Monday, 5 June 2017

Kate Paul's Journal

I've mentioned Kate Clarke's writing about real life crime several times on this blog. Her career as a true crime specialist got off to a cracking start with the much-admired Murder at the Priory, co-written with Bernard Taylor, and since then she's produced a range of interesting books, as well as contributing an essay to Truly Criminal, last year's CWA anthology of work about real life cases, some of them notorious, some pretty obscure..

I've never met Kate in person, but she's a terrific correspondent. Some time ago, she sent me a copy of her Journal, published under her maiden name, Kate Paul. It took me far too long to get round to reading the Journal, but once I made a proper start on the story, I was hooked. It is, simply enough, a diary of a young woman's life experiences from the late 50s onwards, and it's fascinating on more than one level.

First, for the insight it gives into a young woman's mindset as she embarks on adult life, trying to work out her attitudes to the world in general, and more specifically the men she knows, art (which she studied at college), and teaching. Second, for the picture it gives of English society at the time, seen through the eyes of a young person shortly before the Beatles arrived on the scene, and the cultural changes we now associate with the Sixties really got going. And as a bonus there are mentions of some of the extraordinary people she got to know. Kate's circle in those days included David ("Dave") Hockney, Spencer ("Spence") Davies (later to have a big hit with "Keep on Running") and Julie Christie.

As a slice of social history, it really is hard to beat. If I were ever to write a story set in the early Sixties, I'd refer to the Journal for insight into how young people thought and behaved at the time. Kate was, as the photograph of her makes clear, most attractive, and yet it's clear that she also felt, at times, insecure and melancholic. In some ways, one would have thought the world was at her feet, and yet clearly it often didn't seem like that to her.

The Mass Observation archive at Sussex University has a good many of Kate's early papers, many of which relate to the period covered by the journal. For researchers into the period, I suspect this is treasure trove. And I hope that in the fullness of time, Kate's researches into criminal cases will also be properly archived. Her work on two principal subjects, British society during her lifetime, and criminal behaviour, is quite invaluable.

(Incidentally, my thanks to those who have pointed out the glitches on my website and blog over the past week or so. I thought the Russians or Chinese were hacking away, but it turns out the explanation is a more prosaic I.T. problem. So if you've seen and been perplexed by an early draft of this post previously, my apologies.)

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