Classic Crime

Domini Taylor

Will the real Roger Longrigg please stand up? Having investigated this author I am still finding out how many pseudonyms (or masks) this writer hid behind during his writing career. Longrigg who died in 2000 had over 55 books to his name(s). So far we know the names he did write under were Rosalind Erskine, Laura Black, Ivor Drummond, Frank Parrish and his last creation, Domini Taylor. Oh, and he did bring out some books under his own name!

Born 1st May 1929 in Edinburgh, Longrigg lived in the Middle East where his father was stationed, eventually being sent back to attend his studies at Bryanston. After completing his History degree at Magdalen College, Oxford, Longrigg worked for an advertising agency. During his time there he completed two comic novels, ‘A High-Pitched Buzz’ and ‘Switchboard’ under his own name. Longrigg married in 1959 and became a full-time writer, creating different pseudonyms to suit the different writing styles. One of Longrigg’s most successful novels was ‘The Passion Flower Hotel’ under the non-de-plume of Rosalind Erskine. Written in 1962, it depicts the events of a girl’s boarding school which turns itself into a brothel for a local boy’s school. This title was turned in to a stage musical, radio play and film starring Nastassja Kinski.

Domini Taylor was Longrigg’s last pseudonym and he finished his writing career writing psychological suspense novels under this guise. They are to date his most well-known novels. Longrigg died in February 2000, age 70.

Review: Mother Love

I was first introduced to Longrigg in 1989 although I did not know it at the time. I watched, as did millions of other viewers, a TV drama entitled, ‘Mother Love’. This drama, the screenplay of which was penned by Andrew Davies of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fame, starred Diana Rigg in the title role of Helena alongside David McCullum and Isla Blair. This was a fascinating tale of a mother’s obsessive love for her only child and how boundaries are crossed when loyalty has been savagely betrayed. It was spellbinding stuff and kept the nation gripped over three episodes.

It wasn’t until 1994 that my path would again cross that of Domini Taylor. I picked up a paperback entitled, ‘Praying Mantis’. The name Domini usually lends itself as a woman’s name and reading the Domini Taylor books, it would not be remiss to believe they had been written by a woman. They so closely resemble the psychological novels of Ruth Rendell and Longrigg certainly manages to hoodwink his reader by elaborating this with his writing and observations in a feminine style.

‘Mother Love’ is all about obsession. Helena’s obsession with being wronged, being denied the life and privilege she deserved. Her whole universe centred on her only child, Christopher who was addressed as Kit but as ‘Kitten’ by her mother, even when he reached adulthood. Helena denies Kit’s father, Alexander Vesey access to his son, retaliation for what she classes as his desertion of their marriage. When her ex-husband is revered as a classical conductor years later, Helena’s rage at her abandonment still burns like the fires of Tartarus. As she watches her nemesis gain a knighthood and Vesey’s present wife become a Lady, a title Helena feels she herself should be proudly wearing, Helena begins to plot their downfall. But this is not something new, Helena’s rage knew no moral bounds as a child, but the greatest betrayal is yet to be unveiled – and it is closer to home than she could ever imagine.

Longrigg’s style of writing ratchets up the suspense as this fractured family digs itself deeper and deeper in lies and deception to keep Helena ignorant of the actions of those closer to her. Longrigg’s style of writing can sometimes feel old fashioned and he is from that stable of writing where he explains more through prose than dialogue. His style is very much like that of the crime writer, Margaret Yorke.

‘Mother Love’ is as powerful a story in book form as it was on the small screen. Helena’s self-deception and control soon spiral out of control as the green-eyed monster of envy and privilege propel her to unspeakable acts. As I have mentioned before, I did not know this was written by a man when I was first introduced to Domini Taylor, so convincing is Longrigg feminine personality. If you have not read Domini Taylor, then ‘Mother Love’ should be your first port of call. It really is a quite chilling tale in its simplicity. As they say, the strongest love is a Mother’s unconditional love… but the partnership of Domini Taylor and Roger Longrigg show it can also be the deadliest…

Reviewed by: C.S.

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