Friday, 24 October 2014

Memories of Hugh C. Rae

Sometimes we meet people fleetingly,who turn out to have a disproportionately significant influence on our lives. Hugh C. Rae, whom I first met more than 25 years ago, was someone in that category as far as I'm concerned, and I was sorry to read of his recent death at the age of 78.

My first encounter with Hugh came in the context of a writers' competition. There is a very good writers group in Southport, and I attended a number of their annual get-togethers in a seafront hotel in that pleasant resort. Each year, there was a competition that anyone could enter. When I heard that the competition involved writing the first chapter of a novel, I decided to submit the first chapter of the Liverpool-based detective story that I was writing at the time. In fact, I hadn't got much further than the first chapter at that stage.

My entry didn't win the prize, but Hugh made some helpful comments. He'd written thrillers himself, and said that he liked my writing. I found this very encouraging, and carried on with the book. That first chapter - much re-written, I have to say, since I took on board his advice - became the first chapter of All the Lonely People. In one of the essays that appear in the ebook version, I mention Hugh's influence on the story, and also the fact that, years later, it was a real pleasure to meet him again at a couple of CWA conferences in Scotland. He was a convivial chap, who cared passionately about writing.

He wrote under his own name and under various pseudonyms, but ironically he achieved his greatest commercial success with historical romances written as by Jessica Stirling. On meeting Hugh, a craggy Glaswegian, you would not imagine him as a writer of light popular romance, but the point was that he was a real professional, someone who could write in a range of different styles, and treat each genre he tackled on its merits. I shall continue to have fond memories of him, and the example he set, of treating a young and enthusiastic but rather unsophisticated writer with kindness and respect..


Anonymous said...

Another craggy writer who wrote very successfully as a woman was, of course, Peter O'Donnell, the creator and onlie begetter of Modesty Blaise.

He won awards as his other self Madeleine Brent (he was always amused that no-one got the connection, even though he used Modesty's initials when creating Madeleine,) and also the author biography gave it away too; for a lady to have been a WW2 signals officer in foreign lands would have been almost unheard of!

He won one award and had to send his publisher to collect it for him, as he could not possibly show up as himself! Apparently Madeleine was in South America researching her latest book at the time! And for many years, 15 I think, his American publisher was not let into the secret...she wrote him many letters to 'Dear Madeleine.'

How I iss him still!

Liz Gilbey

Martin Edwards said...

Hello, Liz. I'd forgotten about O'Donnell, so thanks for reminding me and sharing that pleasing story. I do, however, recall that you have written splendidly about him in CADS.

June Francis said...

Martin, we must have been at the same seminar in Southport because I heard Hugh Rae speak for the first time there and was impressed. I was later to meet him on several RNA occasions and remember in particular chatting to him on a roof garden in London while he was having a smoke. He was always willing to share his writing knowledge with younger writers and was kind to me, too. I will miss him as well.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi June - gosh, that seminar must have been quite a few years before we met. Glad you liked Hugh, and not in the least surprised. Thanks for commenting.