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An only child, Eileen Dewhurst was self-sufficient and bookish from an early age, preferring solitude or one-to-one contacts to groups, and hating sport. Her first attempts at writing were not auspicious. At 14, a would-be family saga was aborted by an uncle discovering it and quoting from it choked with laughter. A second setback came a few years later at school, when a purple passage was returned with the words 'Cut this cackle!' written across it in red ink: a chastening lesson in how embellishments can weaken rather than strengthen one's message. Eileen read English at Oxford, and afterwards spent some unmemorable years in 'Admin' before breaking free and dividing her life in two: winters in London doing temporary jobs to earn money and experience, summers at home as a freelance journalist, spinning 'think pieces' for the Liverpool Daily Post and any other publications that would take them, and reporting on food and fashion for the long defunct Illustrated Liverpool News, as well as writing a few plays. Her first sustained piece of writing was a fantasy for children which was never published but secured an agent. Her Great Autobiographical Novel was never published either, although damned with faint praise and leading to an attempt at crime writing that worked: over the next thirty years she produced almost a book a year and also published some short stories in anthologies and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Eileen has always written from an ironic stance, never allowing her favourite characters to take themselves too seriously: a banana skin is ever lurking.