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'Spitfire Girls' - my saga
Last uploaded : Monday 22nd May 2017 at 13:42
Contributed by : Carol Gould


Carol Gould
The story of ‘Spitfire Girls’
May 2017

Just in case I pop my clogs I want the world to know this: the legendary television producer Sally Head ('Prime Suspect ;' 'Life and Loves of a She-devil') and her co-executive producer Gwenda Bagshaw loved my book, 'Spitfire Girls.' Neither lady suffers fools gladly so I was honoured that they so admired my writing. They optioned it in 2011. I mention this because over the years trolls have wrecked my Amazon ratings on both of my books. The great author EL Doctorow ('Ragtime') once said he was plagued by nit-picking trolls. Sally's valiant efforts to produce my book as a blockbuster series were abandoned after it took forever for my publisher to sign the contract. I just wanted to mention this as I endure chemo alone and my mind wanders to my personal disappointments..

In this context I thought I'd share some anecdotes about 'Spitfire Girls.' It started life in 1987 when ex-RAF pilot Bill Leith, and his business partner Stroma Hamilton-Campbell, who ran Leith Air photographic services across the street from me, asked me if I knew that women pilots trained RAF aces. He and Stro introduced me to some of these intrepid ladies including Polish Anna Leska Daab, who had a larger-than-life personality, and utterly terrifying Lettice Curtis, the first woman to fly four-engined bombers as a transport pilot. (She made me rake her lawn before I could interview her; later in Giles Whittell's book about Air Transport Auxiliary I learned that Letttice considered Americans 'one big bad smell.'

After interviewing these ladies in my capacity as Commissioning Editor I went to my Executive Producer at Anglia TV, John Rosenberg, and we decied to option Bill Leith as adviser on a drama series, which I calked 'Spitfire Girls.' We got Tom Kempinski to oversome his agoraphobia to come in to our offices in Park Lane -- that's how much he wanted to write one of the scripts. I wrote a treatment for a 14-hour series including a 2-hour pilot episode ( no pun intended.) The brilliant Shelagh Delaney ('A taste of Honey') also wanted to write an episode as did Peter Nichols ('Privates on Parade.') Peter told me that at the end of the war he was transported across the Channel and had he known a woman was flying the aircraft he ahd his fellow RAF men would have bailed out!

The series was all ready to go with great actresses like Janet Suzman wanting to be involved (ATA women were aged 18 to 50) but Graeme McDonald was brought in to Anglia Drama from the BBC and cancelled it. He snarled at John and me 'I can't think of anything more boring than a bunch of women getting in and out of aeroplanes.' John let me have the rights in 'Spitfire Girls' and eventually it became my book. He had been at Romulus and Anglia for 23 years but Graeme made his life a misery and he died of stomach cancer at 58. Graeme once said to me 'you people are like a mafia' meaning Jews and Americans..(John was American like me.) Sad story but I did get the book published!

It was originally meant to be published in 1988 by a wildly enthusiastic Women's Press. Its boss, Ros deLanerolle, thought it would be her first blockbuster. She died of breast cancer, the publishing house changed hands and they decided to do political books only so I put the manuscript in a drawer for 5 years! In 1993 I sent it to another publisher and he went ahead. Then Random House's Vanessa Neuling fell in love with it and vowed to make me another Barbara Cartland under her wing. RH published it in 09 but Vanessa left. One day the book will make me a millionaire!


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