Throwing big parties is a very tiring business, so I think I’ll just reprint the Guardian article I wrote 10 days ago….yes, I know it’s journalistic recycling at it’s worst, but I am desperately trying to finish a draft of the new book before my editor goes into labour. Which, judging on the size of the baby last week, looks imminent. And she’s already told me she’s not going to use fifteen hours of labour as an excuse to catch up on her reading.
Some people are so unprofessional.
In any case, it was a wonderful party thanks to Scholastic, OUP and David Fickling, the indomitable Corinne Gotch, and all the glitterati who came out in the rain. I think even Kathy Peyton had a good time (she wasn’t expecting to — a woman after my own heart). There were too many illustrious publishers, journalists and writers in attendance to mention — let’s just say if a bomb had fallen on my kitchen, London would now be a cultural wasteland.
Herewith. (While you read, I hope you’ll excuse me. I’m going back to work):
Despite being American, I felt foreign in New York City in 1980. I had just moved back from London and my sentimental lifeline was a Sunday morning marathon of British TV. That’s where I encountered Flambards, with its perfect evocation of a lost world. I loved William and his flying machines, Mark and his horses, the crumbling country house and crumbling aristocracy, the beauty and violence of the hunt, that haunting moment just before the outbreak of the first world war.
Thence, to the wonderful Flambards books, and KM Peyton’s intelligent, clear-eyed prose. But it was 30 years later in England that a bookseller put me on to her other books – Fly-By-Night, The Team, the Pennington series … some pony books, some not, but all informed by the same wit, insight and sharp, discerning eye for horses, people and country life.
When we met, she was nothing like the doddery grande dame I expected. At 81, she had just given up hunting following the death of her beloved mare. “Effie would jump anything,” she told me, and it struck me that the same was true of her rider. With her husband, Mike, Kathleen sailed, climbed mountains and lived the life of a true adventure heroine. Many of the details I most loved in her books she swears are true – pony club competitors being dosed with whisky, the mother of a girl paralysed in a fall racing back from hospital to finish off her jump judge duties.
Peyton wrote her first novel aged nine; she has recently finished what she says is her last. Her fans are legion, but I believe it takes a writer to fully appreciate the magnitude of her achievement – 65 novels, a collection of major awards, a lifetime of dedication to writing. It is the consistency and clarity of her voice that I love, her witty, unsentimental and affectionate manner of describing the world. She has written many of the books I would like to have written myself, but I am consoled by the knowledge that I could not have done it half so well.
P.S. Though Kathy says she has written her last book, it hasn’t yet been published so fans have one more treat in store. And I *smug* have it on my computer.
P.P.S. More and better rundown of the party, here.