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New information added to Jennifer Morag Henderson's biography from Sandstone Press of Josephine Tey for the new edition marking the 125th anniversary of the Inverness crime writer's birth

By Margaret Chrystall

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A new edition of Jennifer Morag Henderson’s biography of Inverness crime writer Josephine Tey, is out this week to celebrate the 125th anniversary of her birth.

Jennifer has written a new introduction to the book from Sandstone Press which was first published in 2015 and it will update the lifestory with some new information.

Writer Jennifer Morag Henderson has written an updated introduction to her biography of Golden Age Inverness crime writer.
Writer Jennifer Morag Henderson has written an updated introduction to her biography of Golden Age Inverness crime writer.

Though best-known as crime book writer Josephine Tey, the writer’s real name was Elizabeth MacKintosh whose family had a greengrocer business in Inverness city centre. But before Elizabeth’s crime novels took off, she also wrote as Gordon Daviot and under that name wrote plays which were performed in the West End and on Broadway. She also wrote for Ho9llywood, all from her home in Inverness.

“I was really pleased with the reviews my book got when it came out and I’m also really pleased that people still keep coming to it, Jennifer said this week.

“I get messages about it still all the time. Josephine Tey is still very popular and people are still discovering her.

“They come to my book when they want to find out about her real life and that’s really nice.”

None of the new information changes much that Jennifer wrote originally, after extensive research, getting to know the family and having access to the papers relating to the writer.

“There have been little snippets of information, but there is nothing that has changed any of my conclusions – quite a lot has reinforced what I have written.

“But there was a really interesting thing when some members of her extended family got in touch with me and I discovered Josephine Tey wasn’t the first person in her family to have a biography written about her.

“One of her mother’s distant relatives had become quite a well-known minister and in the biography of this minister, it had gone back into his family tree and told some of the stories of Josephine Tey’s ancestors which I had in my book.

“It backed up what I’d said but from a different angle. So that was really interesting to read and good to meet those members of the family.

“Fortunately all the members of the family that I have met have felt that I’ve painted a picture of the woman they knew,” Jennifer said, explaining how important it had felt to her to get the story right.

“I do feel a responsibility to her, to tell what her truth was.”

Before the book was published, Jennifer had a hunch that as Josephine, Elizabeth MacKintosh had known another of the big names from what is called the Golden Age of crime fiction, Dorothy L Sayers who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey books.

“I couldn’t prove it, so I didn’t actually put it into the first edition of the book.

“Then I was reading a newspaper article about something else completely and a reference came up and I found out about another Dorothy L Sayers archive in America where there are letters.”

Jennifer investigated, though it was lockdown, and found a correspondence.

Tantalisingly, she can’t reveal what the two women were talking about until an article she has written with respected crime fiction writer, Martin Edwards, comes out on the online site Crimereads. The information is also included in her new introduction to the biography.

The new edition of the book about Josephine Tey's life.
The new edition of the book about Josephine Tey's life.

And there has also been an opportunity for Jennifer to help further increase the profile of Josephine Tey – an ongoing bid to have a ‘blue plaque’ recognising the writer in Inverness.

People had got in touch with me after an article highlighting the fact there was no blue plaque for her in which it had mentioned my book.

“They were saying ‘She doesn’t have a blue plaque, she should have’.

“I think we have made progress on it.

“The site that people were interested in was the new building on Castle Street, the building that they are taking down next to the kilt shop was the site of her family’s fruit shop. So the Inverness Heritage Trust – they have plaques around Inverness, one for Neil Gunn is on the High Street – have supported the idea. It will be something similar to that.”

Jennifer, who says she is “always writing”, was working on a project with writers in France, has been commissioned to write something for Inverness Castle, has poetry coming out and a new biography is well underway that she has been wanting to write for a long time.

“It's another biography about an interesting woman from the North of Scotland, but it’s from the very different time period of Mary Queen of Scots.

“It’s called Daughters Of The North and it’s coming out in March next year.

“It’s been a big project and loads of research over a long period of time.

“I’m just so happy that it is finally coming together!”

The 125th anniversary of Josephine Tey: A Life with a new introduction by Jennifer Morag Henderson is out now in paperback (£14.99) and as an ebook (Kindle £6.64) from Sandstone Press. Info: sandstonepress.com and about the author: jennifermoraghenderson.com

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