Once upon a time in 1911, a beautiful princess was born.
The love child of an Irish Lord and a Russian princess, she was given to strangers to raise. At least, that’s what she told her son Mike. A census that year showed that one in seven people employed in England worked as a servant. George V was crowned. It was the last election year in England where women could not vote. Growing up during the early days of the twentieth century, Marjorie Grace Patricia Bridget Owen saw women getting the vote, trade unions striking for worker rights, and the devastation that was the first World War.
Marjorie got married, and had a son she called Mike. She survived the blitz, living through 57 consecutive nights of bombing in London during the second World War. During that time she also had “romantic meetings” with one or two members of the Royal Air Force. One of these, Mike recalls, was Guy Gibson, the leader of the Dam Busters raid, who died at age 26 after completing over 170 missions.
She spoiled Mike, working and sacrificing even during wartime rationing and privation in order to send him to private schools and University. Marjorie went on to work as as a major London department store clothing buyer, where her list of famous clients included members of the royal family. Her long career was even extended when she altered her birth certificate from 1911 to 1917, allowing her to work for an additional six years before mandatory retirement. After retiring, she lived alone above a post office in a flat with no hot water. She would strip wash downstairs in the mornings before the staff arrived for work, and carry buckets of coal up for a fire to heat the flat.
When Mike moved to Los Angeles in 1983, “Mum” would visit every two years. She particularly loved the Hollywood Bowl, and the canyons above Santa Monica and Malibu. Marjorie Owen passed away in 2004, after ninety-three years lived to their fullest.
Following her death, Mike found a box in her flat containing notebooks and legal pads covered on both sides with his mother’s writing. There were over fifty short stories, and several novels. She never tried to publish any of her work, or seek recognition or fame. Mike and his wife Dee believe she wrote for the sheer joy and satisfaction it brought her.
Dee, an avid reader, became fascinated with “Mum’s” legacy of stories and books. She decided to transcribe what she’d found, despite the frustration of deciphering the often unclear passages. Her first book, “Ladies of Class” was published in 2008, followed by “The Poison Pen” in 2014. And there is more to come from Mum’s legacy!
Dee has graciously taken the Page 69 Challenge for both of Marjorie Owen’s published books.
Pg. 69 Challenge: Ladies of Class by Marjorie Owen
Murder is no respecter of persons. Richard Hayward’s promotion and move from the big city life to the sleepy town of Burshill, England has been shattered. Sir John Bury needs a murder solved. The results of Richard’s investigation cause a ruckus when several ladies of a particular ‘class’ become part of the inquiry. As the facts begin to unfold, they not only amaze Richard and the community of Burshill but extend all the way to the top brass of Scotland Yard.
Pg. 69 Excerpt
“Anyone can be lovely when they’ve got money.”
Findon shot a look at Richard. His expression showed what he thought of the old hag.
“All right.” Richard kept his patience. “Tell me what happened about the letter. It
says she read about the murders in the paper. What did she say about them?”
“Nearly had a fit to start with but she could see I wasn’t interested. Then she went off
into a sort of trance. Next thing was, right out of the blue, she said to me, “I think I know who may have done these murders.” I told her not to be a fool but she said she’d got to let somebody know. She asked if I’d write the letter for her because her hands weren’t up to it, but I’d got no time for such foolishness and in the end she did it herself.”
Two hardheaded policemen, thinking of that straggly handwriting, could have strangled the old witch themselves.
“It must have been a painful effort on her part,” Richard said. “Didn’t it occur to you
she must have felt very deeply about the matter to have gone to so much trouble?”
“I didn’t bother my head about it. Life was dull enough, goodness knows. You read
about silly women trying to make themselves important over trifles and I thought she was on of them.”
“You regard two murders as trifles, do you?” Findon couldn’t help butting in.
Alison Sidley gave him a cold glance. “Everyone who gets murdered must have been known to somebody, young man. What could my half-sister have had to contribute when she hadn’t seen them for over thirty years? Just a load of rubbish in my opinion.”
Richard intervened. “So it’s logical to assume, is it not, that what Miss Clare was going to tell us had some connection with their youth.”
- Title: Ladies of Class
- Author: Marjorie Owen
- Genre: Mystery
- Publisher: Vintage Romance Publishing
- Date of Publication: March 15, 2008
- Number of pages: 248
Pg. 69 Challenge: The Poison Pen by Marjorie Owen
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Hayward had just started his vacation with his pregnant wife when the call came. Another murder had interrupted the town’s peaceful existence, and the murderer won’t stop at just one victim.
Richard will need all of his expertise if he’s going to find the killer lurking among the town’s only department store. But when the Chief Inspector gets too close to the truth, his ongoing search places his wife and the life of his unborn child in jeopardy. It’s a killer’s warning. Back off or pay the consequences.
Never one to back down, Richard must find the murderer before more lives are taken, but most importantly, he will do whatever it takes to protect his family.
Pg. 69 Excerpt
Berwick could have asked if he’d had other dealings with the writer. I believe he got him to autograph copies of his book at Walls.”
Richard made a note of the writer’s name, and asked the Stanmer’s if they had anything to add. Nothing else emerged and when they found themselves back tracking over the same ground, they felt it was time to bring the meeting to a halt. Richard thanked them for their cooperation and promised to let them know if it brought any results.
When he left, he sat in the Volkswagen without moving off, thinking for a few minutes
about the interview. One point struck him as of particular significance. Berwick, the man who’d lived for his job, must have known he’d have to leave that job if and when his book was published. Berwick, the man who’d lived for his job, surely realized his remarks about the Chairman’s grandfather starting off as a rag and bone merchant, and wouldn’t have gone down very well with the present store owner. Presumably, then, he must have thought of quitting the position he’d worked so hard to achieve.
- Title: The Poison Pen
- Author: Marjorie Owen
- Genre: Mystery
- Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
- Date of Publication: March 21, 2014
- Number of pages: 190