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I think that some members of this community are based outside the UK and therefore may not have access to BBC Radio Scotland programme The Book Cafe and its segment on Jane Duncan. I took notes while listening to the programme and I've typed them up. This is not a transcript so if anyone who has listened to the programme thinks I've misrepresented what was said, please say so in the comments.
There is an introductory trail/teaser early on in the programme where a voice starts reading an extract from ‘Miss Boyds’ and then the presenter starts talking over the reading, saying that there will be more about Jane Duncan later in the programme. The trail/teaser includes information about her popularity, that she is now obscure and that she had seven books accepted for publication simultaneously.

The segment about Jane Duncan starts about 31 mins 25 secs into the programme. It starts by repeating the information that she had seven books accepted at once and that they became instant bestsellers. The presenter, Janice Forsyth (JF), then introduces Viv Cripps (VC) of Millrace Books who are re-publishing the first published book, ‘My Friends the Miss Boyds’. The initial print run is 1400 books. JF says she was absolutely hooked by reading the ‘Miss Boyds’. VC said she was introduced to the books by her mother. It was then mentioned that Jane Duncan was a pseudonym, and that the family had a croft, although Jane Duncan’s father was a policeman, and that Jane Duncan did not grow up in the Black Isle, but that she did spend all her holidays there, and it became her ‘spiritual home’. JF mentioned that Jane Duncan studied English at Glasgow University and that she never married. VC said that because Jane Duncan’s partner, Sandy Clapperton (SC), was married to a Roman Catholic, there was no question of divorce. The subject of Jamaica was introduced. VC said that Jane Duncan was very open about not being married.

JF said that Jane Duncan’s own story was as compelling as the novels. VC mentioned the manuscripts hidden in the linen cupboard, and than Jane Duncan did not want other people to think she was over-ambitious in attempting to write, and that she didn’t want to face such criticism. VC said that the urge to publish came from the need to cover the medical expenses in Jamaica for SC’s illness. After the first manuscript was accepted, and the following three sent, reviewed and accepted, the final three were accepted unseen by Macmillan.

JF then said that the books must be ‘quite autobiographical’, referring to the age of Janet in the books matching the dates and age of the author.

They then broadcast the extract from ‘Miss Boyds’ which started with “At the end of June 1918 my school, which was the village school at our village of Achcraggan”, p12, in the Macmillan 1959 hardback edition.

JF said that she was a joy to read. VC said that she had a style completely her that was instantly recognisable and mentioned the use of capital letters. JF said that she was quite postmodern and referred to the row of asterisks that are referenced in the text of the ‘Miss Boyds’.

VC compared Jane Duncan’s writing with Rumer Godden.

JF said she would hate people to think that Jane Duncan was a twee writer and said she could see the ‘Miss Boyds’ as a film. VC said the ‘Miss Boyds’ was comedy followed by tragedy. JF said that the book doesn’t flinch from dark themes, and mentioned how World War I forms the background to the book, as does the coming economic depression. VC talked about the sense of loss at the passing of a particular way of life. JF said the books also dealt with sexual morality and mental illness, but dealt with them simply and effectively because of the pared back writing style.

VC then talked about Jane Duncan’s return to Britain, as a publishing sensation, gave rise to lots of publicity, including an appearance on Cliff Michelmore’s Tonight show. JF talked about fans making odyssey’s to the Black Isle. VC described how because Jane Duncan’s house was on the main road, tour buses would stop and announce that this was where she lived, and so Jane Duncan bought another property, down on the shore away from the road, and the cottage was left for her brother’s family to have their family holidays.

JF said that she was overwhelmed by the long list of novels. VC talked about the Jean quartet, and how they were darker and set in Glasgow, and very different to the My Friend series. JF said she thought the books had wide appeal and asked why VC thought she had disappeared. VC suggested that the next generation of readers did not want to read what their mothers read. VC mentioned how at the centenary events, one reader had brought copies of the 70s and 80s paperbacks and that the style was very Mills and Boon on the the covers. VC said that Millrace would love to republish more of the books. JF said that the new Millrace edition was anything but Mills and Boon, and then described the new edition.

That’s the total of my notes.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 07:59 am (UTC)
That's good to know. I knew video wasn't always available in other countries but wasn't sure about audio.

I hope the notes still might be of use to people who either miss the programme or find it easier to read than listen.
Jul. 4th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you for making those notes..and sharing the weekend with us.

My mother certainly didn't read JD but took the books out for my grandmother who lived with us. No one I knew as an 'emerging reader' in the70s/80s read anything like JD-in fact I think many of my contemporaries not into 'classics' would have been reading Mills and Boon or what I regarded as a slightly more up market version of them.
How long is the life of a novel anyway once it is not being reprinted? I do remember seeing several rows of JDs in Foyles in the early 1980s- in plain covers outlined with the little fir trees.
Libraries chuck books out far more frequently ..many of my JD's are ex-library...

Jul. 5th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

My mother didn't read JD either. I found them for myself in the library in 1981. I think they were like the collection I have now where they were a mix of plain covers and illustrated ones. Several of mine are ex-library.

My local library has most of them but in the reference section or in the fiction reserve. There are also some sound recordings, too, on cassette.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Jane Duncan
My Friends - the Jane Duncan LJ

Jane Duncan about herself and her writing (in Letters from Reachfar)

Question: "Why did you write seven novels before trying to get publication?"
Reply: “I did not think that any of them were fit for publication.”

"I think that a detailed description of any act of sex is doomed to failure from the start. A sexual act, to be meaningful to those engaged in it, must be private... In the act of attempting to describe it, the privacy is destroyed and with it the meaning, so why give words and paper to the meaningless?"

“Some of the letters I received made me feel that George’s pronouncement that I was the biggest liar in the country was true, for people began to send messages of goodwill to some of my characters who did not exist except in fiction but the very words ‘fiction’ and ‘novels’ had gone out the window.”

“It will be obvious from the fact that my first novel was not published until I was forty-nine years old that I am a slow developer.”


‘My Friends’ Series (written for Adults):

My Friends the Miss Boyds
My Friend Muriel
My Friend Monica
My Friend Annie
My Friend Sandy
My Friend Martha’s Aunt
My Friend Madame Zora
My Friend Rose
My Friend Cousin Emmie
My Friends the Mrs Millers
My Friends from Cairnton
My Friend My Father
My Friends the MacLeans
My Friends the Hungry Generation
My Friend the Swallow
My Friend Sashie
My Friends the Misses Kindness
My Friends George and Tom

‘Jean’ series(writing as Janet Sandison for Adults)

Jean in the Morning
Jean at Noon
Jean in the Twilight
Jean Towards Another Day

‘Camerons’ series (written for children)

Camerons Ahoy!
Camerons at the Castle
Camerons Calling
Camerons on the Hills
Camerons on the Train

‘Janet Reachfar’ series(picture books for very young children)

Herself and Janet Reachfar
Janet Reachfar and the Kelpie
Janet Reachfar and Chickabird
Brave Janet Reachfar


Letter from Reachfar

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