A CRIME writer who wrote the story of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece The Lady Vanishes is expected to unveil a QR code dot in his former home, 145 years after being born there.
Ethel Lina White was born in Abergavenny’s Frogmore Street, in what is now a barbershop, and has been compared to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers in her later years after joining the master director.
But while their fame has survived, it has been somewhat forgotten, something the Abergavenny History Society hopes to change with the installation of a HistoryPoints QR code telling his story nearly 80 years after his death.
A blue plaque already exists in his birthplace, now occupied by the Serendipity hairdressing salon.
Born in 1876 to builder William White and his wife Eliza, Ethel wrote from a young age, but only rose to fame in her sixties, when her story used for The Lady Vanishes helped launch the career of Hitchcock in Hollywood.
By then, and despite their humble beginnings, his family had made a fortune, thanks to his father who invented and patented Heigia Rock in 1881, a waterproof compound of bitumen and cement used to build the London Underground.
Her father then built Fairlea Grange in Belmont Road, where Ethel still lived in 1911 at the age of 35.
And Sheffield Hallam student Alex Csurko, who is starting a doctorate on Ethel, believes their newfound wealth has enabled him to indulge his passion for writing, writing “dozens of poems and short stories published in the press “by the mid-thirties. .
He also told BBC News that she grew up in Fairlea surrounded by literary images of Walter Scott’s novels in the living room and Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies in a bedroom.
After joining the Pensions Office during World War I and moving to London, her career began to take off, with her first mainstream novel being published in 1927 and a play performed in the West End, The Port of Yesterday, the following year.
Her first crime novel Put Out The Light was published in 1931, and she has written 13 more.
But it wasn’t until his ninth mystery detective, when Hitchcock chose his 1937 novel The Wheel Spins about a beautiful young woman on a train and her missing companion as the basis for The Lady Vanishes in 1938, that his fame exploded. .
Midnight House was also later filmed as The Unseen, while The Spiral Staircase was based on his novel Some Must Watch.
Alex added, “The amazing thing about Ethel is that, although she has been writing her whole life, she was only really recognized in her 60s.
“Maybe she had to move to London before she was introduced to the right people?”
Sadly, she didn’t have long to enjoy her time in the limelight, dying in 1944 at the age of 68 of cancer.
On top of that, she’s never been one to woo publicity, Alex said, “She just wasn’t ready to play the game of fame that made other writers stars.
“In an interview with critic Peter Cheyney, she said, ‘I was not born. I have never been educated and have no tastes or hobbies. It’s my story and I stick to it ”.
Penguin Books said in the 1950s that his books “won him universal recognition as a master of the macabre and a writer worthy of comparison with Edgar Allan Poe.”
She was “strongly of the opinion that thrillers should be well written and would write and rewrite her script until she was satisfied.”
Some of her books are still in print, although she is less well known than her literary rivals of the time, such as Christie and Sayers.
And Alex adds, “She took a style in her early days and added so many threads of classic literature to it – for example her first detective novel, Put Out The Light is a direct reference to Othello.”
Her career resembles that of another Monmouthshire mystery queen, whose life was cut short after writing five acclaimed novels.
Dorothy Bowers, who grew up and lived in Monmouth and attended Girls’ School, saw her fourth book – Fear for Miss Betony – featured by the Times Literary Supplement as the best detective novel of 1941.
But sadly, she died just four years after Ethel Lina White at the age of 46, and although she was the only one to be inducted into the Golden Age Mystery Writers Detection Club in 1948 shortly before his death, his work was also largely forgotten.
However, after being included in a National Newspaper List of Forgotten Writers You Should Read, his works were re-edited four years ago by Moonstone Press.
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