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An Introduction to Bella Wallis

What would your say to your favourite character if you had the chance? If you had ten minutes to grill them on their tastes, their hobbies, their way of life? We asked Brian Thompson, creator of the well-loved character Bella Wallis to interview her!

Bella Wallis is a glamorous widow with a secret identity: in an office buried deep within the dodgy backstreets of Victorian London, she writes sensationalist novels exposing the scoundrels that litter high society under the pen name Henry Ellis Margam.

With dodgy deals, scheming aristocrats and stolen kisses behind closed doors, prize-winning author Brian Thompson has created a woman incomparable in her wit and charm.

Over to Brian:

1. Sensationalist novels – good or bad?

Bella: Sensationalist novels are hardly great literature. I don’t say my books come without effort, but they are really no more than entertainments. And all the better for it, perhaps.

2. Captain Quigley or Billy Murch?

In a balloon debate about who to throw out first, Percy Quigley or Billy Murch, I would of course throw out Murch, not because I like him least but for my absolute faith in his versatility. Billy would glide several miles and land on the waters of a lake like a migrating swan. The Captain, by contrast, would fall as straight and true as a Christmas pudding flung down a factory chimney.

3. What is your best trait?

My best trait is bringing men – both good and bad – up to the mark.

4. And your worst trait?

My worst trait is, I am told, smoking. Tennyson smokes.

5. What is your favourite clue that has started one of your novels?

In The Captain’s Table Mary Skillane nearly faints away at the mere mention of Robert Judd’s name. This happens far more frequently than many people suppose. I was once at Lady Cornford’s when a very blithe young man happened to mention he had called his horse Adriana. At which the contessa Montalban did everything except jump out of the window. These are excellent clues.

6. What would you save if your house were on fire?

If the house were on fire I would save the manuscript of whatever book I was writing and a photograph of Philip Westland wherein he looks liker an arctic explorer, but actually taken outside a hotel at Ramsgate one snowy Christmas Eve. He was in such a filthy temper.

7. Town or country?

Like many Londoners, I adore the country, provided inns and post offices and railway stations remain firmly in view.

8. Social gathering or a quiet night in?

I enjoy dressing up for dinner parties and the like and the chance to collect (see above) the human interest stories they provide. However, I am by nature more solitary. Coached by Mrs Venn, I am a great believer in the idea of Tom Tiddler’s Ground.

9. Who would you invite to your imaginary dinner party?

The guest of honour at any dinner party of mine would be, without question, Thackeray. I could tolerate D’Israeli for an hour or so, if it could be arranged that he was called away for a division in the House of Commons. Then: Tom Cribb, the boxer; the great soldier Sir Charles Napier; the great courtesan Harriet Wilson; the Countess d’Orsay; and finally, to throw a net of commonsense over the entire table, my beloved friend, Hannah Bardsoe.

10. Is there anything from your past you would like to change?

Perhaps I might have loved my father less when a child.

11. What is your pet hate?

I detest artichokes and water-colourists.


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