Miss Dickens drew on the characters of her great grandmother and grandparents while working in the 1907 murder of William Whiteley, founder of the well-known London store.
Being the great grand-daughter of Dickens caused problems as no one in the family was allowed to be a writer. Miss Dickens once said: 'Dickens was God. It was like someone coming along after Christ and saying they were Christ too.'
Clare Alexander, publishing director of Viking, said: 'This was the first time Monica had written about her family.' Miss Dickens' first works were based on her early life as a cook, nurse and local newspaper reporter. In 1939, One Pair of Hands became a bestseller. Other novels included One Pair of Feet, The Happy Prisoner, The Room Upstairs, Follyfoot and Last Year When I was Young. Her penultimate novel, The Scar, was published in 1991.
Miss Dickens lived much of her life in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, after marrying in 1951. In 1974 she founded a US arm of the Samaritans, for which she received an MBE. In 1987, after the death of her husband, Roy Stratton, she moved to Brightwalton, Berkshire, and produced a book a year. She leaves two daughters.
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