Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Frank Baker

Today's Swift Annual author...

Frank Baker contributed anonymously to Swift Annual 3 (1956). No idea what he wrote but maybe someone will be able to fill in that gap some time.

Frank Edgar Baker is one of the few Swift Annual authors listed in the Author's and Writer's Who's Who (4th edition, 1960) which reveals he was born in 1908 in Hornsey, London. He was educated at Winchester Cathedral School, married Kathleen Lloyd and had 2 sons and 1 daughter. At the time he lived in West Cornwall.

Baker contributed to the Radio Times, News Chronicle, Manchester Guardian, English Review, etc.

The Birds and Miss Hargreaves were reprinted in the mid-1960s by Panther Books and the latter, his most successful, was recently republished by Tartarus Press. It was adapted twice for the radio, once in the 1950s and later in an adaptation by Brian Sibley in 1989. The Birds had a very similar theme to the later story by Daphne Du Maurier which was subsequently filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.

There is a web site dedicated to his work with a good biographical essay which reveals that he died at his home in Porthleven in 1983. Another good article on Baker's work can be found here.

From these, it seems that Frank moved down to Cornwall in the early 1930s; he toured the UK as an actor in the 1940s, later working for the Player's Theatre for 18 months before returning to Cornwall in around 1944/45. The setting makes me wonder if his contribution to Swift Annual 3 was the short story 'Wild Honey' which is set in Cornwall and concerns donkey rides on the beach. The donkey-man, Joe, has a secret: "Joe goes along that way every evening to gather wild honey... No one knows where Joe gets it. He keeps the place a secret -- and then sells the honey to holiday-makers for a lot of money."

The story has Joe talking in local dialect ("I seed you and Master Larry last night," chuckled Joe. "I seed you, and I laughed to meself as I hid with Timothy in the scrub. I was in no hurry. I sez to meself, I sez, 'Timothy and me'll wait here till morning, if need be, till them young scamps give up looking."). And the place where he gets his wild honey would have stayed a secret if it hadn't been for those darn kids...

Cornish setting, local (at least I presume it's meant to be local) dialect... could this be Frank Baker's story?

The Twisted Tree. London, Peter Davies, 1935.
The Birds. London, Peter Davies, 1936.
Miss Hargreaves. A fantasy. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1940.
Allanayr. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1941.
Sweet Chariot. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1942.
Before I Go Hence. Fantasia on a novel. London, Andrew Dakers, 1946.
Mr. Allenby Loses the Way. London & New York, T. V. Boardman & Co., 1946.
Embers. A winter tale. New York, Coward-McCann, 1946; London, Andrew Dakers, 1947.
The Downs So Free. London, Andrew Dakers, 1948.
My Friend the Enemy. London, T. V. Boardman & Co., 1948.
Lease of Life. London, Angus & Robertson, 1954.
Talk of the Devil. London, Angus & Robertson, 1956.
Teresa. London, Peter Davies, 1960.

Blessed Are They. Eight stories. London, Society of St. Pauls, 1953.
Stories of the Strange & Sinister. London, Kimber, 1983.

Playing With Punch. A new play, accompanied by Payne Collier's transcription of the immortal drama of Punch & Judy, etc., illus. Reginald Woolley and Douglas Campbell. London, T. V. Boardman, 1944.

The Road Was Free. London, T. V. Boardman & Co., 1948.
I Follow But Myself. London, Peter Davies, 1968.
The Call of Cornwall, with photos by David Pitt and others. London, R. Hale, 1976.

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