Forgotten Author: No 61 - Virginia Andrews
Sunday 23 January 2011
Sometimes an author's work lives on, but here's an example of an actual author living on after her demise.
Or rather, not – because the real Virginia Andrews has been replaced by a ghostwriter called Andrew Neiderman, who has penned more than 40 subsequent volumes in her name. Andrews' books did so well that her estate found it necessary to keep her alive and continue earning money. The Inland Revenue even argued that her name was a valuable, and therefore taxable, asset.
Let's go back to the beginning. Cleo Virginia Andrews was an American novelist, born in 1923 in Virginia. She started out as an illustrator and portrait painter – a sedentary occupation chosen largely because she was crippled by arthritis stemming from problems compounded by an early fall. When she switched to writing at the age of 55, she first chose science fiction, then produced a novel called The Obsessed, which her publisher felt she should sex up and retitle. The revised version, a perverse fairytale marketed as a horror novel and now called Flowers in the Attic, appeared in 1979 and was a surprise bestseller.
It's an airless, claustrophobic work, telling the story of four blonde, blue-eyed siblings, Cathy, Cory, Carrie and Chris, who are imprisoned in an attic by their mother and grandmother in order to gain an inheritance. Kept there for years, mentally and physically abused by their relatives, two of the children eventually fall in love and form a new family unit before escaping.
The siblings wreak revenge on their captors in the first sequel, Petals on the Wind (1980), and subsequent sequels continue the style from new viewpoints. Throughout, gothic imagery is laced with all the trappings of Victorian melodrama. There are hidden identities, arsenic poisonings, outbreaks of religious hysteria, arson, incest and incarceration in a madhouse. It seems that the feverish hothouse atmosphere of life in the attic appealed to the temperament of teenaged girls, who clearly wanted to have their most macabre fears about sex confirmed, and bought the books in their millions.
Andrews' stand-alone 1982 novel My Sweet Audrina explores similar themes in outlandishly lurid prose. She began the Casteel series of novels, but soon such volumes were only "inspired" by her voluminous notes because, in 1986, Andrews died. Her own books are psychologically unsettling and compellingly awful, whereas the pseudonymous volumes which were designed to keep the brand alive are merely awful.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
EastEnders may bring transgender character to Albert Square to challenge 'traditional' viewers
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded