Literary Influences

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

This seems a rather pompous title! – but I’m not sure what else to call it. I was thinking about all the books I read when I was younger, and realising how much some of them had influenced me. Of course I read Georgette Heyer – but before that, I soaked up the Scarlet Pimpernel stories, and other popular historical writers of the earlier 20thc, like Rafael Sabatini and Jeffrey Farnol.

Because I was one of those children who would read ANYTHING. I used to go to church jumble sales, or charity shops, and buy any book that looked old. As long as it was hardback, I’d add it to the teetering pile I held in my arms, and hand over most of my pocket money in exchange.

Most of these books were far too old for me. Not in terms of the romance, or the characters, but because sometimes they were my first introduction to a historical period. And sometimes (I blush to admit) I didn’t realise they were historical novels. I genuinely thought ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ and all the other stories in that series were contemporary reportage, and was very confused when I found one (‘Pimpernel and Rosemary’) which was set in the 20th century.

Pink Carnation

At least I can feel I wasn’t the only person to be so influenced, since Lauren Willig has written a whole series inspired by Baroness Orczy, starting with ‘The Secret History of the Pink Carnation’, which are well worth reading. And once offered a t-shirt which declared ‘Brainless Fop’; I really want one of those!

So, what did you read when you were younger? If you truly loved it, I expect you read it more than once (guilty!). Perhaps you’ve even spent the last ten years in a fruitless search for another copy? I’d love to hear…



2 thoughts on “Literary Influences

  1. Marguerite Kaye

    I never read the Scarlet Pimpernel stories, but my mum was a huge fan, and she used to tell them to me. And now, funnily enough, I have a sort of Scarlet Pimpernel embroiled in the plot of my current story, and I’m cheating, not reading the books but (hangs head in shame) watching the slightly OTT BBC series, with Richard E Grant. When I was growing up I was the same as you, I would read anything and everything – including my mum’s Barbara Cartlands. Because there was no such thing as YA back in the day, I graduated straight from Sue Barton to Agatha Christie in my early teens, then Mary Stewart, and all of the Poldark books. I’ve been re-reading Mary Stewart recently and though they feel a wee bit dated, I’m relieved that they are still really great reads. Not so sure I’d want to re-read Sue Barton though…

    1. allisgordon Post author

      Oh, gosh, I loved Sue Barton! That was my first career choice – to be a nurse. Needless to say that isn’t what I became – I wonder how many people do achieve their first choice? But then, I’ve always wanted to write, so perhaps in a sense I have…


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