity by the playwright J. M. Barrie 74 years ago. Ms Emily Somma has written a children’s novel, After The Rain: A New Adventure For Peter Pan, which has been published in Canada. If she is successful in winning US publishing rights, the case could lead to a proliferation of new images and stories featuring Peter, Wendy, Tinkerbell, Hook and the rest of them. However the London Hospital is determined to protect its rights which provide an invaluable source of income.

The book was published in August 2002 by Daisy Books, a small press in Hamilton, Ontario. Immune from the British Act of Parliament that extended royalty rights to the hospital in perpetuity, Peter Pan falls within the public domain in Canada. The book has no distributor in the UK and might have remained unnoticed had not Somma sought publishing rights in Britain. Advised to clear her title with the hospital, she was immediately declined permission to publish.

The case has wider implications and may set a precedent in copyright law. The author is being advised by Professor Lawrence Lessig and scholars from Stanford University. This high-powered legal team argues that internet and copyright laws can stifle creative work and in the recent past Professor Lessig has taken on media giants such as Microsoft and Disney in an attempt to establish the point.

The adventures of twins Topsy and Tim have captivated children for generations. Now the books, written by Cambridgeshire author Jean Adamson and her late husband Gareth, are being relaunched in new editions.

At the time of first publication in 1960 most of the books aimed at children included magical characters such as Noddy, Andy Pandy or Thomas the Tank Engine. Jean felt that children created there own magic and decided to do something for the modern world with real-life children.

Since 1960 more than 130 Topsy and Tim titles have been published with sales of more than 21 million copies and the series has never been out of print in one form or another.

Next Month:
In March 2003 the featured article will be by Green Meadow Books

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