Ethel Lina White: The Abergavenny Writer Who Inspired Hitchcock!

Ethel Lina White
Alba Editorial

I have always been excited about ticklish or prickly stories or movies. Therefore, I have seen all the Alfred Hitchcock’s, almost all the movie series Dracula’s and many other creepy films, and read a lot of thrillers like Agatha Christie’s or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s.

I am amazed at how many women there are as thriller authors, Agatha Christie (as mentioned), Dorothy L Sayers, Ann Cleeves, Ruth Rendell, and many others for sure. Even Metta Fuller Victor’s The Dead Letter, published by “Seeley Register” in serial form between 1866 and 1867, is widely recognised as the first detective novel written by a woman. And, of course, I must add J. K. Rowling to this list.

But I have never had heard about Ethel Lina White, whom I have coincidentally read on BBC News Page.

As we read; She was favourably compared to Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

Sheffield Hallam student Alex Csurko, who is embarking on a PhD into Ethel, believes her father’s invention may have been the genesis of her brilliance.

“The amazing thing about Ethel is that, despite writing all her life, she wasn’t truly recognised until she was in her 60s,” he said.

“Maybe it took her move to London before she was introduced to the right people?”
“We know from the 1911 census that, aged 35, she was still living at home with her parents – by which time she’d already had dozens of poems and short stories published in the press – over 100 in her lifetime,” he said.

That is something that seldom happens to men; I might not wonder? Since when did it all go wrong? I can still remember it!!

She was not so successful as Agatha Christie, may because she was, as Mr Csurko said: “Ethel simply wasn’t prepared to play the fame game which made stars of other writers.
“In an interview with critic Peter Cheyney, she said: ‘I was not born. I have never been educated and have no tastes or hobbies. This is my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
He said that in many reviews, Ethel was alternately described as “spikey”, “witty”, and “sarcastic”.
By 1938 she hit stardom when Alfred Hitchcock chose to adapt her detective thriller The Wheel Spins – about a young woman on a train and her missing companion – into his film The Lady Vanishes.
“The Lady Vanishes was Hitchcock’s last British-made film, and I think it’s fair to say it was the one which made Hollywood studios sit up and take notice of him. Said Mr Csurko.

However, while the legacy of other writers such as Agatha Christie has lived on, Ethel’s reputation has faded into the background.

“I think there is an easy explanation for this,” said Mr Csurko. “Ethel simply wasn’t prepared to play the fame game which made stars of other writers.

“She was brilliant in her own time, but when you consider the likes of Agatha Christie started a decade before her and carried on until the 70s, there’s just not the volume of work to compare them fairly,” Mr Csurko said.

Ethel would have two more novels adapted for the big screen – Midnight House was filmed as The Unseen, and The Spiral Staircase was based on her novel Some Must Watch.

Ethel died of ovarian cancer in 1944. Intriguingly and quite macabrely, her will demonstrated her lifelong fear of being buried alive, which can be read in her 1935 novel The First Time He Died.

The will read: “I give and bequeath unto Annis Dora White [her sister] all that I possess on condition she pays a qualified surgeon to plunge a knife into my heart after death.”

Thanks, this girl and the others, for giving us men something to consider!

PS: Next week is the birth of an extraordinary one. Therefore, I must see if I find an opportunity to post something new… Have a great time, everyone. 🙏💖👍🙏💖


21 thoughts on “Ethel Lina White: The Abergavenny Writer Who Inspired Hitchcock!

  1. An inspiration to Hitchcock is an inspiration to me! That “Ethel simply wasn’t prepared to play the fame game which made stars of other writers,” makes me value her all the more. It’s amazing how many artists are not recognized in their lifetimes, or until much later in their lifetime, as is mostly the case with Ethel here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    Hitchcock was a genius, but truth is I can still feel the terror of seeing “Dial M for Murder” when I was about 10 years old–and I still avoid horror movies and always will. The world is scary enough. I love knowing he was inspired by a woman I’d never heard of since, I repeat, he was a genius. Thanks, Aladin.

    Liked by 1 person

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