Lisa See

Having read Peony in Love i thought i would do a post about American writer and novelist Lisa See who was born in Paris, France, on February 18, 1955. Her mother, Carolyn See, was also a writer and novelist and Her paternal great-grandfather was Chinese which has had a great impact on her life and work. Lisa See graduated with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in 1979. Writing under the pen name Monica Highland, See, her mother Carolyn See, and John Espey,published two novels: Lotus Land (1983), 110 Shanghai Road (1986), and Greetings from Southern California (1988), a collection of early 20th Century postcards and commentary on the history they represent. She has a personal essay (“The Funeral Banquet”) included in the anthology Half and Half Between 1983 and 1996 See was West Coast correspondent for Publishers Weekly and has also written articles for Vogue, Self, and More. See has also written a libretto for the opera based on On Gold Mountain, and has helped develop the Family Discovery Gallery for the Autry Museum, which depicts 1930s Los Angeles from the perspective of her father as a seven-year-old boy. Her exhibition On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience was featured in the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, and the Smithsonian.

Her books include On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family (1995), a detailed account of See’s family history, and the novels Flower Net (1997), The Interior (1999), Dragon Bones (2003), Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Peony in Love (2007) and Shanghai Girls (2009), which made it to the 2010 New York Times bestseller list. Flower Net, The Interior, and Dragon Bones make up the Red Princess mystery series. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love focus on the lives of Chinese women in the 19th and 17th centuries respectively. Shanghai Girls (2009) chronicles the lives of two sisters who come to Los Angeles in arranged marriages and face, among other things, the pressures put on Chinese-Americans during the anti-Communist mania of the 1950s. The sequel Dreams of Joy, was published in 2011. China Dolls was published in 2014 and deals with Chinese American nightclub performers of the 1930s and 1940s. Her latest novel is The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (2017), is about the circumstances, and culture of the Akha people of Xishuangbanna, a little known region in China. Lisa See’s forthcoming novel, The Island of Sea Women, is published March 2019 and concerns female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Lisa See has won many awards and recognitions including the Organization of Chinese Americans Women’s 2001 award as National Woman of the Year and the 2003 History Makers Award. Shanghai Girls and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan also received honorable mentions from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. See also serves as a Los Angeles City Commissioner and is a public speaker. During the 2012 Golden Dragon Chinese New Year Parade in Los Angeles Chinatown, See served as the Grand Marshal.

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Len Deighton

British military historian, cookery writer, graphic artist, and novelist Len Deighton was born 18 February 1929 in Marylebone, London, in 1929. His father was a chauffeur and mechanic, and his mother was a part-time cook. At the time they lived in Gloucester Place Mews near Baker Street. His interest in spy stories may have been partially inspired by the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, which he witnessed as an 11-year-old boy. Wolkoff, a British subject of Russian descent, was a Nazi spy. She was detained on 20 May 1940 and subsequently convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for attempting to pass secret documents to the Nazis.

After leaving school, Deighton worked as a railway clerk before performing his National Service, which he spent as a photographer for the Royal Air Force’s Special Investigation Branch. After discharge from the RAF, he studied at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London in 1949, and in 1952 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1955. While he was at the RCA he became a “lifelong friend” of fellow designer Raymond Hawkey, who later designed covers for his early books. Deighton then worked as an airline steward with BOAC. Before he began his writing career he worked as an illustrator in New York and, in 1960, as an art director in a now defunct London advertising agency, Sharps Advertising. He is credited with creating the first British cover for Kerouac’s On the Road. He has since used his drawing skills to illustrate a number of his own military history books.

Following the success of his first novels, Deighton became The Observer’s cookery writer and produced illustrated cookbooks and wrote and drew a weekly strip cartoon-style illustrated cooking guide in London’s The Observer newspaper – Len Deighton’s Cookstrip. At least one of the strips is pinned up in Deighton’s spy hero’s kitchen in the 1965 film of his novel The IPCRESS File. In September 1967 he wrote an article in the Sunday Times Magazine about Operation Snowdrop – an SAS attack on Benghazi during World War II and The following year David Stirling was awarded substantial damages in libel from the article. He also wrote travel guides and became travel editor of Playboy, before becoming a film producer.

After producing a film adaption of his 1968 novel Only When I Larf, Deighton and photographer Brian Duffy bought the film rights to Joan Littlewood’s stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War! Deighton wrote the screenplay and was an uncredited producer of the film but he had his name removed from the credits, however, a move that he later described as “stupid and infantile”. That was his last involvement with the cinema. Deighton left England in 1969 and briefly resided in Blackrock, County Louth, in Ireland, only returning to England apart from personal visits and media appearances, his last one since 1985 being a 2006 interview that formed part of a “Len Deighton Night” on BBC Four.

Several of Deighton’s novels have been adapted for film and television, including The Ipcress File, SS-GB And Funeral In Berlin. His first four novels featured an anonymous anti-hero, named “Harry Palmer” in the films and portrayed by Michael Caine. The first trilogy of his Bernard Samson novel series was made into a twelve-part television series by Granada Television in 1988, and Quentin Tarantino has since expressed interest in filming the trilogy. Deighton also wrote a World War II historical novel Bomber about an RAF Bomber Command raid over Germany is and also reportedly began an unfinished Vietnam War novel, a portion of which appeared as the story First Base in his short story collection Declarations of War. He also wrote Len Deighton’s London Dossier (1967), a guide book to Swinging Sixties London with a “secret agent” theme – contributions from other writers are described as “surveillance reports” and his 1977 novel Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain was said by Albert Speer (once Hitler’s Minister of Armaments) to be “an excellent, most thorough examination”.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

One of the Great American Novels, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published 18 February in rhe United Stares and 10th December 1884 in London. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective) and is a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It features colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River and satirizes the Southern antebellum society. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism and has been studied by serious literary critics since its publication. It was criticized upon release because of its coarse language and became even more controversial in the 20th century because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes, despite strong arguments that the protagonist & tenor of the book, is anti-racist & explores notions of race and identity & highlights the hypocrisy required to condone slavery within an ostensibly moral system.

While some scholars suggest that Jim was a good-hearted, moral character, others have criticized the novel as racist.Huck struggles not only with the challenges of his strenuous journey, but also with the 19th century social climate and the role it forces on him regarding Jim. Throughout the story, Huck is in moral conflict with the received values of the society in which he lives, and while he is unable to consciously refute those values even in his thoughts, he makes a moral choice based on his own valuation of Jim’s friendship and human worth, a decision in direct opposition to the things he has been taught. Mark Twain in his lecture notes proposes that “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience”, and goes on to describe the novel as “…a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat”.To highlight the hypocrisy required to condone slavery within an ostensibly moral system, Twain has Huck’s father enslave him, isolate him, and beat him. When Huck escapes – which anyone would agree was the right thing to do – he then immediately encounters Jim “illegally” doing the same thing. Some scholars discuss Huck’s own character, and the novel as a whole, in context of its relation to African-American culture as a whole. John Alberti quotes Shelley Fisher Fishkin who writes in her 1990’s book Was Huck Black?: Mark Twain and African-American Voices, “by limiting their field of inquiry to the periphery,” white scholars “have missed the ways in which African-American voices shaped Twain’s creative imagination at its core.” It is suggested that the character of Huckleberry Finn illustrates the correlation, and even interrelatedness, between white and black culture in the United States.

The story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the shore of the Mississippi River, sometime between 1835 and 1845 (when the first steamboat sailed down the Mississippi). Two young boys, Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, have each come into a considerable sum of money as a result of their earlier adventures (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Huck has been placed under the guardianship of the Widow Douglas, who, together with her sister, Miss Watson, are attempting to civilize him. Huck appreciates their efforts, but finds civilized life confining. His spirits are raised somewhat when Tom Sawyer helps him to escape one night past Miss Watson’s slave Jim. However, his shiftless father “Pap”, sudden reappears who is an abusive parent and drunkard. Although Huck is successful in preventing him from acquiring his fortune, Pap forcibly gains custody of him and moves him to his backwoods cabin. Although Huck prefers this to his life with the widow, he resents his father’s drunken violence and his habit of keeping him locked inside the cabin so he escapes, elaborately fakes his own murder, and sets off down the Mississippi River.While living quite comfortably in the wilderness along the Mississippi, Huck encounters Miss Watson’s slave Jim on an island called Jackson’s Island. Huck learns that Jim has also run away & is trying to make his way to Cairo, Illinois, and then to Ohio. At first, Huck is conflicted over whether to tell someone about Jim’s running away, but as they travel together and talk in depth, Huck begins to know more about Jim’s past and his difficult life &, Huck begins to change his opinion about people, slavery, and life in general.

Huck and Jim take residence In a cavern on a hill on Jackson’s Island. When they can, they scrounge around the river looking for food, wood, and other items. One night, they find a raft they will eventually use to travel down the Mississippi. Later, they find an entire house floating down the river and enter it to grab what they can and also find a dead man, shot in the back while apparently trying to ransack the house. Huck find out the latest news in the area, and is worried by what he learns, so he returns quickly to the island where he tells Jim of the impending danger. The two immediately load up the raft and leave the islands. Huck and Jim become separated. Huck is given shelter by the Grangerfords, a prosperous local family & becomes friends with Buck Grangerford, a boy about his age, and gets involved in the Grangerfords blood feud against another family, the Shepherdsons which comes to a head when Buck’s sister, Sophia Grangerford, elopes with Harney Shepherdson. In the resulting conflict, all the Grangerford males from this branch of the family are shot and killed, and Huck narrowly avoids his own death in the gunfight,

After reuniting with Jim they Sail farther south on the Mississippi River, and rescue two cunning grifters, who join Huck and Jim on the raft. The younger of the two swindlers, a man of about thirty, introduces himself as a son of an English duke (the Duke of Bridgewater) and his father’s rightful successor. The older one, about seventy, then trumps the Duke’s claim by alleging that he is the Lost Dauphin, the son of Louis XVI and rightful King of France. He continually mispronounces the duke’s title as “Bilgewater” in conversation.The Duke and the King then join Jim and Huck on the raft, committing a series of confidence schemes on the way south. To allow for Jim’s presence, they print fake bills for an escaped slave; and later they paint him up entirely in blue and call him the “Sick Arab”. On one occasion they arrive in a town and advertise a three-night engagement of a play which they call “The Royal Nonesuch”. The play turns out to be only a couple of minutes of hysterical cavorting, not worth anywhere near the 50 cents the townsmen were charged to see it. ThenA drunk called Boggs arrives in town and threatens a southern gentleman by the name of Colonel Sherburn. so Sherburn kills him and almost gets lynched. By the third night of “The Royal Nonesuch”, the townspeople are getting fed up but the Duke and the King have already skipped town, and together with Huck and Jim, they continue down the river.

ln the next town they decide to impersonate two brothers of Peter Wilks, a recently deceased man of property, and manage to convince nearly all the townspeople that he is one of the brothers, a preacher just arrived from England, while the Duke pretends to be a deaf-mute to match accounts of the other brother. One man in town is certain that they are a fraud and confronts them. Afterwards, the Duke, suggests that they should cut and run. The King boldly states his intention to continue to liquidate Wilks’ estate.However Huck likes Wilks’ daughters, who treat him with kindness and courtesy, so he tries to thwart the grifters’ plans by stealing back the inheritance money. The arrival of two new men who seem to be the real brothers throws everything into confusion when none of their signatures match the one on record. The townspeople devise a test, which requires digging up the coffin to check. When the money is found in Wilks’ coffin, the Duke and the King are able to escape in the confusion. They manage to rejoin Huck and Jim on the raft & Huck resolves to free Jim, who is being held at the plantation of Silas and Sally Phelps. Huck intercepts Tom on the road and tells him everything, Tom joins Huck’s scheme & develops an elaborate plan to free Jim…

Star Wars VII -The Force Awakens

I have recently watched the exciting science-fiction film The Force Awakens again. It takes place Thirty years after the second Death Star’s destruction, and finds The Evil First Order led by the evil Supreme Leader Snoke and his henchman Kylo Ren who are currently scouring the galaxy for Luke Skywalker who is in hiding. Meanwhile the Resistance, backed by the Republic and led by Luke’s sister, General Leia Organa send, their best pilot, Poe Dameron to retrieve information concerning Luke’s location from a village on the planet Jakku, where he meets Lor San Tekka.

Unfortunately the First Order is not far behind and they are attacked by Stormtroopers led by Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren, who capture Poe and destroy the village. Luckily Poe’s droid, BB-8, escapes with the map, eventually finding its way to a junkyard settlement where it meets a scavenger named Rey who is living in abject poverty, trading junk in exchange for food.

Meanwhile Ren interrogates Poe to learn the whereabouts of BB-8. Elsewhere a horrified Stormtrooper called Finn (John Boyega) deserts the First Order, and rescues Poe and after managing to escape they arrive on Jakku. Poe goes missing presumed dead so “Finn” makes his way to the nearest settlement where he encounters Rey and BB-8. Sadly The First Order tracks Finn to the settlement and launches an airstrike, forcing Rey, Finn and BB-8 to steal a run-down ship and flee the planet, hoping to find the whereabouts of the Rebel Base.

They encounter Han Solo and Chewbacca, and learn that the run down ship is the Millennium Falcon. Han then explain that Luke Skywalker tried to train a new generation of Jedi but disappeared after an apprentice turned to the Dark Side and became Kylo Ren, destroying all that Luke had built. Kylo Ren then became part of The evil First Order led by Supreme Commander Snoke from Star Killer Base, a planet which has been converted into a superweapon and is capable of destroying whole star systems.

Elsewhere the Falcon crew meet Maz Kanata, who can help them reach the Resistance, but Finn decides he’d rather keep running. Meanwhile Rey discovers Luke Skywalker’s first lightsaber which Finn takes for safekeeping. Unfortunately they are located by The First Order who attack. Luckily a squadron of Resistance X-Wing fighters also arrive led by Poe Dameron. Rey, however, is captured by Kylo Ren and taken to Starkiller Base where she is interrogated By Kylo Ren.

Elsewhere Han, Chewbacca, and Finn arrive at the Resistance base. Unfortunately they are once again located by Starkiller Base and Han, Chewbacca, Poe, Finn and Rey face a desperate race against time to destroy the superweapon before it destroys them. They then set off to try and find Luke.

Director JJ Abrams has also recently revealed that filming on the latest installment in the trilogy Star Wars IX has recently finished and a title announcement is imminent. The latest Star Wars film is set one year after the events of the previous film The Last Jedi. The film stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and features unused footage of Carrie Fisher, who played Leia Organa, but tragically died in 2016. Fisher’s Daughter Billie Lourd is portraying another Resistance member in the film and Billy Dee Williams is also rumoured to be returning as Lando Calrissian. Richard E.Grant, Dominic Monaghan and Matt Smith have also been cast. John Williams, who composed the music for the previous films, will compose and conduct the score for Episode IX which is due for release in December 2019.

Ruth Rendell CBE

Prolific English Author Ruth Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, was Born Ruth Barbara Grasemann on 17 February 1930, in South Woodford, London. She was educated at the County High School for Girls in Loughton, Essex. After high school she became a feature writer for her local paper, the Chigwell Times. Even at an early age, making up stories was irresistible to Rendell. As a reporter, she visited a house that was rumoured to be haunted and invented the ghost of an old woman. The owners threatened to sue the newspaper for devaluing their home. Later, she reported on the local tennis club’s annual dinner without attending, so missing the untimely death of the after-dinner speaker in mid-speech. She resigned before she could be fired.

Rendell met her husband, Don Rendell when she was working as a newswriter. They married when she was 20, and had a son, Simon, now a psychiatric social worker who lives in Colorado. The couple divorced in 1975, but remarried two years later. Rendell is known best for writing gripping Psychological Murder Mysteries and her best Known creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, is the hero of many popular police stories. Rendell started her career when she wrote two unpublished novels before finally striking lucky with the 1964 publication of From Doon With Death, which was the first mystery to feature her enduring and popular detective Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford, who is featured in From Doon with Death, a New Lease of Death, Murder being once done, Put on by Cunning, an Unkindness of Ravens, Road Rage, Adam & Eve & Pinch Me and The Monster in the Box. 

Rendell also writes crime-fiction that explores the psychological background of criminals and their victims, many of them mentally afflicted or otherwise socially isolated. In addition to these police procedurals starring Wexford, Rendell has written psychological crime novels exploring such themes as romantic obsession, misperceived communication, the impact of chance and coincidence, and the humanity of the criminals involved. Among such books are A Judgement In Stone, The Face of Trespass, Live Flesh, Talking to Strange Men, The Killing Doll, Going Wrong and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Many credit her and close friend P. D. James for upgrading the entire genre of whodunit, shaping it more into a whydunit. Rendell’s protagonists are often socially isolated, suffer from mental illness, and/or are otherwise disadvantaged; she explores the adverse impacts of their circumstances on these characters as well as on their victims.

Rendell has also written under her pseudonym Barbara Vine, (the name derives from her own middle name and her grandmother’s maiden name), with the publication of A Dark-Adapted Eye, King Solomon’s Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Asta’s Book (alternative US title, Anna’s Book), among others, these are similar to her psychological crime novels while further developing themes of human misunderstandings and the unintended consequences of family secrets and hidden crimes. The author is noted for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her cogent plots and characters. Rendell has also injected the social changes of the last 40 years into her work, bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence and the change in the status of women.

Throught her career Lady Rendell received many awards, including the Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers’ Association, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, The Arts Council National Book Awards, and The Sunday Times Literary Award. She is also a Patron of the charity Kids for Kids, helping children in rural areas of Darfur. She was made a CBE in 1996 and a life peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk, in 1997. She sat n the House of Lords for Labour. In 1998 Rendell was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party. Ruth Rendell Sadly passed away Saturday 2 May 2015 however her novels remain popular and A number of her works have also been adapted for film and television.

Iain M.Banks

Scottish author Iain Banks , was born 16 February 1954. He wrote mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks. his first successful novel was The Wasp Factory and following this Banks began to write on a full-time basis. His first science fiction book, Consider Phlebas, was released in 1987, marking the start of the popular The Culture series. His books have been adapted for theatre, radio and television. In 2008, The Times named Banks in their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″. In April 2013, Banks announced that he had inoperable cancer and was unlikely to live beyond a year and he tragically died on 9 June 2013.

Banks was born in Dunfermline, Fife, to a mother who was a professional ice skater and a father who was an officer in the Admiralty. An only child, Banks lived in North Queensferry until the age of nine, near the naval dockyards in Rosyth where his father was based. his family then moved to Gourock due to the requirements of his father’s work.After attending Gourock and Greenock High Schools, Banks studied English, philosophy and psychology at the University of Stirling (1972–1975). he wrote his second novel TTR during his first year at university.Following graduation Banks chose a succession of jobs that left him free to write in the evenings. These posts supported his writing throughout his twenties and allowed him to take long breaks between contracts, during which time he travelled through Europe, Scandinavia and North America. He was an expediter analyser for IBM, a technician (for British Steel) and a costing clerk for a Chancery Lane, London law firm during this period of his life.

Banks decided to become a writer at the age of 11 and completed his first novel The Hungarian Lift-Jet at 16. Following the publication and success of The Wasp Factory (1984), Banks began to write full-time. His editor at Macmillan, James Hale, advised him to write one book a year and Banks agreed to this schedule. Banks’s first science fiction book Consider Phlebas was released in 1987. The Crow Road (1992) was adapted as a BBC television series and Espedair Street (1987) was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Banks cited Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, M. John Harrison and Dan Simmons as literary influences. Banks published work under two names. His parents had intended to name him “Iain Menzies Banks”, but his father made a mistake when registering the birth and “Iain Banks” became the officially registered name. Despite this error, Banks continued to use his middle name and submitted The Wasp Factory for publication as “Iain M. Banks”. Banks’ editor enquired about the possibility of omitting the ‘M’ as it appeared “too fussy” and the potential existed for confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a romantic novelist in the Jeeves novels by P.G. Wodehouse; Banks agreed to the omission. Following three mainstream novels, Banks’s publishers agreed to publish his first science fiction (SF) novel Consider Phlebas. To create a distinction between the mainstream and SF novels, Banks suggested the return of the ‘M’ to his name and the author’s second title was consequently confirmed. By his death in June 2013 Banks had published 26 novels. His twenty-seventh novel The Quarry was published posthumously.

Banks was also the subject of The Strange Worlds of Iain Banks South Bank Show (1997), a television documentary that examined his mainstream writing, and was also an in-studio guest for the final episode of Marc Riley’s Rocket Science radio show, broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music. aradio adaptation of Banks’s The State of the Art was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2009; the adaptation was written by Paul Cornell and the production was directed/produced by Nadia Molinari. in 1998 Espedair Street was dramatised as a serial for Radio 4, presented by Paul Gambaccini in the style of a Radio 1 documentary. In 2011 Banks was featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Saturday Live. Banks reaffirmed his atheism during his Saturday Live appearance, whereby he explained that death is an important “part of the totality of life” and should be treated realistically, instead of feared.

Banks appeared on the BBC television programme Question Time, a show that features political discussion. In 2006 Banks captained a team of writers to victory in a special series ofBBC Two’s University Challenge. Banks also won a 2006 edition of BBC One’s Celebrity Mastermind; the author selected “Malt whisky and the distilleries of Scotland” as his specialist subject. His final interview with Kirsty Wark was broadcast as Iain Banks: Raw Spirit on BBC2 Scotland on Wednesday 12 June 2013. Banks was involved in the theatre production The Curse of Iain Banks that was written by Maxton Walker and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 1999. Banks wrote the music for some of the songs that were featured in the production and collaborated with the play’s soundtrack composer Gary Lloyd, who also composed the score for a musical production of the Banks novel The Bridge. lloyd explained his collaboration with Banks in a Guardian article prior to the opening of the The Curse of Iain Banks

P.G.Wodehouse KBE

English Novelist, humorist and lyricist, Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE sadly passed away on 14th February 1975. He was Born 15th October 1881. His work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years and his many writings continue to be widely read. Despite the political and social upheavals that occurred during his life, much of which was spent in France and the United States, Wodehouse’s novels are mainly set in pre- and post-World War I English upper-class society, reflecting his birth, education and youthful writing career. An acknowledged master of English prose, Wodehouse has been admired both by contemporaries such as Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Adams, J. K. Rowling, and John Le Carré.

P. G. Wodehouse is Best known today for the Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle novels and short stories. The Blandings Castle Saga was written between 1915 and 1975 and is set in the fictinal Blandings Castle which is the ancestral seat of Lord Emsworth (Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth), and is situated in the picturesque Vale of Blandings, Shropshire, England, two miles from the town of Market Blandings, home to at least nine pubs, most notably the Emsworth Arms. The tiny hamlet of Blandings Parva lies directly outside the castle gates and the town of Much Matchingham, home to Matchingham Hall, the residence of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, is also nearby.

The castle is a noble pile, of Early Tudor building (“its history is recorded in England’s history books and Viollet-le-Duc has written of its architecture”, according to Something Fresh). One of England’s largest stately homes, it dominates the surrounding country, standing on a knoll of rising ground at the southern end of the celebrated Vale of Blandings; the Severn gleams in the distance. From its noble battlements, the Wrekin can be seen.

The famous moss-carpeted Yew Alley (subject to the devious gravelling schemes of Angus McAllister) leads to a small wood with a rough gamekeeper’s cottage, which Psmith made use of, not to write poetry as he at first claimed, but to stash stolen jewellery. Another gamekeeper’s cottage, in the West Wood, makes a pleasant home for the Empress of Blandings for a spell. The rose garden is another famous beauty spot, ideal for courting lovers. There is a lake, where Lord Emsworth often takes a brisk swim in the mornings.

The house has numerous guest rooms, many of which haven’t been used since Queen Elizabeth roamed the country. Of those still in use, the Garden Room is the finest, usually given to the most prestigious guest; it has a balcony outside its French windows, which can be easily accessed via a handy drainpipe. The main library has a smaller library leading off it, and windows overlooking some flowerbeds; it is here that Lord Emsworth is often to be found on wet days, his nose deep in an improving tome of country lore, his favourite being Whiffle on The Care of the Pig.

Wodehouse was also a playwright and lyricist who was part author and writer of 15 plays and of 250 lyrics for some 30 musical comedies, many of them produced in collaboration with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. He worked with Cole Porter on the musical Anything Goes (1934), wrote the lyrics for the hit song “Bill” in Kern’s Show Boat (1927), wrote lyrics to Sigmund Romberg’s music for the Gershwin – Romberg musical Rosalie (1928) and collaborated with Rudolf Friml on a musical version of The Three Musketeers (1928). He is also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. P. G. Wodehouse continues to enjoy enormous popular success and his Jeeves an Wooster novels are still widely read. Jeeves and Wooster was also adapted for a television series starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and the musical comedies to which he contributed also remain popular to this day.