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June Drummond, RIP: “Prolific Writer of Popular Fiction” Passes Away

June Drummond

Old Bones Buried UnderCountdown MurderIn June, the Witness ran an obituary for June Drummond, “one of the most prolific writers of popular fiction”, who Mike Nicol once dubbed “SA’s Queen of Crime”, and is often considered as the woman who kick started SA’s crime-writing tradition.

Drummond passed away earlier this month in Durban, aged 87. She was best known for writing thrillers and Regency romances, publishing 29 novels in her lifetime with her 30th, Dead Shot, due out later this year.

The Witness obituary states that the research that went into her her novels was meticulous, despite their being considered “light entertainment”. This follows a 2003 interview with the Witness, Drummond said she wanted to write the sort of books she liked to read.

One of South Africa’s most prolific writers of popular fiction, June Drummond, died earlier this month in Durban. She was 87 years old.

Drummond was born in Durban in November 1923, and was educated at Durban Girls’ College, where she was dux of the school, and at the University of Cape Town. She lived in London for six years, and was there when her first book, The Black Unicorn , was published in 1959 by Victor Gollancz. Later she became one of Robert Hale’s stable of authors, writing thrillers and Regency romances. Between 1959 and her death, she saw 29 novels published, with a 30th, Dead Shot , due out later this year. Although her books are available in South Africa, her main market is overseas.

ArtSMart ran an obituary of their own in which editor, Caroline Smart, recalls her encounters with the author and her Springbok Radio plays:

Author June Drummond died on June 3 at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke.

During her lifetime she wrote 29 novels, mainly crime stories. Her first novel Black Unicorn was published in 1959 and her most recent, Dead Shot, is still to be published.

Read a more in-depth biography of June Drummond at KZN Literary Tourism, in which Drummond speaks about writing into her retirement, her “second childhood”.

It was back at the end of the fifties that June Drummond parcelled up the manuscript of her first novel – pages and chapters all unnumbered – secured the parcel with colourful, sticky Christmas tape and sent it off to the predominantly Jewish firm of Victor Gollancz.

‘I made all the mistakes,’ she says. But it hardly mattered; Gollancz accepted the book. It was the start of a long partnership, with Gollancz publishing Drummond’s thrillers and romances until the firm was taken over as part of the huge changes that have swept across the publishing scene. Drummond has shown more staying power than her publisher: this year will see her 80th birthday and has already seen the publication by English publishing house Robert Hale of Loose Cannon, her 16th thriller.

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Photo courtesy KZN Literary Tourism


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