Forgotten Author No 63: Rosalind Erskine
Sunday 06 February 2011
Sometimes I stumble across a strange old paperback, investigate the author and find something even more tantalising.
In 1962, Rosalind Erskine's novel The Passion Flower Hotel caused a sensation and became a bestseller. It tells the story of Bryant House, an exclusive private girls' school whose sixth-formers find themselves unable to meet boys or learn about sex. Over at Longcombe school for boys, the equivalent problem exists. The solution is still shocking: the girls set up a brothel in the school basement, with a menu of categories and prices.
At the time of the book's publication, it was virtually impossible for pupils in private schooling to mix sexes, unless you counted events such as the annual opera, when schools teamed up to provide the right gender balance. The St Trinian's films had already tackled the subject of schoolgirl sexuality, and Bryant House's Passion Flowers riotously smashed down the walls. The book spawned two inferior sequels, a terrible German-made film starring Nastassja Kinski, and a hit West End musical with a Bond-like score written by John Barry, who died last week.
The big selling point was that the author, 15-year-old Rosalind Erskine, was supposedly being educated at just such a school. Misinformation abounded about her – did she even exist? The answer is of course not. Rosalind was Roger Erskine Longrigg, the creative director of an advertising agency, who recognised that the time had come for a smartly written erotic comic novel. The book is a joyful and oddly innocent romp, but would probably have risked opprobrium had it been published under a male name.
Longrigg was a Scot from a military family who had also published two books about his experiences in the ad game, A High Pitched Buzz and Switchboard. Recently unearthed by Faber, they now feel like the British answer to Mad Men. He went on to write a further 55 novels under eight names, choosing a male or female persona appropriate to each. His prose is sparkling and epithetical, and his career stayed buoyant for decades. His wife was the novelist Jane Chichester.
Later, writing as Domini Taylor Longrigg, he produced the 1983 novel Mother Love, which was filmed for television with Diana Rigg and David McCullum. He also wrote about fox-hunting and horse racing, and proved pretty successful at any subject he turned to. But he'll be best remembered for the saucy Passion Flowers, even though the book is sadly now out of print.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Jamie’s Sugar Rush, TV review: Defeated by school dinners, Oliver takes on a new enemy
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees