Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Literary Cliques

The Duckworth Gang

In a Redcliffe Square apartment, a party is in session. Two floors up, in this quintessential Sloane enclave, a large and richly furnished room vibrates gently with a profusion of celebrities. Look around and you will spot the media types, the fat jazz singer, the faded rock starlet, the professional gossip, the tough actress, the Irish horse breeder....
Over by the fire are the writers. There are four of them, all women, and they sit there together looking slightly gloomy, as though they have seen it all before. They are a distinctive quartet (although only one is a well-known face) for they sit in line abreast on chairs beside the hearth, their heads canted to catch each other's words, their corporate manner redolent of a Fifties-ish Pym-style gentility. They are the Duckworth Gang: Anna Haycraft, Beryl Bainbridge, Caroline Blackwood and Patrice Chaplin. And their intense, supportive fondness for each other is matched by their prize winning pre-eminence in the field of fiction.
The undoubted centre of this group is Anna Haycraft, better known as Alice Thomas Ellis, whose third novel, The 27th Kingdom, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She is a small and perfectly bell-shaped woman with sad eyes and a silken voice, graceful and maternal in manner but wary of interviews.........

This is the beginning of a fascinating article written by John Walsh, and published in the February, 1983 issue of Books and Bookmen.