WHERE DID I GET THAT FROM? – My Childhood Reading bug…. by Rosemary Lord
Luckily for me, I come from a family that loves reading, loves books.
My dad always had his head in a book: mostly mysteries. Shelves were lined with well-
thumbed Agatha Christie novels, Lesley Charteris’ Simon Templar The Saint books. Dad read George Simenon’s whodunits about Inspector Maigret, in English and in French. From my mum and sister, Angela, came the gateway to a swathe of other adventures.
Johanna Spyri’s Heidi is one of my earliest recollections. Even today, when things get too much, I think back to the grassy Swiss mountainside where young Heidi lived with her grandfather, her best friend was Peter-the-Goatherd and her diet was toasted bread and cheese washed down with milk straight from the goats. Yum!
It was Enid Blyton’s books about The Famous Five – five young friends who get involved in school-holiday adventures – that got me interested in mysteries, long before I discovered the grown-up Agatha Christie titles.
My brother Ted says that, when he was old enough to join the local library, his Library Card was his proudest possession. “That first Saturday, I was allowed to take out The Secret Island (by Blyton). I dashed home and read it cover-to-cover. Later that afternoon I hurried back to the library to return it and take out another book. The Librarian told me I could only take out one book a day! I was devastated.”
I graduated to one of my sister’s favorite authors, Noel Streatfeild. Ballet Shoes was the first in the tales of three orphaned girls enrolled in a dance academy. Each girl’s dream takes them in different directions. My sister wanted to be a ballet dancer – I harbored secret dreams of being an actress, at that time.
While, on the other side of The Pond, American girls steeped themselves in the adventures of Nancy Drew, I had now discovered Pamela Brown’s book, The Swish of the Curtain. This was a series about seven stage-struck children who form an amateur theatre company. Brown was 16 years old when she finished this, her first novel. Her income from the book paid for her to attend R.A.D.A and become an actress.
It was Brown’s book, Maddy Alone, that took me in a different direction. When a film company arrives in the local town to shoot, Maddy is ‘discovered’ to play a big role in the movie. I then realized that it was movie-acting that I really wanted to pursue.
As a side-line, I loved the rebellious, naughty adventures of Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren, and followed her fashion sense: the freckles I had in spades and I liked pigtails and her red-and-white striped stockings.
As I grew older, I raided dad’s Agatha Christie collection, then onto his F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Chandler books. Ah! ‘America here I come,’ was my new song.
With a steady diet of Hollywood Movies on Sunday Matinee on ‘the telly,’ a direction began to emerge.
So I did start out as an actress in England on ‘the telly,’ on stage and in films – amidst 101 boring ‘temp’ jobs. I wrote articles for the English magazines to pay my way, never thinking for one minute that I would ever really be taken seriously as a writer.
I ended up in Hollywood working as an actress for years. At the same time I was writing articles about Old Hollywood, becoming more and more hooked on the history and the mysteries of Tinsel Town. Until I finally became a published author with Los Angeles Then and Now, followed by Hollywood Then and Now. The world of acting was a fading image in my rear-view mirror. Who needs acting!
With the lectures and conferences I attended, I was introduced to an amazing new world of writers. Many were mystery writers. We spoke the same language. They were immediately encouraging, supportive and generous with their knowledge. I began to write mysteries set in Old Hollywood. I finally felt at home.
Today, when I meet up with my family, we still talk books and writers – just as I do with my writer friends here in Los Angeles.
Lucky for me, the seed was planted early in our family. I think we learned to read almost before we were big enough to hold the books.
So, fellow bloggers and dear readers, what are your earliest memories of reading? The first books you read? Which books had the most influence on your growing up – on your life? I’d love to hear the American counterparts of my literary diet.
11 thoughts on “Where Did I Get That From? Childhood Reading from Across the Pond with Rosemary Lord”
What a fascinating post, Rosemary! Seeing the Maigret cover immediately took me down my own mystery classics memory lane. You are indeed such a multi-faceted and talented lady. Thank you so much for this post, I love knowing how writing and reading affected the lives of other authors, especially in the early parts of their lives…I could go on and one. When all I wanted to say here was how much I enjoyed your post.
Aren't you happy, Madeline, that you have a literary memory lane to wander down? Fun, isn't it? So glad you enjoyed this. I enjoyed writing it!
Your post brought back childhood memories, particularly when you mentioned my favorite book – Pippi Longstocking. In a homogenized world, she was unique. I loved her confidence, what we would today call self-esteem. It made me want to read her stories over again.
I can see influences from many of those books in your writing, Rosemary. We are not only influenced by our parents, but by the books we read. I see flashes of my father's humor in my own work. But I read so many different types of books growing up, both fiction and non-fiction, I don't see a pattern. But I do see one in the movies and TV shows I watched as a kid. Boy do they appear in my work. But we are what we read and watch. Great post. I enjoyed thinking back on how I turned out.
And what a colorful character Pippi Longstocking is for young girls to read about. Thanks Miko.
Thanks, Gayle. Although I never met your parents – I feel I have learned a lot about them from your writings. Doesn't it make you smile, looking back to see where we came from? And look where we are now!
We probably became writers because we began as readers, Rosie. I remembered being so eager to learn to read; it opened up a magical world for me.
This was a terrific post, and of course I share your love of reading. Tell your brother that my favorite uncle gave me a library card for my 7th birthday, and it was the best gift ever! I practically lived at the Burbank Library from then on. I remember “Heidi” and the food. I could almost taste that cheese. My favorite book as a child was “Black Beauty” and I still have my tattered copy, inscribed by my beloved grandmother. Thanks for bring back some wonderful memories.
Doesn't this just make you happy, thinking about all those great books we read, Bonnie? And that cheese… mmm…. And how fortunate we were to have these books handed down to us from our elders.
Bonnie, I have a book that had been my brother's but I lined out his name and wrote in mine. It is Pinocchio dated 1924. May have been my mother's. Childhood should always be full of such memories.
It made me think of all the books I read. I used to check out Black Beauty over and over until the librarian made me pick another book.
I wonder if today's kids are reading Black Beauty? Look at the positive reaction we are all having, remembering the books we grew up reading. Thanks Jacqui…