The write stuff is frequently just a matter of timing
LONDON: When it comes to literary success, timing is everything.
Before JK Rowling’s boy wizard there had been a virtual industry of magic schoolboy tales, but Harry Potter was the one that clicked.
Winifred Watson’s literary career was curtailed by three major events; the depression, the attack on Pearl Harbour and the Blitz.
Watson was born in 1906 in Newcastle upon Tyne, and wrote her first book, the Northumbrian historical drama Fell Top, in dull days stuck as a secretary in the Depression years. She stuck it away in a drawer until she spotted an advert from Methuen looking for new writers.
The novel was popular and became a radio play. The publishers asked her for more. The result was Odd Shoes, which benefited from proper research.
Her third book horrified Methuen. Instead of being serious, it was fun. The book was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, about a frumpy governess who is accidentally sent by her agency to work for a louche actress and nightclub singer running a complicated love life.
Watson said: “I didn’t know anyone like Miss Pettigrew. I just made it all up. I’ve never been to a nightclub.”
The book was an immediate hit, and a Hollywood musical was planned but the bombing of Pearl Harbour put paid to that. “I wish the Japanese had waited six months,” she said later.
A rather charming film version starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams finally appeared in 2008, six years after Watson’s death. – The Independent on Sunday