Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: September 2018


• Heritage Open Days

Muriel Spark Lit Fes showing (02) 080918On 8 September, the Forum in Norwich kindly provided their Auditorium free of charge for the rescreening of Muriel Spark’s appearance at the Arthur Miller Centre Autumn Literary Festival in 2001. It’s Spark’s centenary year and a good opportunity to highlight the archive. The event was introduced by Dr Nonia Williams of the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing (LDC), who spoke of her research with the correspondence between Spark and Doris Lessing and responded to questions from the audience. [33 attendees]

Suffragette workshop at Forum 150918On 15 September, Justine Mann led a workshop for the public, ‘Suffragette Stories: Transcribing History’ which highlighted the UEA’s suffragette archives, the Kenney Papers, and the Heritage Lottery Funded project the archive is currently engaged in. Audience members were encouraged to transcribe original Christabel Pankhurst letters and write short stories inspired by the archive. [22 attendees]

• UEA Open Day, 8 September

Applicants and their parents took the opportunity to browse the literary archive collections and our suffragette archives and find out more about opportunities for UEA students to become involved in the collections. A demonstration of archive digitisation also took place in the Media Suite, provided by Chase PGR student placement, Annie Kelly, who currently works as a Digitisation Assistant on the Suffragette Stories project. [38 visitors to the Archive]

• Born Digital Archives

Justine Mann attended a meeting in Oxford with the British Library and various HEIs to discuss potential research projects examining the future of the literary archive.


• MA Research Seminar (Crime Writing) 12 Sep 2018
Year two students were given a preview of material from the Lee Child Exhibition including correspondence between Child and his literary agent and editor. [12 attendees]

• Literature, Drama & Creative Writing (LDC) PGT Induction
Students from all PGT programmes were invited to browse the varied collections and consider how the material might contribute to their studies and future research projects. [32 attendees]

• Reading the 18th C novel with intro to Archives & the BACW
Students were introduced to relevant Special Collections’ texts [11 attendees]

Kenney Papers (suffragettes)

Saddleworth Museum has requested images for a presentation relating to Annie Kenney.

Lee Child Archive

DSCF3632Selections from this collection were on display in the Enterprise Centre for NOIRwich Crime Writing Festival on 14 September, this then moved to the Library foyer (until 11 October). Requests to view the archive are being received from the public however the archive is not yet catalogued and therefore unavailable to individual researchers.

UEA Collection

UEA staff are researching the history of the Faith Centre (former Chaplaincy).

Special Collections

There were 7 requests plus a group booking.

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: September 2017


LDC PGT students’ introduction to primary source archive materials

LDC PGT Induction

What constitutes distinctively graduate research and how might it differ from undergraduate study?
This seminar in the Archives Reading Room was attended by 12 postgraduates from the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. Material from across Archives and Special Collections were used in demonstrating and drawing out the benefits as well as the unique challenges posed by primary source material and early printed works. Students had the opportunity to handle papers and in some cases listen to interviews from the archives of Naomi Alderman, Tash Aw, Richard Beard, Andrew Cowan, Adam Foulds, Annie Kenney, Doris Lessing, J.D. Salinger, W.G. Sebald and Snoo Wilson.

Lorna Sage Archive
A visiting researcher from Tokyo has been looking at records held in the Sage archive which relates to Angela Carter. This includes a catalogue of Carter’s private library.


 Heritage Open Day / Kenney Papers, 8 September

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Medals and ribbons collected and worn by the suffragettes.

There were 11 attendees at this event held in the Archives Reading Room on 8 September. Guest speaker Fiona Sinclair (MA Creative Writing) spoke about her research on the Kenney Papers (suffragettes) in the Archives and how this links with the novel she is writing. There was also an introduction to the BACW (British Archive for Contemporary Writing) and visitors had a chance to see some exhibits and the stack area.

• UEA Open Day, 9 September
Parents and prospective applicants to the Faculty of Humanities attended presentations on the BACW as part of their Open Day tour. They were also provided with access to materials from the Archive and were given insight into how we use these resources within teaching.

• Exhibition: ‘Plotting the Perfect Crime’


Exhibition on Floor 02 of the Library

For the second year, the BACW created a crime writing exhibition, as part of Noirwich, Crime Writing Festival organised by UEA in collaboration with The Writers’ Centre and Dead Good Books. 273 ticket holders for Martina Cole and Arne Dahl festival events on 15 September were given an exclusive preview of ‘Plotting the Perfect Crime’ exhibition in the Thomas Paine Study Centre Foyer. The exhibition, which features original archive material from Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid and Robert Edric, has now moved to the new Archive Foyer on 02 of the Library where it will be on display until Dec 22. More about the exhibition.

• I Love Arts and Humanities: Multimedia Experience, 26 & 29 September
As part of Transitions Week, this event in the HUM Media Suite on 26 September welcomed 150 people through the doors in the first 90 mins. Visitors were able to find out about the facilities in the Media Suite and talk to the BACW and the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) about volunteering opportunities. The event was repeated on 29 September.

• Arts and Humanities Opportunities Fair, 28 September
The Archives promoted ‘Unboxed’ at the fair held in the Council Chamber.  This is a blogging opportunity open to student volunteers who wish to explore and highlight treasures from the Archives and have their posts published on the UEA Archives blog.

UEA Collection

1962 UEA Appeal Fund documents in clamshell box

Staff from the V-C’s Office visited the Archives to learn more about the UEA Collection and see a range of materials including papers relating to the 1962 UEA Appeal Fund.

Zuckerman Archive

• A researcher is working on reports relating to the bombing of northern Italian ports during WWII.

• A university academic has visited to research WWII casualty surveys conducted in Birmingham and Hull and a related collection of 2,000 school children’s essays giving their account of being in an air raid.

Special Collections
There were 8 requests.

Plotting the Perfect Crime: a crime writing exhibition from the British Archive for Contemporary Writing at UEA

Noirwichnoirwich logo

This year’s crime writing exhibition, created to coincide with Noirwich, reveals the intricate planning behind some of our greatest contemporary crime novels, with material from Val McDermid, Stuart MacBride and Robert Edric, author of a crime trilogy set in Hull, this year’s City of Culture. Stuart MacBride predicts a nosebleed amongst fellow writers.

Here archivist, Justine Mann, introduces her personal highlights.

Stuart MacBride

MacBride’s notebooks and mindmaps are the earliest incarnation of his novels. He has created a literal map to visualise his fictional town of Old Castle, all the better to locate the murders and the distances between them. What begins as an impressive tool evolves into something the Ordnance Survey would be proud of and is published within a subsequent novel. Perhaps the most striking of elements within this display is a graph. At first glance it appears to be a chart of multiple, frantic, sound waves but on closer inspection it reveals the cadences of plot points marshalled to pinpoint accuracy in order to create the most devastating effect on the reader. He remarks casually, that ‘This has been known to give other writers nose bleeds’. This display also reveals his painstaking restructuring of the plot for In the Cold Dark Ground, scene by scene with scissors and sellotape.

Val McDermid

The author’s latest novel, Insidious Intent, ‘impeccably plotted and intensely gripping’ also began in notebook form. On display are original pages from a numbered outline charting key plot developments. ‘When I start a book, I have an idea of the story arc and I’ve spent most of my prep time thinking about the characters: how they’re going to conduct themselves, how they got to be the person they are today.’

The evidence here suggests that McDermid’s subconscious is working hard on plot design before she tackles the page. While crafting the language she refers to the outline notes to keep the structure on track. She recently revealed her daily routine to The Guardian:

‘Around the second cup of coffee, I take a look at what I last wrote, tweaking and revising, stripping the prose back till I’m more at ease with it. I spend the first month feeling my way into the book, getting a sense of its world and learning its nooks and crannies. Then it picks up pace and I can’t escape it.’

Robert Edric

How does a literary novelist take on the challenge of writing crime fiction? In 2002, the Booker longlisted author, Robert Edric, took a break from writing literary novels, to create a crime trilogy set in Hull, this year’s City of Culture. In The Times, Neel Mukherjee, applauded Cradle Song, Edric’s first, for: “its vertiginously devious plot twists, the maze of multiple-crossings (which) all close like a fist around the throat of the reader.”

“When I’m working on a literary novel,” Edric says, “it’s less important to me whether I write a, then d, g , x then e. The meaning of the book might be in the middle. The goal is not the end, but whether it fails or succeeds in your own mind. With a crime novel, you’re less organic. There has to be a logical process.’

A sense of place has always been important to Edric and in the opening chapter on display he uses Spurn Point, a bleak yet beautiful peninsular, 30 miles from Hull and ravaged on all sides by the North Sea, as the setting of a key meeting between ex copper, Sullivan, and private investigator, Rivers. The drafts reveal the key phrases and striking images that survive, almost in tact, from first draft through to final publication, as well as the tweaks and line edits that heighten characterisation and plot tension.

Previewed on Friday 15 September (UEA, TPSC Foyer) /

UEA Archives Foyer, UEA Library Floor 02, Tue 19 Sept – Fri 22 Dec (Free access)

Visiting Professor at UEA, Ian Rankin, on the creation of Rebus

Ian Rankin headlined the UNESCO City of Literature rankin-video-stillsCrime writing Festival, Noirwich, in September with an appearance at the University of East Anglia. He spoke to Henry Sutton, convenor of the MA in Crime Fiction, on the origins of Rebus and how his novels take shape through the writing and drafting process.

Until 24 November, early drafts of his latest novel, Rather Be The Devil, are on display in the Library Foyer.

View the interview here:


Making Bond – exhibits from the Charlie Higson Archive


Until November 24 2016, an exhibition from the Charlie Higson Archive, ‘Making Bond’ is available in the foyer of the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Library.

Below the curator, Matt Woodcock, a Senior Lecturer at UEA, introduces the material. The archive exhibition was the basis of his interview with Charlie Higson at UEA on 16 September which can be viewed from the link below.



Matt Woodcock: Higson on Bond

‘How do you go about making a James Bond novel, and re-imagine Ian Fleming’s, at times controversial hero for a young adult audience? The materials in the Charlie Higson Archive offer a valuable insight into this process.

This exhibit presents different stages of the making of Higson’s Young Bond series, starting with the background research undertaken in order to place the hero into historical and geographically accurate contexts. We then see various stages of authorial revisions from the 2005 Young Bond book SilverFin, and look behind the scenes of Higson’s characters and narrative voice taking shape. The Higson archive also contains a record of editorial and reader feedback on the series. We can see here what the author’s editors made of early drafts, and how a selection of young readers responded to SilverFin once published.

The easels accompanying the display case show details from proofs of the 2008 SilverFin graphic novel, illustrated by Kev Walker. Here we see Bond’s first appearance in the novel, and the first time he sports the number 007.’

Dr Matthew Woodcock
School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
University of East Anglia
E: archives@uea.ac.uk T: 01603 59 3483phe

Gently Does It. Revealing the Alan Hunter Archive

The Archive of Alan Hunter (1922-2005) was generously gifted to UEA by his daughter Helen in 2015. Hunter was the author of a series of crime novels featuring Inspector George Gently.

004Written between 1955-1999, Hunter completed 46 novels across 45 years with punning titles like Gently Does It, Gently by the Shore, Gently Down the Stream, Gently Continental, Gently with the Ladies and so on. The popular BBC One television series George Gently and later Inspector George Gently were loosely based on Hunter’s novels.

Typically each archive collection arrives with its own set of interesting nuances, challenges and surprises and Hunter’s archive was no exception. A vast array of dusty folders and boxes arrived in need of attention and a thorough sort. There was also a heavy wooden chest.

AH Gently Down the StreamHunter’s writing process was methodical, his hand-writing meticulous and his scripts well organised in labelled boxes. While he is most well-known for his Inspector George Gently novels, Hunter was also a keen writer of poetry and drama. In 1945 at the age of 23 he published a poetry collection The Norwich Poems. His archive contains these and many unpublished poems, dramas, screenplays and short stories.

The oldest item amongst his papers is a short story The Crime Without a Clue. This eight page manuscript was completed at precisely 11.40 pm on 31 October 1935. Hunter would have been 13 years old when he created the characters of Detective Grant and his assistant who must solve the baffling circumstances surrounding the death of Sir Harry Fenton, killed by his own pistol fired from the sideboard, by apparently no one.

AH.11.11.1 (002)In a preface written by Hunter in 1963 he explains his earlier attempt in 1953 to publish some short stories. They were not sold and in disgust he turned to writing his first crime novel Gently Does It. On returning from a holiday in Wales and after ascending the Wyddfa (Snowdon), he found that his manuscript of Gently Does It had also been rejected by a number of publishers. One blunt rejection referred to Gently’s personality not coming across, and that just to give him the trade mark of eating peppermint creams was not nearly enough. He resolved to write for his own pleasure and From the Summit was written, in a degree of elation. Meanwhile his crime novel Gently Does It reached Cassell where it found acceptance. Thus began the Inspector George Gently series of novels in 1955.

Writing in a caravanette, Hunter favoured jumpers and tweed jackets and smoked a pipe; he bore a close resemblance to Inspector George Gently himself. Included in his archive are a couple of rejected Gently manuscripts: Millionaires are Murder (1957) and Nothing Holy (1969); and the expected plethora of unidentified manuscripts and fragments of writing.

Despite Hunter’s good organisation there are the inevitable areas where things appear less clear. Creative writing implies a process of branching out, of going back and forth, of re-visiting, and re-developing ideas. This doesn’t lend itself to precise order nor would we want to impose such an artificial structure. Instead, the Archive’s guide to the papers makes users aware of possible connections within the collection by a number of cross-references. We have assigned numbers to all items, making it so much easier to keep track of and identify the many manuscripts and pieces of paper.

The sorting of the papers was tricky as same characters and lines often popped up in different titles therefore making it difficult to say with certainty which script belonged to which work. For instance, Lachlan Stogumber appears in the unpublished manuscript of Nothing Holy (1969) and a couple of years later in the published work of Gently at a Gallop (1971). The line ‘There’s many an airman just finishing his time’ crops up in two unpublished novels: Just Finishing His Time (1956) and Strange Testament (1957). Some rejected novels resurfaced, sometimes more than 10 years later, with a different title and significant changes: in 1961 Hunter went back to his 1953 unpublished novel From the Summit and borrowed from it for Gently to the Summit.

Ideas sketched in notebooks and early stories were taken up years later. Thus there is not always a clear correlation between the drafts and final publications. There is evidence of him re-submitting his writing to publishers many years after the original submission; or re-working something like La Paloma, which began as a story but which was then re-written as a play.

Detective skills are indeed needed to make the links and match up the various drafts. There are plenty of connections still to be made and the expectation is that keen future users of the collection will discover for themselves the evolution of Hunter’s writing.

The notebooks are gems, filled with musings, sketches, character descriptions and detailed plots were Hunter makes his suppositions.

A poisonous prescription issued by a pharmacy, apparently in error; but the victim is the suspected mistress of the chemist’s husband. [1]

Wymondham should have a tale to tell … perhaps the death of the elderly lady who kept the ‘Busy Fingers’ establishment. [1]

He writes of his struggles in coming up with a setting.

A setting out of East Anglia I said. But East Anglia keeps haunting me. Yet I have used so much of it, feel I have spent it out. I need an outside setting. Scotland is probably my best bet. [2]

From Diss to Dunwich, Bury St Edmunds to the Broads, Gently found himself in locations across East Anglia and sometimes in London, Scotland and even Wiltshire. This is in contrast to the televised series which places Gently in Northumberland and Durham.

There are days when Hunter has no inspiration at all.

But now my mind is empty of ideas or rather will have no truck with them. Show it an idea and it plainly refuses. It won’t grasp an idea, vivify it, set it in motion, begin to enrich it, with scenes, drama. [3]

And then there are days when, in his seventies, his hand aches and pen after pen fails to alleviate the frustration.

As he is writing Bomber’s Moon in 1994 he wonders if he wants to devise another book.

I am at the age when Simenon threw in the towel and retired into autobiography. But I don’t feel that old yet. Or even old. Just grown up, experienced. [4]

Hunter completed his 46th and last Gently novel at the age of 77.


1 Notebook entry, 24/10/94 (AH/14/23).
2 Notebook entry, 30/10/87 (AH/1/36/1).
3 Notebook entry, 31/1/80 (AH/1/27/1).
4 Notebook entry, 16/5/94 (AH/14/21).


Ticketholders for Charlie Higson and Ian Rankin at Noirwich: The Crime Writing Festival enjoy a preview of an exhibition on the Alan Hunter Archive (16 September, UEA).

The exhibition then moves to UEA Library from 20 September 2016.

Accessing the archive

Enquiries on this collection may be directed to archives@uea.ac.uk
Further details and a listing of the description is available from the Alan Hunter Archive