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Review of Malachi Whitaker - Yorkshire Post 26th April, 2011

Radio renaissance for writer dubbed 'the Bradford Chekhov'

The work of 'forgotten' Bradford writer Malachi Whitaker is now enjoying something of a renaissance, with three of her stories set to be broadcast on radio this week.

Her short stories gained Whitaker the accolade of 'The Bradford Chekhov' in the 1920s and 1930s but the passage of time saw her fall out of fashion and out of print.

Her son, Michael, 80, of Bradley, near Skipton said: 'It seems as though that she is being rather rediscovered now. It is very gratifying. The great thing about her short stories is that they are true or based on the truth. People would always talk to her.'

Whitaker chronicled the lives of ordinary folk in the North of England with her compassionate pen, sympathetically observing the ins and outs of the minutiae of their lives.

Three of her stories, Landlord of The Crystal Fountain; Strange Music and Home to Waggonhouses will be broadcast on Radio 4 this week beginning today at 3:30pm as part of a series directed by the actor Martin Jarvis.

Today at 3:30pm, as part of Radio 4's Afternoon Reading, in Landlord of The Crystal Fountain, read by Imelda Staunton, attractive red-headed teacher Brenda Millgate meets five men on a train from Kings Cross going north. What happens to her on the journey is a life-changing experience.

Tomorrow, Moira Quirk reads Strange Music. Written in 1934, is it the story of a young girl's visit to a northern dance hall.

On Thursday, Rosalind Ayres reads Home to Waggonhouses in which prematurely grey Sarah visits the husband who deserted her three years earlier. She has heard that he is lying ill but she arrives at her destination to find an unexpected situation.

Whitaker was the pen name of Marjorie Olive Whitaker, who was born in Bradford in 1895. One of 11 children of a local bookbinder in the city, she attended Belle Vue Girls' Grammar School.

The author wrote a number of short stories in the twenties and thirties and was regarded as one of the finest writers of that time.

Whitaker wrote nearly a hundred stories which were published in four collections.

Following the publication of her memoirs And So Did I in 1939, the author announced she was to retire from writing. She died, in Skipton, at the age of 80, in 1976.


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