Badenoch, Andrea 1951-2004
BADENOCH, Andrea 1951-2004
Born June 13, 1951, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England; died of breast cancer, January 4, 2004, in Jesmond, Newcastle, England; married Paul Miller (divorced); married Steve Manchee; children: (first marriage) Jay, Miriam, and Naomi. Education: Attended Manchester University; London University, M.A.
Writer and activist; Women's Writing Project, South London, 1970s; teacher of literature and writing. Writing Women, coeditor, through late 1990s.
Grant from Northern Arts' Year of the Artist.
Mortal (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 1998.
(Editor, with others) The Nerve: The 1998 Virago Book of Writing Women, Virago Press (London, England), 1998.
Driven (novel), Macmillan (London, England)), 1999.
(Editor, with others) Wild Cards: The Second Virago Anthology of Writing Women, Virago Press, (London, England), 1999.
Blink (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 2001.
Loving Geordie (novel), PanMacmillan (London, England), 2002.
Also author of children's novel, Yellowhammer Island.
Andrea Badenoch was best known as a writer of crime novels, but she was just as concerned with the social conditions that precipitate crime. A dedicated feminist and social activist in her native northeast England, Badenoch was at the center of a group of women writers in Newcastle. Her work shows her commitment to social justice and her keen understanding of the underside of English life.
Badenoch's first novel, Mortal, is a mystery but by no means a typical whodunit. The story follows Imogen, an employee of an advice center, as she investigates the murder of her friend Camilla. Imogen soon realizes that Camilla has kept many secrets, quite a few of them shocking and embarrassing. The novel reveals much about the class structure of London society.
Badenoch's novel Driven is another crime story with lower-class characters. The book is set in South London and concerned with the subject of homelessness. Blink, her next novel, takes place in a Durham coal-mining town in 1962. The story is told from the point of view of pre-adolescent Kathleen, who tries to unravel the mystery of her beloved aunt, Gloria. In the process, she provides evidence for the local police while at the same time uncovering her own family secrets. A reviewer in the London Times said that the novel vividly describes the "menacing landscape, whose air, thick with coal dust, is unbreathable." The book is "a compelling read, full of ironic humour and sharply observed details," concluded the reviewer.
In the midst of writing her own novels, Badenoch continued to encourage other women writers, joining several other editors in producing two anthologies of short stories by women for Virago Press. A critic for Booklist noted the "presence of beautiful, disquieting images" in the second of these works, Wild Cards, and said that the anthology is a "good introduction to many excellent new authors."
Badenoch's prolific literary life was all the more impressive because she was coping with breast cancer. The illness was discovered while she was writing Blink, but she continued to write as long as she could, prior to her death in 2004. Her final novel, Loving Geordie, explores not only a murder case but also the devastating social change brought about by the demolition of housing in Newcastle's West End in the 1960s. Badenoch based her story on the real story of Mary Bell, who had murdered two children in the same area. She also extensively researched the life of T. Dan Smith, a council leader whose misguided ideas about reconstructing a community led to social chaos in the area. According to Badenoch in an interview with Beth Neil in Newcastle-upon-Tyne's Evening Chronicle, "The community spirit had gone and they felt they no longer had a sense of identity or belonging."
Critical reaction to Badenoch's final novel was overwhelmingly positive. Mary N. Bell on This Is the North East Web site commented that Badenoch's characters are "wonderfully true to life." On the Tangled Web UK Web site, Cath Staincliffe said that Badenoch is "one of the best British crime writers of today," and that Loving Geordie provides "a taut and compassionate read." Carol Birch in the Times Literary Supplement pointed out that the book vividly portrays "the social conditions of the poor and their helplessness against stronger forces," and called the story "compulsively readable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 2000, review of Wild Cards: The Second Virago Anthology of Writing Women, p. 512.
Daily Post (Liverpool, England), October 14, 2002, biographical information on Badenoch, p. 18.
Evening Chronicle (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), February 22, 2003, Beth Neil, "West End Memories," p. 6, and "Double Murder Drives Plot," p. 6.
Northern Echo (Darlington, England), August 20, 2002, review of Loving Geordie, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, October 23, 2000, review of Wild Cards, p. 60.
Southland Times (Invercargill, England), January 1, 2000, Anne Hunter, review of Mortal, p. 18.
Times (London), April 21, 2001, "The Usual Suspects," p. 21.
Times Literary Supplement, January 17, 2003, Carol Birch, "The Dispossessed," p. 20.
Deadly Pleasures,http://www.deadlypleasures.com/ (November 7, 2003), Martin Edwards, review of Blink.
PanMacmillan Web site,http://www.panmacmillan.com/ (June 29, 2004), description of Loving Geordie.
Sunday Business Post Web site,http://www.archives.tem.ie/businesspost/ (August 20, 2001), Nadine O'Regan, review of Blink.
Tangled Web UK,http://www.twbooks.co.uk/ (November 7, 2003), Cath Staincliffe, review of Loving Geordie, and reviews of Driven and Mortal.
This Is the North East,http://www.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/ (November 7, 2003), Mary N. Bell, review of Loving Geordie.
Guardian (Manchester, England), January 12, 2004, Debbie Taylor and Sean O'Brien, "Andrea Badenoch: Novelist Who Captured the Atmosphere of Urban and Social Decay in Her Thrillers," p. 19.
Journal (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), January 7, 2004, "Acclaimed North Author Dies, Aged 52," p. 13.*