Let­ters

The Guardian - - OBITUARIES -

David Evans writes: Gor­don Wil­liams (obit­u­ary, 24 Au­gust) wrote the two books that made his rep­u­ta­tion in the re­mote mid-Devon vil­lage of Hit­tisleigh, which had a pop­u­la­tion of 120. He went there from Lon­don with his wife, Claer­wen, and young fam­ily in 1966, on a £20-a-week con­tract with the pub­lisher Methuen to write nov­els.

With his in­sis­tence on a spare, un­sen­ti­men­tal re­al­ism based on the model of the Chicago writer Nelson Al­gren, and a larger-than-life need for con­vivial com­pany to talk through the night, Gor­don was an un­likely in­hab­i­tant of a sleepy vil­lage where the farm­ing prac­tices bore a closer re­sem­blance to Vic­to­rian times than to farm­ing as it is done to­day.

How­ever, it was liv­ing in this vil­lage, de­scribed as “ly­ing in the foothills of Dart­moor” by the lo­cal his­to­rian WG Hoskins, that gave Gor­don the mis­chievous idea for The Siege of Trencher’s Farm. This was the story of some­one com­ing off the moor in mid­win­ter to ter­rorise the lo­cals, which Sam Peck­in­pah trans­muted into Straw Dogs.

While liv­ing in Hit­tisleigh Gor­don also wrote From Scenes Like These, his bit­ter story of the life of an ap­pren­tice labourer on a farm out­side Glas­gow, which reached the Booker prize short­list in 1969. The two or more years he spent in ru­ral Devon turned out to be life-chang­ing.

Mag­gie Humm writes: The jazz singer Sandi Rus­sell (Other lives, 30 Au­gust) had a unique rap­port with au­di­ences with her in­ti­macy and emo­tional power. Lead­ing Bri­tish mu­si­cians loved her tech­nique: Sandi’s CD Sweet Thun­der fea­tures a re­mark­able scat singing duet with Ge­orgie Fame on the track Feet On the Ground.

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