Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kathleen Lindsay

Not in the same literary league as Stefan Grabinski and Hope Mirrlees, but certainly deserving of a note somewhere is British-born author Kathleen Lindsay.  Born in Aldershot, Hampshire, in 1903, Lindsay held the record in the 1984 edition of the Guiness Book of Records for having the greatest number of novels published by an author – 904!  She wrote under at least eight pseudonyms – perhaps the best known is Hugh Desmond, under which name she wrote 79 crime novels, but also Mary Richmond (113 hits in the British Library catalogue, some doubtless reprints) Molly Waring (73 hits), Betty Manvers (59 hits), Elizabeth Fenton (8 hits), Mary Faulkner (the name by which she is known in the Guiness Book of Records), and Margaret Cameron.  She also wrote novels under the name Nigel Mackenzie (43 hits) including the enticing titles, Invasion From Space (1954), World Without End (1955), The Moon is Ours (1958), and The House of Horror (1959).  In an interview for an Australian newspaper in 1949 she said that she adapted family names for her pen names - "I just use family names and twist them around a bit" (The Argus, 15 February 1949). 

Most of her books are crime, romance or historical novels.  About 30 of the Hugh Desmond novels feature the series character Alan Fraser, a Scotland Yard detective.  Lindsay appears to have started her writing career with Herbert Jenkins in 1931 with It Happened at the Cape (the 1934 Author’s Who’s Who gives her address c/o Herbert Jenkins), but the vast majority of her novels, at least those published in Britain, were published by Wright and Brown.   Wright and Brown was one of the publishers whose stock was destroyed during the blitz, and Lindsay later wrote that “during the war I had 15,000 copies [of books] destroyed in one fire” (The Argus, 5 February 1949).  Over the course of her long career she also published with Hutchinson, Cassell, Robert Hale and others. 
Biographical details are slim, but the Australian writers’ database Austlit says was educated privately at the Convent of Sacré Coeur, Paris and the Sakkakini Convent, Cairo.  She is also said to have had three husbands, one of whom was Percy Edward Jeffryes, to whom she dedicated some of her books.  According to Jeffryes’ military service record in the National Archives of Australia, Jeffryes was born in London in 1893.  He signed up for military service in 1916 at Fremantle, Western Australia, and served in France.  There is a note in the record dated 1925 that his pension is payable to South Africa, and a 1957 letter concerning his pension to the effect that he is very much in need of financial support.  The South African link accords with Kathleen Lindsay because we know that she lived there for some years – the 1949 interview says that she “recently spent three years in South Africa getting material for novels,” and wrote several novels set there.  
In early 1949 she goes on an extended tour of Australia on the 15,900 ton Shaw Savill liner Gothic, visiting Perth, Western Australia, and Melbourne, Victoria, amongst other places.  She apparently travelled alone, and newspaper articles give her name as Miss Kathleen Lindsay, so she had either not yet married Jeffryes or had divorced him.  She gave interviews on the way and apparently did some useful business – her Hugh Desmond novel “A Cry in the Night”, set in Perth was serialised in the Perth newspaper the Western Mail from September 1949.  In the novel, former Scotland Yard detective Alan Fraser helps solve the murder of woman whose body is found in King’s Park.
The interviews and articles provide some useful information – that she is writing her 289th book (which makes you wonder if the 904 books mentioned in the Guiness Book of Records is accurate), that she writes 5,000 words a day, and that “until last year, her late father was her secretary and collaborator.”  An article also reveals that she would be returning to South Africa where she wants to set up as a publisher – perhaps this firm was the source of most of the further 600+ books she evidently wrote before she died in South Africa in 1973! 
A forgotten writer about whom a lot more research needs to be done, and it's certainly possible that she used other pseudonyms apart from the eight mentioned here.


  1. Her biography and astonishingly prolific career may be of interest to literary historians, but her actual writing is another thing altogether. As with many popular fiction writers who have a jaw-dropping output (John Creasey comes to mind) she repeated herself often and recycled her stories. In one case A PACT WITH THE DEVIL (Wright & Brown, 1952) by "Hugh Desmond" she may have even recycled someone else's writing. It was enough to turn me off anything else she has written. A PACT WITH THE DEVIL is a preposterous thriller that attempts to tell the story of a murder by proxy plot involving hypnotism and astral projection. One scene seemed to be completely lifted from Dennis Wheatley's THE DEVIL RIDES. My review is posted here.

  2. Thanks for the review, John - sounds like she reached new levels of direness, but intriguing nevertheless! Fancy plagiarising Dennis Wheatley...

  3. Actually there was, at least according to the ever-trustfull Wikipedia, at least one other writer accusing Lindsay of plagiarising her work, that being Georgette Heyer, and if the article is to the believed that accusation refferenced plagiarisms from 8 different novels by Heyer.

    I don't own "Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller", but it does't seem unlikely given her output.

    Incidentally this blog commenter also makes refference to accusations of plagiarising Alistair MacLean.