Papers of Harold Blundell (George Bellairs)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists mainly of manuscript drafts of several of Harold Blundell's detective stories in both handwritten and typed form. These are all undated, but relate to works published between the years 1966 and 1980, and include a script for the radio comedy The legacy, which was broadcast in 1951. The archive also contains material relating to his business affairs while a writer, including three files of agreements made with British and European publishing houses dated 1941-1974 as well as seven files of correspondence dated 1945-1978, which detail his relationship with many of his associates while he was a writer, including the publishing house, John Gifford Ltd, his literary agent in Paris, Jacques David, and the bookseller, W.G. Foyle Ltd of Charing Cross Road, London. A file of general correspondence includes more personal material amongst the business correspondence, such as letters from fans of his books as well as from friends congratulating him on his growing literary success. The collection also includes undated notebooks, files and other papers detailing extensive series of notes he made for both the many public lectures he made as well as for general literary research. Many of these relate to aspects of the Isle of Man and its people, particularly Manx history, geography and popular culture and folklore traditions, significant as several of his later books were set on the island. There is also a series consisting of bound and loose of press cuttings dated 1929-1966, containing profiles of the author, reviews of his works, and articles he submitted as a freelance journalist to newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian, as well as a file containing biographical information on Harold Blundell and the collection, and a series of undated black and white photographs of both the author and other subject matter.

The original deposit also includes a complete collection of first editions of Harold Blundell's literary works, many of them autographed and annotated, with some containing enclosed correspondence and other material. There are also translations of the novels into French, German and Spanish. The collection totals 149 volumes, and a list of works is available on request.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harold Blundell (1902-1982), also known by the pseudonyms George Bellairs and Hilary Landon, was born in Heywood, Lancashire, and was educated at Heywood Grammar School, followed by the University of London, where he received a degree in economics in 1928. He married Gwladys (Gladys) Mabel Roberts, of the Isle of Man, in 1930, then went on to pursue a successful career in finance, becoming superintendent of the Manchester branches of Martins Bank (1949-1953), then Chief of the Manchester Office (1953-1962) prior to his retirement. He was also a noted philanthropist and was prominent in Manchester's public life as a member of the United Manchester Hospitals Board and Chairman of the Private Patients Home. He was granted an honorary masters degree by the University of Manchester in 1959 in recognition of his charitable as well as his literary work.

After retiring from business, Blundell moved to Colby on the Isle of Man with his wife, where they had many friends and family; he died there in April 1982 just before his eightieth birthday after a protracted illness. His surviving notebooks attest to a keen interest in the history, geography and folklore of the island. Blundell used his retirement to concentrate on a literary career. As early as 1941 he wrote his first mystery story during spare moments at his air raid warden's post, and ten years later he wrote a comedy for the radio entitled The legacy, which was broadcast on 12 December 1951. Throughout the 1950s he contributed a regular column to the Manchester Guardian under the pseudonym George Bellairs, and worked as a freelance writer for other newspapers both local and national. With regards to his literary output, he became most notable for creating the Hempstead-based fictional detective Thomas Littlejohn, subsequently writing a series of over forty crime stories. These included Strangers among the dead (1966), Tycoon's deathbed (1970) and A devious murder (1973), the majority of which were published in the United Kingdom by John Gifford Limited of Charing Cross Road, London. Although relatively unknown today, Blundell's lively stories enjoyed notable success throughout the 1950s to the late 1970s. His works are characterized by a lively pace interlaced with humour provided by a cast of eccentric and colourful supporting characters, and many of his works were published in other countries such as France, Spain, Germany and the United States during his lifetime.

Arrangement

The records were for the most part stored in files that reflect the nature of the material contained within, but the files themselves had not been arranged into coherent series. With the absence of any clear indication of the papers' original order, the collection has been divided into seven series. Harold Blundell's literary drafts form one obvious series based on record type, while the remainder relate to other material relating to his life as a writer such as publishers agreements, correspondence, research, press cuttings, biographical information and photographs.

With regard to the book collection, many of the volumes contained enclosed material such as letters addressed to the author. These have been removed from the books and catalogued in a separate series 'Papers from the Harold Blundell Book Collection' (BLU/9), arranged chronologically according to the year in which they were written. Each catalogue entry includes the new item number (e.g. BLU/8/1), as well as the old reference number of the book the material was removed from (e.g. R151227). In this manner manuscripts can be retained separately from published material, while maintaining the contextual link between the published work and the item(s) contained within.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The Library has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Acquisition Information

The archive was donated to The John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester, by Gwladys Blundell, and brought into the Deansgate building on her behalf by a Mrs Holt and her sister, probably in October 1983.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

All items within the collection remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

Correspondence in the Library's archives attests that the manuscript and book collection was given to The John Rylands University Library at some time in 1983, probably October (a letter acknowledging receipt was sent out on 25 October 1983). They were given by Mrs Gwladys Blundell of the Isle of Man, the widow of Harold Blundell, in memory of her husband, and they had presumably been in her custody since his death.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

Bristol University Library holds a letter from Harold Blundell to Sir Allen Lane, dated 1963, on the subject of Blundell's book Death in High Provence and other matters.

Bibliography

Reilly, John M., ed., Twentieth-century crime and mystery writers, 3rd edition (London: Macmillan, 1991), pp. 93-5;

Steinbrunner, Chris and Penzler, Otto, eds, Encyclopedia of mystery and detection (New York : McGraw-Hill, 1976), pp. 22-3;

Tuck, John P., 'Some Sources for the History of Popular Culture', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 71, no. 2 (1989), pp. 162-4.

Geographical Names