Novelist Kathleen Winsor was born on October 16, 1919. She died back in 2003, so, she hasn’t written anything lately.
We don’t hear much about her now, but in her day, she was a pretty big deal.
And, quite Scandalous.
She is most famous for her novel Forever Amber. It’s about a rather trampy gall named Amber who lived in the era of the English Restoration.
One of my favorite times in history, it was the time of Stuart monarchs who put that bunch in Buckingham Palace today to shame!
Winsor became interested in the Restoration period while her husband, Herwig was writing a paper for school on Charles II. Out of boredom, Winsor read one of his research books.
Her husband joined the military at the outbreak of World War II and spent five years with the United States Marines fighting in the Pacific theatre.
While the cat was away, Winsor studied the Restoration period, claiming to have read 356 books on the subject.
Now, that’s my idea of research!
She began writing a novel based on what she’d learned. Her fifth draft of the novel was accepted for publication.
The publishers promptly edited the book down to one-fifth of its original size. The resulting novel, Forever Amber, was still 972 pages long.
The book took readers on a an erotic trip through Restoration England offering vivid images of fashion, politics, sex, affairs and public disasters of the time, including the plague and the Great Fire of London.
Appearing in 1944, it attracted criticism for its blatant sexual references.
Shocking, I know!
Fourteen U.S. states banned it as pornography, but it was a Book Club selection in the 1940s, and I was quite shocked to find it on my mother’s book shelf!
I of course, absconded with it!
The Hays Office (the bunch of hypocrites who censored the movies) also condemned it.
Twentieth Century Fox purchased the movie rights within a month.
The film adaptation, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Linda Darnell and Cornel Wilde, was released 1947.
Despite being banned, Forever Amber became one of the bestselling American novels of the 1940s It sold over 100,000 copies in its first week of release, and eventually sold over three million copies
Winsor went on to write other novels, most notably, The Lovers, which is odd, and a tad off-putting. None of her other efforts were as famous.
Realizing that her life with Hewig would be boring after her fame and her books would never be as scandalous as Forever Amber, Winsor set off on a life which included her own scandal.
She dumped her veteran husband and married Band Leader Artie Shaw a mere ten days later.
She obviously forgave him for castigating his previous wife, Ava Gardner for reading a trashy novel like Forever Amber!
After divorcing Shaw in 1948, she married her divorce attorney. She divorced him as well!
Her last husband, Paul Porter, the former head of the FCC, left her a widow in 1975.
Forever Amber, shocking, trashy, and so much a romance novel that the 2000 re-print had a forward by Barbara Taylor Bradford, is still a fun read!
And, you’ll learn a lot about the Restoration as well.