Kennedy and Boyd

Jezebel's Dust
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By Urquhart, Fred
ISBN 1849210942
SERIES The Fred Urquhart Collection
Paperback  250 pages
Published 7 January 2011
UK Price £14.95   Order from
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Jezebel's Dust is the story of two young teenage girls infected by the love of uniforms in Edinburgh and London early in the war. They come from the slums and have no very high education or expectations, but the war is opening up new possibilities. Lily McGillivray is the chief man-eater and increasingly a 'good time girl'. She exploits and encourages her more passive and awkward friend Bessie Hipkiss, leading her astray with energy, as they meet up with sailors and soldiers, Free French, Polish and American. Ambition, sex, money and idleness are Lily's motivators. All the old standards are defied, and civilian life gradually becomes as dangerous as the military, in its own way. This is the novel Urquhart most wanted to have read by a new audience.

Fred Urquhart (1912-1995) was born in Edinburgh and spent much of his childhood there, where his grandparents lived, and later he worked in an Edinburgh book shop for some years ('my university'). He is best known as a superb short story writer. When he began to write it was the heyday of short story magazines, and this was the only obvious way to earn a living as an author. He spent the war in the north-east of Scotland, a conscientious objector relegated to farm work: his stories of this are agreed to rival Grassic Gibbon and Jessie Kesson. But later he went to London, finding the louche world of Soho more to his taste than Edinburgh correctness. Later he lived in the country in a 'happy homosexual marriage' and he did not return to Scotland until 1991, after his partner's death. The Ferret Was Abraham's Daughter (1949) and Jezebel's Dust (1951) are his two great novels of Edinburgh's poorer citizens in wartime.

Having admired Fred Urquhart's work for many years, Colin Affleck, a fellow native of Edinburgh, became a friend of his on his return to Scotland in 1991. Urquhart later appointed him as his literary executor. Among Dr Affleck's writings on Urquhart is a study focussing on his short stories, which appeared in "British Short-Fiction Writers, 1945-1980" (edited by Dean Baldwin). Dr Affleck is now working on a biography of Urquhart.

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