Friday, April 15, 2022

Mark Hansom Revealed

 An anonymous message (actually by researcher John Herrington) to an old post on Mark Hansom has finally revealed Hansom's identity - an obscure English writer named Ronald Muirden (1898-1981).  John discovered a newspaper article in the Kensington News and West London Gazette, dated 22 January 1954.  The article is about his daughter, a young pianist, and refers to Muirden as the author of about 50 novels under the pseudonym of Mark Hansom, though I suspect the journalist meant to say he has written 50 novels under different pseudonyms including Mark Hansom.  Here is the article in full:


Kensington Spotlight No 23 BARBARA MUIRDEN 

Next Sunday January 24th at 7.45 pm in the Recital Room of The Royal Festival Hall a young Kensington artist is giving her first major recital. The programme is an interesting and enterprising one including the Funeral March Sonata in B flat Minor by Chopin, three of the popular Songs without Words by Mendelssohn Liszt’s energetic Spanish Rhapsody and Hindemith’s Sonata No 2. The Recital opens with Bach’s Fifth French Suite in G.

Barbara Muirden began playing the piano at 7 years of age won a Scholarship to the Tobias Matthay Pianoforte School a year later. Her teacher there was that fine pianist-teacher .

In 1946 when Barbara was only 18 she added the letters LRAM and ARCM to her name. In the same year she also gained the Ada Lewis Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music where she studied .

She is now studying with Frederick Jackson who besides being a first-rate professor is also regarded most highly as the trainer and conductor of the London Philharmonic Choir. 

Barbara Muirden lives in the West Cromwell Road with her parents.  Her father Mr Ronald Muirden is a well-known Kensington personality who has spent most of his life in the publishing world. He has written about 50 novels under the pseudonym of Mark Hansom whose The Wizard of Berner’s Abbey was described by a critic as the "creepiest story since Dracula”.  This is not a reflection on the genial character of its author and his versatility and good-natured humour are shared by Barbara Muirden to whom this column wishes every success in her musical career.

The British Library catalogue shows three novels under his name published by Wright & Brown and a couple of books on stuttering.  A blog post here reveals some more information about him (that he wrote thrillers and westerns) and provides a photograph (though the photo looks a bit too recent to be Ronald, who died in 1981 aged 82):  

He also appears to have been the press officer for the Kensington Liberal Party in the 1950s and early '60s, when he resigned to pursue a career lecturing and giving classes on stuttering.  FreeBMD has entries for Ronald Muirden: born in December 1898 at Marylebone, married to Dorothy Worthy at Hackney in March 1927 and died at Exeter in September 1981.  The Fictionmags index includes a story under his own name, "The Two Victories", published in The Smart Set in April 1925.  Presumably he was one of the stable of prolific writers for W&B in the 1930s who wrote under different pseudonyms.  

Well done to John Herrington!


  1. While I can't personally confirm, it fits a rumor I heard. I tried to confirm with his son last year but has limited success.

    I did take a chance and purchase a Muirden book last year though. In jacket, signed. I'll post images on FB (somewhere) for those with an interest.

  2. Thanks Dwayne - it would be nice to see more info about him and his other books.

  3. I thought I knew Bach pretty well -- what is "Bach's Fifth"?

    Dale Nelson

  4. Just corrected that - Bach's Fifth French Suite in G, hopefully better known than Bach's Fifth.

  5. I take opportunity to quote one of my all-time favorite book passages. This is from James Gaines's Twilight in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, p. 12, a book about the sublimity of Bach's work and worldview over against that of the famous Enlightened ruler:

    "A work that may be read as a kind of last will and testament, Bach's Musical Offering leaves us, among other things, a compelling case for the following proposition: that a world without a sense of the transcendent and mysterious, a universe ultimately discoverable through reason alone, can only be a barren place; and that the music sounding forth from such a world might be very pretty, but it never can be beautiful. ...[Bach's] Musical Offering to Frederick represents as stark a rebuke of his beliefs and worldview as an absolute monarch has ever received." No wonder Machen relished Bach.

    Dale Nelson

  6. Not an expert, but the photo looks blurry enough to where it could have been taken in the 70s. I just looked up some colour photos from the 70s on mymodernmet and they look so clear they could easily have been made today.

  7. You might well be right about the photo. I contacted Torsten Hesse, the author of the blog where the photo appeared, and he said he got the image from a friend of his who translated one of Muirden's books on stuttering, so it certainly could be him. He also mentioned that a book by Alex K. Godden on Muirden's work on stuttering included the following lines on Muirden: "Like many other stammerers who are virtually disabled by the lack of employment opportunities, Ronald Muirden relied on writing for a living. He wrote many pot-boilers, but none gave him fame. He had an intense interest in literature and cultivated a rich taste in literary styles. His study of Latin to improve his command of English displayed a characteristic formal trait, and it also complemented his acute analytical skills..."