Granger, Pip 1947–
GRANGER, Pip 1947–
PERSONAL: Born 1947, in Cuckfield, Sussex, England; married second husband, Ray Granger.
ADDRESSES: Home—West Country, England. Agent—David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1F 9HA, England.
CAREER: Taught children with emotional and health problems in Westminster, England; literacy and special-needs teacher in Stoke Newington and Hackney, England, c. 1970s–80s.
AWARDS, HONORS: Harry Bowling Prize for fiction, 2000, for Not All Tarts Are Apple.
Not All Tarts Are Apple, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2002.
The Widow Ginger, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2003.
Trouble in Paradise, Poisoned Pen Press (Scottsdale, AZ), 2004.
No Peace for the Wicked, Bantam (New York, NY), 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Another novel set in Soho, London; Up West, a social history of Soho, 1945–60, expected publication in 2007; a book for young adults.
SIDELIGHTS: Pip Granger began writing in the 1990s after her older brother was diagnosed with brain cancer and she had retired from teaching because of her own health problems. Her brother's illness made Granger want to write about their childhood in the Soho section of London with their father, who was at one time a part-time smuggler and knew a wide range of interesting characters. In an interview with Steve Anable for Publishers Weekly, Granger recalled, "I came from a criminal/bohemian background, but I didn't feel different when I was living in Soho, where such people were thick on the ground." Instead of writing a straightforward memoir, however, Granger fictionalizes her childhood experiences in Not All Tarts Are Apple.
Not All Tarts Are Apple takes place in London in the early 1950s and focuses on Rosie, the novel's narrator, who is being raised by an aunt and uncle since being abandoned at birth by her mother. Rosie is the favorite of the neighborhood, but when she learns that her mother, Cassandra, is an alcoholic prostitute Rosie's life becomes more complicated. She discovers that her mother had run away from a wealthy family and cruel stepfather, who has designs on the successful family engineering firm, and soon Rosie finds herself the target of a plot devised by Cassandra's stepfather. Emily Melton observed in Booklist that "Rosie's littlegirl perspective gives the book a charm and naiveté rare in modern fiction." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that the book is not a "conventional crime caper," adding that "anyone who appreciates fine storytelling will eagerly await further word from Rosie."
In the sequel, The Widow Ginger, Rosie has been legally adopted by her aunt and uncle and is happily living in Soho, where she meets all sorts of people who stop by her adoptive parents' café. When a mysterious ex-GI called the Widow Ginger is let out of prison, he looks up Rosie's uncle to collect his share of the profits from a wartime scam. The Widow Ginger's arrival causes other tensions to mount as Rosie's uncle has a falling out with his good friend, a local gangster called Maltese Joe. Before long, however, everyone bands together, united against Widow Ginger 's reign of retribution and terror in the community. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "readers will warm to this unsentimental portrait of postwar London and the eccentrically lovable denizens of Rosie's Soho."
Trouble in Paradise is partly a prequel to Granger's first book about Rosie. In her interview with Anable, the author explained that part of her reason for writing a prequel was to find an older narrative voice because "I thought an adult view of the people Rosie knew would be interesting." It is the end of World II as the story begins, and though a positive outlook fills the London streets, Zelda Fluck, the novel's narrator, is dreading the return to Paradise Garden of her abusive husband, Charlie. Furthermore, Zelda's friend, local healer Zinnia Makepeace, is being harassed and vandalized, and her nephew, Tony, is hanging around with the wrong crowd. Zelda tries to get her nephew on the right path by getting him professional training for his beautiful singing voice. One day, as she sits in the café owned by Rosie's aunt and uncle, she meets Cassandra, who is pregnant with Rosie at the time, and eventually starts a new life. Sue O'Brien, writing in Booklist, called Granger's effort "a satisfying, compelling novel." Chicago Tribune contributor Dick Adler felt that the book "stands on its own shapely, sturdy legs as a marvelously evocative read," adding that Granger "has the art and imagination to bring her past back to vigorous life."
Granger told CA: "Both my parents were aspiring writers and I had a great uncle who wrote, so I suppose it's in the genes. I also have two nieces who are aspiring writers. I always wanted to write but didn't work up the nerve until my brother died at a young age and I felt I wanted to pay tribute by writing about a time and a place we shared (Soho, England, in the 1950s). Also, his death made me realize that I may not have time to write later, as I had always told myself. So I began writing my first novel in my late forties.
"London, and particularly Soho, influences my work obviously, also a peculiarly British comic called Frankie Howerd; I loved the way his act made you feel as if you were having a cozy gossip over the garden fence; there was an intimacy about it that made me want to write in the first person for this series of books. I also liked the intimacy of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City; you felt as you read them that you were one of his gang, somehow. I loved that. Not only did I feel included, but I also felt 'safe' in a funny sort of way.
"I write in the mornings and sometimes it goes over into the afternoons, but I never start work late in the day. I write a minimum of 1,000 words a day, more if it's going well. I always begin by reading and diddling with the work I did the day before. I seem to start a novel by having a setting and throwing in more and more characters; then I seem to 'see' what they're going to do, once they're all there and interacting like mad. Sometimes, the odd character seems to do nothing at all and winds up a spare part, and then I have to go back and get rid of them. I've had to dump some characters I've grown really fond of, but I always comfort myself that they can have another book later on. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't, but it's a comfort when they simply have to go.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as an author is that there's absolutely no glamour in it as a job, that it's a lonely old job too. And that in the actual writing process, characters can seem to take on a life of their own and do things that I wasn't expecting. My book No Peace for the Wicked turned into a bit of a love story and no one could have been more surprised than me, but the characters seemed to demand it. When that happens, it's terribly exciting for the writer, I find, but it must be annoying for those writers who tightly plot their books before they even begin to write. But then again, maybe it doesn't happen to them.
"Of my books, I have a bit of a soft spot for Not All Tarts Are Apple, because it was my first. I don't really think it's my best because my inexperience shows, I believe, although lots of readers disagree with me on that. I think Trouble in Paradise, was the book where I broke through to become a proper grown-up writer. At the moment I am terribly excited by my latest project, which will be called Up West when I've finished it. The book will be a nonfiction social history of the West End of London between 1945 and 1960. Then there's the novel I am working on as well, which as yet doesn't have a title. I'm also planning to do a book for young adults, set at the moment rock 'n' roll took off in England. Basically, I'm always most excited by a current project, whatever that may be. I suspect it has to be that way, otherwise the writing would simply stop."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Emily Melton, review of Not All Tarts Are Apple, p. 209; December 15, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of Trouble in Paradise, p. 711.
Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2005, Dick Adler, review of Trouble in Paradise, p. 4.
Denver Post, November 3, 2002, Tom and Enid Schantz, review of Not All Tarts Are Apple, p. EE02.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2003, review of Not All Tarts Are Apple, p. 1267; December 1, 2004, review of Trouble in Paradise, p. 1120.
MBR Bookwatch, January, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Trouble in Paradise.
Publishers Weekly, October 7, 2002, review of Not All Tarts Are Apple, p. 55; August 4, 2003, review of The Widow Ginger, p. 59; December 20, 2004, Steve Anable, "East End Stories" (interview), p. 40; December 20, 2004, review of Trouble in Paradise, p. 40.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (March 8, 2005), reviews of Trouble in Paradise and The Widow Ginger.
BookLoons.com, http://www.bookloons.com/ (March 8, 2005), Mary Ann Smyth, review of Trouble in Paradise.
David Higham Associates Web site, http://www.davidhigham.co.uk/ (March 8, 2005), "Pip Granger."
Fantastic Fiction Web site, http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (March 8, 2005), "Pip Granger."
Pip Granger Home Page, http://www.pipgranger.com (March 8, 2005).