Heroism behind romantic fiction

Romantic fiction in some people’s eyes (usually people who have never read one) is a lower form of literary life. But a 5-part series on BBC Radio 4 last week put the life of Mary Burchell, who worked as a writer from the 1930s into the 1980s in a new light.

Burchell was the pen-name of Ida Cook and in ‘The Righteous Sisters’, Jane Purcell told the story of how Ida and sister Louise not only campaigned for Jewish refugees but travelled around Europe as opera buffs to help smuggle money and goods and help people escape from the clutches of the Nazis in the years running up to World War II. The fees from Ida’s writing paid for their exploits.

In the 1950s, Mary Burchell’s stories appeared in Woman’s Illustrated and then Woman’s Day when the former closed. She wrote 125 novels for Mills & Boon into the 1980s. In an unusual move for the time, the magazine stories were illustrated by photographs, rather than illustration. It was always the same photographer – Follett. Anybody know who Follett was?

The Fantastic Fiction website lists her works and has a photograph. You can still hear the 5-part series on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer.

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