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New saga marks 20 years of a fruitful partnership

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

  • Touring the area: Margaret Dickinson is about to embark on a lengthy book tour to promote her new book

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Margaret Dickinson is celebrating 20 years with publisher Pan Macmillan by embarking on an ambitious tour after her latest book The Clippie Girls is launched on February 14.

"This is the longest book tour I have been on and it's to celebrate the anniversary with Pan Macmillan," says Skegness-based saga author Margaret.

"It's been 20 years with Pan Macmillan and 20 books with them now, a book a year. But The Clippie Girls is my 29th book in total.

"Everyone at Pan Macmillan is lovely to work with and I always say my stoke of luck was finding a fantastic agent, Darley Anderson. I am still with him after 20 years as well and he was the one who sold Plough The Furrow, my first book with Pan Macmillan, to them."

For this latest book, Margaret has chosen the Sheffield Blitz of the Second World War as a setting.

She says: "A Clippie Girl is a conductor on either a bus or tram. The idea for this book began on a trip to Crich Tramway Village where the National Tramway Museum is in Derbyshire. There was a tram there, number 264, and the guide said to us 'can you see anything different between the two sides?'.

"She explained it was the windows because the tram was damaged in the bombing of Sheffield. That triggered the story for this book. I was thinking 'what if there was a girl on the tram and a soldier rescued her?' and so on. Then I had to build up this girl's background. I also decided the set up would be a household of women."

The central character is Peggy Sylvester, a beautiful young conductress on the Sheffield trams, who has a close friendship with tram driver Bob. Bob is in love with her but when Peggy is rescued from her bomb-blasted tram by a young soldier, it is love at first sight.

Margaret says: "Peggy is the quiet one of the three Sylvester sisters, she is sensitive and the eldest. Her sister Rose is much more outgoing. But they fall out because Rose is secretly in love with Bob, who in turn is in love with Peggy. It's a bit of a triangle.

"When Peggy meets the soldier she realises she is not in love with Bob at all."

The Blitz has devastated their city and caused endless problems for the Sylvester family.

"But nothing can prepare them for the shocking revelation that Peggy is pregnant by a now absent solider. The household of women, headed by fierce grandmother, Grace Booth, and mother, Mary Sylvester, must face the shame that unplanned pregnancy brings at the time.

"Grace threatens to throw Peggy out," says Margaret. "But Mary says if she goes we are all going. Grace, despite all her grumbling, doesn't want to be left on her own. But she will have nothing to do with Peggy and Peggy has to live either upstairs in her bedroom or in the cold front room all through the pregnancy."

Can a beautiful new baby in the dark days of war bring hope of a happier future?

The Clippie Girls by Margaret Dickinson. Out on February 14. Publisher: Pan Macmillan, £6.99, Paperback.

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