Cookson, Catherine (McMullen) 1906-1998

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COOKSON, Catherine (McMullen) 1906-1998

(Catherine Marchant)

PERSONAL: Born June 20, 1906, in Tyne Dock, South Shields, England; died June 11, 1998, in Jesmond Dene, England; mother's name, Catherine Fawcett; married Thomas H. Cookson (a schoolmaster), June 1, 1940.

CAREER: Novelist and author of children's books.

MEMBER: Society of Authors, PEN (England), Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Women's Press Club (London, England).


Kate Hannigan, Macdonald (London, England), 1950, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Fifteen Streets (also see below), Macdonald (London, England), 1952, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Colour Blind, Macdonald (London, England), 1953, published as Color Blind, New American Library (New York, NY), 1977.

Maggie Rowan, Macdonald (London, England), 1954, New American Library (New York, NY), 1975.

Rooney, Macdonald (London, England), 1957, reprinted, 1974.

The Menagerie, Macdonald (London, England), 1958, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1974.

Slinky Jane, Macdonald (London, England), 1959, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1979.

Fenwick Houses, Macdonald (London, England), 1960, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1979.

The Garment, Macdonald (London, England), 1962, New American Library (New York, NY), 1974.

The Blind Miller (also see below), Macdonald (London, England), 1963, reprinted, Heinemann (London, England), 1979.

Hannah Massey, Macdonald (London, England), 1964, New American Library (New York, NY), 1973.

The Long Corridor, Macdonald (London, England), 1965, New American Library (New York, NY), 1976.

The Unbaited Trap, Macdonald (London, England), 1966, New American Library (New York, NY), 1974.

Katie Mulholland, Macdonald (London, England), 1967, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1980.

The Round Tower (also see below), Macdonald (London, England), 1968, New American Library (New York, NY), 1975.

The Nice Bloke, Macdonald (London, England), 1969, published as The Husband, New American Library (New York, NY), 1976.

Our Kate: An Autobiography, Macdonald (London, England), 1969, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971, published as Our Kate: Catherine Cookson—Her Personal Story, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1974.

The Glass Virgin, Macdonald (London, England), 1970, Bantam (New York, NY), 1981.

The Invitation, Macdonald (London, England), 1970, New American Library (New York, NY), 1974.

The Dwelling Place, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1971.

Fanny McBride, Corgi Books (London, England), 1971.

Feathers in the Fire (also see below), Macdonald (London, England), 1971, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.

Pure As the Lily, Macdonald (London, England), 1972, Bobbs-Merrill, 1973.

The Invisible Cord (also see below), Dutton (New York, NY), 1975.

The Gambling Man (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.

The Tide of Life, Morrow (New York, NY), 1976.

The Girl (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.

The Cinder Path (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.

Tilly Trotter, Heinemann (London, England), 1978, published as Tilly, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.

Selected Works, Heinemann/Octopus (London, England), Volume 1 (contains Fifteen Streets, The Blind Miller, The Round Tower, Feathers in the Fire, and A Grand Man; also see below), 1978, Volume 2 (contains The Mallen Streak, The Invisible Cord, The Gambling Man, The Girl, and The Cinder Path), 1980.

The Man Who Cried, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.

Tilly Wed, Morrow (New York, NY), 1981, published as Tilly Trotter Wed, Heinemann (London, England), 1981.

Tilly Alone, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982, published as Tilly Widowed, Heinemann (London, England), 1982.

The Whip, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Hamilton (comic), Heinemann (London, England), 1983.

The Black Velvet Gown, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Goodbye Hamilton, Heinemann (London, England), 1984.

The Bannaman Legacy, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1985, published as A Dinner of Herbs, Heinemann (London, England), 1985.

Harold, Heinemann (London, England), 1985.

The Moth, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1986, published as The Thorman Inheritance, 1986.

Bill Bailey, Heinemann, 1986.

Catherine Cookson Country, Heinemann, 1986.

The Parson's Daughter, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1987.

The Baily Chronicles, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1988.

The Harrogate Secret, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Let Me Make Myself Plain, Bantam (New York, NY), 1988.

The Black Candle, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1989.

The Spaniard's Gift, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1989.

The Gillyvors, Bantam (New York, NY), 1990.

The Wingless Bird, Summit (New York, NY), 1990.

Bill Bailey's Lot, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1990.

Bill Bailey's Daughter, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1990.

The Love Child, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1990.

My Beloved Son, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

The Iron Facade, Bantam (New York, NY), 199l.

The Rag Nymph, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

The House of Women, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.

The Maltese Angel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.

The Forester Girl, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.

The Golden Straw, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.

The Year of the Virgins, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993.

Maggie Rowan, Corgi (London, England), 1993.

Justice Is a Woman, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.

The Obsession, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.

Plainer Still, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.

A Ruthless Need, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.

Plainer Still: A New Personal Anthology, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.

Three Complete Novels (includes The Love Child, The Maltese Angel, and The Year of the Virgins), Wings (New York, NY), 1996.

Tinker's Girl, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.

The Bonny Dawn, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.

The Upstart, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.

The Bondage of Love, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.

The Lady on My Left, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.

Riley, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.

The Solace of Sin, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.

A House Divided, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Kate Hannigan's Girl, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.

The Silent Lady, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.

The Simple Soul, and Other Stories, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.

Cookson's books have been translated into over fifteen languages.


A Grand Man, Macdonald (London, England), 1954, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1955, reprinted, Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.

The Lord and Mary Ann, Macdonald (London, England), 1956, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1974, Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.

The Devil and Mary Ann, Macdonald (London, England), 1958, Morrow (New York, NY), 1976.

Love and Mary Ann, Macdonald (London, England), 1961, Morrow (New York, NY), 1976.

Life and Mary Ann, Macdonald (London, England), 1962, Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.

Marriage and Mary Ann, Macdonald (London, England), 1964, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.

Mary Ann's Angels, Macdonald (London, England), 1965, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.

Mary Ann and Bill, Macdonald (London, England), 1966, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.

Mary Ann Omnibus (contains all novels in "Mary Ann" series), Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1981.


The Mallen Streak (also see below), Heinemann (London, England), 1973.

The Mallen Girl (also see below), Heinemann (London, England), 1974.

The Mallen Lot, Dutton (New York, NY), 1974, published as The Mallen Litter, Heinemann (London, England), 1974.

The Mallen Novels (contains The Mallen Streak, The Mallen Girl, and The Mallen Litter), Heinemann (London, England), 1979.


Matty Doolin, Macdonald (London, England), 1965, New American Library (New York, NY), 1976.

Joe and the Gladiator, Macdonald (London, England), 1968.

The Nipper, Bobbs-Merrill, 1970.

Blue Baccy, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1972, Bobbs-Merrill, 1973.

Our John Willie, Morrow (New York, NY), 1974.

Mrs. Flanagan's Trumpet, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1977, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1980.

Go Tell It to Mrs. Golightly, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1977, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1980.

Lanky Jones, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1981.


Heritage of Folly, Macdonald (London, England), 1963, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1980, reprinted, Corgi Books (London, England), 1994.

The Fen Tiger, Macdonald (London, England), 1963, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.

House of Men, Macdonald (London, England), 1964, reprinted, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1980.

Evil at Roger's Cross, Lancer Books (London, England), 1965, revised edition published as The Iron Facade, Heinemann (London, England), 1976, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.

Miss Martha Mary Crawford, Heinemann (London, England), 1975, Morrow (New York, NY), 1976.

The Slow Awakening, Heinemann, 1976, Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.

Also author of The Cultured Handmaiden, 1988, and the children's books Rory's Fortune, Nancy Nutall and the Mongrel, and Bill and the Mary Ann Shaughnessy.

SIDELIGHTS: Catherine Cookson was a prolific British author who enjoyed a large following. Her family sagas, for which she is most noted, are still read in some thirty countries. A frequent name on the bestseller list, in the early 1980s, Cookson was commemorated by Corgi Books for exceeding the 27,000,000 mark in paperback sales alone. According to Anne Duchene in the Times Literary Supplement, "These days there are never fewer than fifty Cookson titles in print in English at any time . . . translated into fifteen languages." In a London Times interview with Caroline Moorehead, Cookson once emphasized that she never had trouble coming up with ideas for her historical novels: "I've always been a jabberer. I just talked. I see everything in images. The plot sort of unfolds. Even the dialogue. In the morning, it's all there to put down." As Duchene observed: "Cookson writes stories in which her readers can gratefully recognize experiences and emotions of their own—heightened, to be sure, by greater comedy or greater violence than their own lives normally vouchsafe, but based on all their own affections, furies, aspirations and reactions."

Born the illegitimate daughter of an alcoholic mother, Cookson lived with her mother in her grandparents' strict Catholic household during most of her childhood. By the age of eighteen, Cookson had been working as a laundry checker, although she longed for an education. Her success in overcoming her disadvantaged childhood, critics noted, was one source of her broad appeal. Anita Brookner commented in the Observerthat "Cookson brings comfort to millions and one can see the reason why: she represents the strong woman of various mythologies, a Mother Courage with no children but more than fifty-seven titles. She is an entirely remarkable person." Published in 1969, Cookson's autobiography Our Kate documents the difficulties she experienced during her childhood; the book quickly became a popular and critical success. A later autobiographical work, Let Me Make Myself Plain, presents essays, poetry, and paintings, each of which draw upon the author's personal reflections and experiences.

Cookson's experience of life in the working-class, industrial environment of Tyneside also provided material for her numerous novels. Autobiographical elements strongly inform the narrative of The Love Child, for example, which portrays a nineteenth-century girl who is tormented by the hostility of villagers and the disapproval of the church pastor due to her illegitimate status. An example of Cookson's use of the "family saga" form, The House of Women, focuses on four generations of women living in the same house in Tyneside and chronicles their experience of hypochondria, an unhappy marriage, and teenaged pregnancy, among other trials. Along with their treatment of northern English settings and British class structures, Cookson's novels are noted for their portrayal of appealing female characters. The Wingless Bird, for instance, depicts Agnes Conway, the daughter of an English shopkeeper, who must choose between an unhappy marriage or spinsterhood. Her life changes unexpectedly, however, when she falls in love with an upper-class man and subsequently finds the courage and the means to escape her family's oppressive treatment.

The character Mary Ann Shaughnessy has reappeared in eight of Cookson's novels, which have been published together in a single volume titled The Mary Ann Omnibus. Mary Ann is eight years old in A Grand Man, the first novel of the series, and the twenty-seven-year-old mother of twins in Mary Ann and Bill, the final story. "In the earlier books Mary Ann bounces through her own and other people's lives like a cross between a deus (or dea) ex machina and a gremlin, interfering in situations and people with blithe impartiality, generally for the benefit of her beloved, drunken father Mike Shaughnessy," noted Judith Rhodes in Romance and Historical Writers. "Few of Cookson's other novels demonstrate her capacity for comedy as this series does; not only does Mary Ann herself create a number of amusing situations, but her grannie McMullen . . . is a wonderful comic character."

Cookson was also well established as an author of children's books, several of which draw upon historical and autobiographical themes. Set in England during the 1850s, her children's novel Our John Willie, for example, portrays two brothers who manage to survive poverty and exploitation at the hands of mine-owners. While some critics objected to the extreme sentimentality of the story, others commented favorably on Cookson's treatment of her historical subject. Like many of her novels for adults, Cookson's children's stories often draw upon her experience of the English community of Tyneside. Joe and the Gladiator, for example, is set in the Tyneside shipyards and depicts a hard-working young man who is plagued with financial and family problems that grow worse when an elderly man dies, leaving an old horse in Joe's care.

Although bedridden and disabled by seriously declining eyesight, Cookson continued to create fiction until her death in 1998, dictating her stories to a taperecorder, and working in collaboration with her husband during the editing process.



Cookson, Catherine, Our Kate: An Autobiography, Macdonald (London, England), 1969, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971, published as Our Kate: Catherine Cookson—Her Personal Story, Macdonald & Jane's (London, England), 1974.


Booklist, February 1, 1984, p. 769; January 15, 1991, p. 979; September 1, 1991, p. 28; November 1, 1992, p. 466.

Books, November, 1990; July, 1991, p. 10.

Catholic World, June, 1955.

Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1994, p. 9.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1969, p. 793; May 15, 1978, p. 562; February 1, 1981, p. 140; October 1, 1992, p. 1203; October 1, 1993, p. 1219; September 1, 1994, p. 1148; February 1, 1995, p. 86.

Kliatt, September, 1990, p. 6.

Library Journal, June 1, 1975, p. 1152; May 15, 1985, p. 78; March 15, 1987, p. 400; April 15, 1987, p. 96; April 15, 1990, p. 141; September 1, 1991; October 1, 1994, p. 112, 228.

London Review of Books, June 27, 1991, p. 22.

New York Times, January 7, 1955.

New York Times Book Review, October 20, 1974, p. 41; April 2, 1984, p. 25; June 30, 1985, p. 20.

Observer (London, England), April 1, 1984; November 27, 1988.

Publishers Weekly, July 21, 1969, p. 53; November 17, 1975, p. 95; August 16, 1976, p. 118; March 22, 1985, p. 51; March 28, 1986, p. 52; March 27, 1987, p. 37; February 10, 1989, p. 53; March 16, 1990, p. 60; January 25, 1991, p. 48; August 9, 1991, p. 44; October 12, 1992, p. 64; October 11, 1993, p. 70; October 3, 1994, p. 52; February 20, 1995, p. 195.

School Library Journal, August, 1990, p. 174.

Spectator, July 6, 1991, p. 26; October 12, 1991, p. 39.

Times (London, England), August 15, 1983.

Times Literary Supplement, January 7, 1955; June 6, 1968; June 19, 1969; March 29, 1974; July 24, 1981, p. 830.

Washington Post Book World, April 1, 1990.



Chicago Tribune, June 12, 1998, section 1, p. 12.

Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1998, p. A22.

New York Times, June 12, 1998, p. A19.

Times (London, England), June 12, 1998.

Washington Post, June 12, 1998, p. C9.*