Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Lost Chronicler - Leslie Barringer

The literary idler's life has its frustrations as well as its pleasures. One of my frustrations has been the life and work of Leslie Barringer (1895-1968). He was the author of three juvenile historical novels: but also, more to the point, a fine, loosely-linked trilogy of adult historical romances, set in Neustria, an imagined medieval kingdom of Northern France. These consist of Gerfalcon (1927); Joris of the Rock (1928); and Shy Leopardess (1948). I recommend them: they are compelling reading, far removed from the "godwottery" school, often bleak as well as vivid, and with many elements of the strange and sinister. They typically tell the story of an heir's ascent through adversity to a sort of triumph, in which there is also tragedy. But they are not simplistic nor moralistic; events and characters are complex and unpredictable.

Leslie Barringer has had little attention. L. Sprague de Camp mentions him, I think; Robert Reginald wrote a fine essay on him ('Merovingian Dreams: The Neustrian Fantasies of Leslie Barringer', 1983); and there were paperback reprints of his trilogy in the USA in the Seventies.

Barringer came from near to that part of Yorkshire where I now live. He retired to, and died in, the spa town of Ilkley, with its famous moor: and when I lived in or near there, I tried to find out more about him. The library and local history society had nothing; and two appeals in local newspapers yielded only a single contact. A caller left a message to say Barringer was a distant relative; she believed there was an unpublished novel in manuscript; but she thought there was no real interest in him. No contact details were left, and I never heard anything further.

The internet, however, can sometimes spark new contacts or connexions. I hope so, for Leslie Barringer's books deserve better recognition.


  1. Hi Mark. I´m a Spanish editor and I´d be interested in translating Barringer´s books to Spanish and publishing them. Do you know who´s holding his books´ rights? I´m trying to find out with no result. Thanks in advance.

    Carlos Alonso
    ediciones Pàmies

  2. Mark, I bought the ereader versions of these books on a whim. I (literally) can't stop reading them! I finished all three books, and I'm now starting over. I'm saddened that Barringer did not produce more (or that the works are possibly lost). It seems that the historical novels, Kay the Left-Handed, Know Ye Not Agincourt?, and The Rose in Splendour: a Story of the Wars of Lancaster and York are out of print and unavailable. Any chance that someone will publish these, given the (it seems to me) rising interest in Barringer again?

  3. It reminds me of the torch I carry for Margaret St. Clair, who I still believe was the best short story writer of the 20th century. Good luck finding much by her today.