We’ve been hinting that there might be a surprise or two from MPM Manor. In this post, we reveal a long-held secret, known only to writers and friends who were close to her:
It was Barbara who finished — indeed, wrote much of — her friend Charlotte MacLeod’s last book The Balloon Man.
As Charlotte planned and started to write The Balloon Man, she became increasingly ill and ultimately could not do much more than write an initial section with some sketches of where she wanted the book to go. This was the final book in Charlotte’s beloved Sarah Kelling/Max Bittersohn series. As a final gift to her dear friend and fellow writer, Barbara sat down with what Charlotte had written, and finished the book. She insisted on doing this anonymously, leaving the profits to go to help Charlotte during her final illness.
In preparation for this painful task, Barbara re-read the Kelling/Bittersohn series, and then attempted to write the book in a voice that was as faithful to Charlotte’s as possible. (It’s possible, now that readers know, that they may detect some Barbara’isms peeking through here and there.) Charlotte wrote in a humorous, erudite, “cozy” style that had always been very appealing to Barbara, and that exemplified the kind of writing in which her “Malice Domestic” crew specialized.
Here’s to writers, and to women, who support each other in meaningful ways — and here’s to paying it forward through many generations to come.