My Favourite Stuff: Julian Maclaren-Ross artwork

Yesterday I posted about Julian Maclaren-Ross on a BBC documentary and then I got to thinking that maybe I had never posted a photograph of my Julian Maclaren-Ross artwork.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t, so here’s a photo of the little poster he made for, I guess, the (unmade) television play My Name is Love (The Girl in the Spotlight) as the woman seems to be Sonia Orwell.  It would be from about 1961 if that’s the case, maybe? 

Excuse the angle and any glare, I bought the picture framed and although it’s badly framed I have left it that way for now, which makes it hard to photograph.  I really love the picture and his naive artwork – it makes me smile every time I pass it in the hallway.  It’s nice to have something as unusual as this in my collection, a drawing (coloured-in too!) by one of my favourite writers to accompany a piece of his work.  I’m such a fan-girl, aren’t I?

Julian Maclaren-Ross In the Shadow of Cain

Six minutes of pure joy – that’s Julian Maclaren-Ross in the BBC documentary Writer’s World: In the Shadow of Cain.  I was very lucky to get hold of a copy of the footage from this show, thanks to Chris who worked hard to get it.  THANK YOU, CHRIS!

I thought I’d share a few screen shots from the show for those of you who haven’t seen it:

This is not an interview, you understand.  It was more a case of wind him up and watch him go.  It’s unbelievable the way Julian Maclaren-Ross talked; excuse my French, but he really had his s*** down pat.  He doesn’t falter at all, he goes from one anecdote to the next without hesitation, even doing a slightly different voice for a Colonel he was talking to, each story neatly turning into another.  I can understand why he was called a bar-room bore though, because there would be little to no chance of getting a word in edgewise.  How he remembers all his lines, I don’t know – and they are lines, because this can’t be off the cuff, it seems so well-rehearsed.  Anyway, I was well-impressed.  Just one thing, his voice always surprises me – the way he looked, his image, I always imagined him talking with a Mid-Atlantic accent rather than being so incredibly posh (even though I knew I was).

He tells stories about the only time he was ever treated as a writer in the army; how he started writing a series of army stories on the company office typewriter when he was transferred to Suffolk; how he collaborated with Dylan Thomas on a documentary script about the Home Guard; how he was once called “a Soho non-blitzer by a very stout young woman known to us as Are They Real or Are They False?”; how a rocket bomb nearly landed on his head and soon after that the war ended (coincidence? maybe!); about a chip shop that had a sign in the window saying, “Owing to Hitler, chips is littler.”  All very, very amusing.

So few pictures exist of Julian Maclaren-Ross, so here’s some more for your visual pleasure.  And for your reading pleasure, buy J. Maclaren-Ross books now!

My Favourite Stuff: letter from Julian Maclaren-Ross

At the end of last year I was looking for something unusual and spectacular to give to my boyfriend for a special birthday.  When I found a signed 1st edition of a Julian Maclaren-Ross novel, My Name is Love, I knew I’d found just the thing.  Although it was very expensive it was a two-for-one deal because included was a letter that Julian had sent, along with the book, to his ex-literary agent Edmund Hughes; this meant that I could have the signed letter myself and the signed book would still make an incredible gift.

The novel is based on Julian Maclaren-Ross’ obsession with George Orwell’s widow, Sonia Brownell, who it seems was a bit of a temptress.  I’m not quite sure what it was that Julian saw in her – she doesn’t seem to have given him very much hope at all – and he surely could have done better for himself because he was, after all, a fabulous talent.  That said, this particular novel was not amongst his greatest (for anyone who is not familiar with his work, make a start with Of Love and Hunger which can’t fail to please and then look to the short stories for further evidence of his great talent).  I guess it is quite often the case that when people are obsessed, their judgement fails them slightly.  Anyway, Sonia Brownell was a lucky lady to be thought of so highly by such an incredible writer.

It’s not just the writing that is appealing when it comes to Julian Maclaren-Ross – his intelligence, his dandyism, and his ability to be so prolific are all awe-inspiring.  A turbulent lifestyle, a great love of alcohol and an inability to keep any of his hard earned money for a rainy day meant that Maclaren-Ross was often firing off articles, short stories or even novels just to pay off some debts or to have a few pounds to live off for a moment or two.

Photograph of Julian Maclaren-Ross taken from the Camden New Journal website where you will also find an interesting article by Martin Green who was on nodding terms with Maclaren-Ross

Going back to the novel and the letter, what makes it even more special is that Edmund Hughes was very kind to Julian – even when Julian had moved on to another literary agent, Hughes remained his friend and supporter and would often slip him a fiver when he was in desperate straits.  Read Paul Willetts’ wonderful biography Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2005) for more about this and the many other scrapes Julian would get himself into with his irresponsible behaviour and his self-destructive streak.

Even though Julian sounds like he was an incredible egotist – he would always talk about himself and had very little interest in anyone else – I know I would have loved him if I met him.  I cried at the description of his death in Willetts’ biography – he died of a heart attack caused by “years of fatty food, lack of exercise, stress, drinking, smoking, and amphetamine use.”  The heart breaking bit for me was that his final words were “Graham Greene” and “I love you”.  Julian had been a big admirer of Graham Greene’s work and had worked on an adaptation of Greene’s A Gun for Sale.  Strange that he should say his name on his death bed – maybe Graham Greene’s work meant as much to Julian as Julian Maclaren-Ross’ work means to me; we all have a bit of the hero-worshipper in us somewhere.

A couple of years ago, when I still lived in London, I realised I lived fairly near where Julian Maclaren-Ross was buried in Paddington Cemetery (near Mill Hill).  I had read that his was originally an unmarked grave, but that a few years ago the writer Virginia Ironside had kindly led a fundraising campaign to help to get something a bit more stylish and dignified and permanent to mark Julian’s life.  I went to visit the grave and was sad to see that it was a little muddy and there were no flowers there – luckily, as any worthwhile hero-worshipper should, I had thought ahead and bought some pink carnations; they were the flowers Julian Maclaren-Ross used to wear in his buttonhole.  I cleaned the grave a little and left the flowers there for Julian and felt a little sad that he didn’t seem to have regular visitors.  Some people deserve far more than they get in this world and a talent like Julian Maclaren-Ross’ deserves far more hero-worship as far as I’m concerned.

A gravestone befitting to such a stylish man.  It will be so much harder now I don’t live in London but I must get myself over there to see Julian again some time soon.

I shall definitely post more about Julian Maclaren-Ross on Hero Culte – expect to see something about his involvement in the world of film at some point.