Holt, Hazel 1928-

views updated

HOLT, Hazel 1928-

PERSONAL: Born September 3, 1928, in Birmingham, England; daughter of Charles Douglas (an advertising manager) and Roma (Simpson) Young; married Geoffrey Louis Holt (a company director), 1951; children: Tom. Education: Newnham College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1950. Politics: "None." Religion: Church of England.

ADDRESSES: Home—Tivington Knowle, Nr. Mine-head, Somerset TA24 85X, England. Agent—James Hale, 47 Peckham Rye, London SE15 3NX, England.

CAREER: International African Institute, London, England, editor, 1950-74; Stage and Television Today, London, reviewer and feature writer, 1975-80; writer, 1989—.



Mrs. Malory Investigates, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

The Cruellest Month, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Mrs. Malory and the Festival Murders, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Mrs. Malory: Detective in Residence, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.

Mrs. Malory's Shortest Journey, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Mrs. Malory Wonders Why, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

Mrs. Malory: Death of a Dean, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.

Mrs. Malory and the Only Good Lawyer, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

Mrs. Malory and the Lilies That Fester, Signet (New York, NY), 2001.

Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy, Macmillan (London, England), 2001.

Mrs. Malory and the Delay of Execution, Signet (New York, NY), 2002.

Leonora, Macmillan (London, England), 2002.

Mrs. Malory and Death in Practice, Signet (New York, NY), 2003.

Mrs. Malory and Death by Water, Signet (New York, NY), 2003.

Mrs. Malory and the Silent Killer, Signet (New York, NY), 2004.


(Editor and annotator, with Hilary Pym) Barbara Pym, A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters, Dutton (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) Barbara Pym, Civil to Strangers and OtherWritings, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.

Gone Away, Macmillan (London, England), 1989. A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.

Superfluous Death, Macmillan (London, England), 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: Hazel Holt earned a degree from Cambridge University in 1950 and went to work for the International African Institute in London the same year. She would spend the next two and a half decades there, making the acquaintance of another young Englishwoman, Barbara Pym, an aspiring novelist. The two became friends, and Holt would often conspire with Pym on their lunch-hour jaunts around London, during which the imaginative Pym would devise "biographies" of strangers. Holt was witness to her friend's initial literary successes during the 1950s; but, when public reading tastes shifted, Pym's manuscripts met with rejection for much of the next two decades. It was only a "rediscovery" of Pym's earlier novels in a 1977 Times Literary Supplement article that resurrected her career and brought her enormous success late in life. When she died in 1980, Pym's will named Hazel Holt as her estate's literary executor.

In this role, Holt came to serve as coeditor of A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters. The book was a project undertaken with Pym's sister, Hilary, and revealed much about the genteel, introspective woman to whom the term "spinster" was commonly applied. Seven years later, Holt revisited the same topic—now as an author herself—in A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym. The biography won praise from the critical world and lovers of Pym's fiction alike for the insider's glimpse it provided into the novelist's life through her own words, interviews with friends, and Holt's recollections.

Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Anne Tyler praised A Lot to Ask primarily because "it somewhat eases the suspicion aroused by the earlier book, which was that Barbara Pym in person was a very silly woman." For example, Tyler addressed the matter of Pym's "schoolgirl crushes" recorded in the journal entries from her days at Oxford and reproduced in both biographies. In A Lot to Ask, Holt's commentary shows them to have enriched Pym's talents as a writer, her powers of observation, "as well as confirming her preference for recording life as opposed to taking part in it," Tyler noted.

Some critics cited A Lot to Ask for what they considered a lack of critical insight. Penelope Lively wrote in the Listener, "There is no attempt to discuss Pym's work, or to place it within a literary context." But Caroline Moore, writing in the Spectator, noted that "Holt's discussion of her friend is workmanlike and perceptive, without being offensively speculative. . . . Her knowledge and love of Pym's novels shines through." Linsay Duguid noted in the Times Literary Supplement that Holt "marshals all the personal material deftly to give a narrative of a circumscribed life."

Holt is also the author of several works of fiction in the mystery genre. The first in her "Sheila Malory" series appeared under the title Mrs. Malory Investigates. The novel introduces both the sleuthing English widow and her rural milieu of Taviscombe. The next offering in the series, The Cruellest Month, transplants the unassuming armchair detective to the college town of Oxford, where she investigates the murder of a librarian. In Mrs. Malory and the Festival Murders, Holt weaves a whodunit tale around the murder of a literary executor of a famous aged writer; the deceased had taken over a local historic festival, and his body is discovered as the fair opens. Holt's next novel, Mrs. Malory: Detective in Residence, transports Sheila Malory to America to take a guest lecturer post at a Pennsylvania college rife with faculty tension, where the murder of one of her new colleagues sets Malory's sleuthing abilities into motion. The Shortest Journey finds Malory investigating the nursing-home disappearance of an elderly friend. In Mrs. Malory Wonders Why, Holt has her protagonist looking into the poisoning of an elderly Taviscombe resident.



Booklist, December 1, 1994, p. 656; December 15, 1996, p. 712; April 15, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Mrs. Malory and the Only Good Lawyer, p. 1461; March 15, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy, p. 1333.

Christian Science Monitor, June 7, 1991, p. 12.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1989, p. 1786; April 15, 1991, p. 507; March 15, 1993, p. 334; November 1, 1994, p. 1447.

Library Journal, February 1, 1991, Bryan Aubrey, review of A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym, December, 1994, p. 138; October 1, 1996, p. 131.

Listener, November 1, 1990, Penelope Lively, review of A Lot to Ask, pp. 30-31.
London Review of Books, November 22, 1990, p. 23.

Los Angles Times Book Review, April 7, 1991.

New York Times, June 14, 1984.

New York Times Book Review, April 14, 1991.

Publishers Weekly, December 12, 1989, p. 47; February 1, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of A Lot to Ask, March 29, 1993, p. 38; June 13, 1994, p. 54; October 2, 1995, p. 58; September 16, 1996, p. 72; March 6, 2000, review of Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy, p. 89.

Spectator, November 17, 1990, Caroline Moore, review of A Lot to Ask, pp. 45-46.

Times (London, England), February 4, 1989; February 28, 1991.

Times Literary Supplement, November 16, 1990, Linsay Duguid, review of A Lot to Ask, p. 1228. Tribune Books, January 6, 1991, p. 4.

Washington Post Book World, March 17, 1991, Anne Tyler, review of A Lot to Ask, pp. 1, 10.


BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (April 17, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Mrs. Malory and the Delay of Execution.

Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (September 13, 2002), Andy Plonka, review of Mrs. Malory and the Only Good Lawyer.*