Judith Cook

Anti-nuclear campaigner, journalist and crime novelist

Judith Cook was a prolific writer whose range extended from whodunitry to biography and encompassed journalism, sometimes of a campaigning nature, along the way

Judith Anne Cushing, writer: born Manchester 9 July 1933; married 1952 Douglas Cook (two sons, two daughters; marriage dissolved), 2004 Martin Green; died Newlyn, Cornwall 12 May 2004.

Judith Cook was a prolific writer whose range extended from whodunitry to biography and encompassed journalism, sometimes of a campaigning nature, along the way.

She produced some 30 books in all ranging from a series of crime novels to biographies of J.B. Priestley ( Priestley, 1997) and Daphne du Maurier ( Daphne, 1991) and investigative or campaigning works, including two on the mysterious death of the anti- nuclear campaigner Hilda Murrell ( Who Killed Hilda Murrell?, 1985, and Unlawful Killing, 1994).

There was a pocket-battleship aura about Cook that would have made you think she was a feisty campaigner and debunker of official attitudes and personalities even if you hadn't been told. Never noticeably concerned about appearance or turnout, she reminded one of the ever-awkward member of a staff classroom who was nearly always on the side of the pupils. She was still busily writing at the time of her death and her latest crime novel, Keeper's Gold, is to be published later this year.

The daughter of a mining engineer, Cook was born in Leicestershire in 1933 and educated at Stretford Girls' Grammar School. She was by nature one of life's battlers and after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 she used the Women's Pages of The Guardian to found an anti-nuclear organisation called "Voice of Women". Her first article in The Guardian, to which she was a regular contributor, elicited over 2,000 letters. During the Sixties she joined in protests in Moscow and Washington, carrying her baby son, Nicholas, in her arms.

Shortly afterwards she and her first husband moved from Essex to Ding Dong Cottage, near Penzance, Cornwall. From here she continued to campaign and write. Her husband, Douglas, formerly a teacher and musician, turned to toy manufacturing and formed a company called Ding Dong Toys. The couple met when Judith was working as secretary to Sir John Barbirolli, conductor of Liverpool's Hallé Orchestra.

By the early Seventies the Cooks were separated and Judith left Cornwall to pursue full-time journalism. After freelancing, she was features editor of the Birmingham Post and then worked for Anglia TV before having to give the job up after being injured in a car crash.

In 1979, she and her future husband moved back to Newlyn in Cornwall, where she took an active part in local life as well as pursuing her literary career. After books her second great passion was theatre. She adapted Trollope's Barchester Chronicles for the stage and was, during the 1990s, Artist in Residence at Plymouth's Theatre Royal as well as lecturing in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama at Exeter University.

Tim Heald

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