The Man Who Unleashed The Birds
Frank Baker and His Circle

A Biography By Paul Newman

The family of Frank Baker are pleased to recommend a newly published complete biography of Frank, available for purchase online.

We offer our sincere thanks to Paul Newman, and congratulate him for producing this authorative and enjoyable work.

In 1963 the world of entertainment was transfixed by the terrifying movie The Birds directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier. But what many people do not know was that the same story had been written thirty years earlier by a brilliant young writer called Frank Baker who depicted the city of London falling apart as it was mercilessly attacked by a mysterious flock of birds. This novel had been forgotten and Baker was smarting in penury as he watched what he saw as his own creation go on to reap thousands of dollars. He communicated his anxieties both to Hitchcock and Du Maurier. The first ignored him; the second sympathised and consoled; but this did not salve his torment. Isolated and neglected, bisexual and devoted to alcohol, he felt very much a literary leftover, hiding away with his family mainly in the duchy of Cornwall, about which he wrote with tremendous passion in his brooding, melodramatic first novel The Twisted Tree (1935), in which a mother sacrificed her son, and several other novels and stories. But he was actually a writer of worldwide renown whose classic supernatural comedy Miss Hargreaves was adapted for the London stage with his friend, Margaret Rutherford, taking the leading role. And yet, although he'd been saluted by several critics and a film had been made, starring Robert Donat, of his heart-rending novel Lease of Life, the greater body of his work remained unknown.

This pioneering biography tells the full story of this talented, tormented and intensely likeable man who for a while was organist for Bernard Walke at St Hilary, near Land's End, later becoming an actor and author in London, and finally returning to Cornwall and settling amid a circle of gifted artists and friends, most of whom admired him and shared their problems. Hence, in these pages not only do we meet famous authors like Compton Mackenzie but refugees of the 'forgotten generation' of the 1920s like Mary Butts and that master of the macabre, Arthur Machen; also the zealous, morally stringent critic of the 1930s, Derek Savage, who lambasted George Orwell on the issue of pacifism; the audacious, satirical painter, Lionel Miskin; John Layard, the much-travelled, widely influential anthropologist and psychologist who killed himself (unsuccessfully) after the poet W.H. Auden had betrayed his affection; the loquacious 'Jock' or W.S. Graham, picked out by T.S. Eliot as one of the most remarkable poets of the 20th century; the yachtsman, pacifist and supplier of yarns from Cornwall, Denys Val Baker, and the creator of charming songs and ballads, John Raynor.

About Paul Newman

Paul Newman, former editor of the literary magazine Abraxas, has written books and articles covering subjects as diverse as symbolism, topography and literature. Titles include The Hill of the Dragon (1979) and The Meads of Love (1994), a life of the poet-miner, John Harris. Together with the sculptor A.R. Lamb, he shared a poetry collection In Many Ways Frogs (1997), followed by Lost Gods of Albion (1998), a study of British hill-figures, and A History of Terror: Fear and Dread Down the Ages (2000). His Arthurian novel Galahad (2003) won the Peninsula Prize and his latest books are The Tregerthen Horror (2006) and Haunted Cornwall. He was among the international scholars asked to contribute to Scribner's Dictionary of Ideas.

You can purchase Paul's remarkable biography of Frank Baker online here

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