(1974) Penguin

‘A wickedly entertaining story of high London life’ Evening Standard

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A Painted Devil, Beautiful and Cock Robin were all written and published in three years. Looking back, that rather surprises me as I had my first son in 1970 and my eldest daughter in 1973. There seems very little connection between these racey, dangerous novels and the contented young wife and mother in real life. Maybe it proves what I’ve always believed strongly: that writing fiction is about using the imagination to make up stories, not picking and mixing from your own life. Which doesn’t mean there are not important influences.

The influence on Beautiful was my husband’s work as a film director. In fact I wrote Beautiful first of all as a film script. I think that explains its taut structure and relative brevity. At this point of my career I wasn’t very confident about my ability to structure so it was a great relief to start writing a novel with the whole plot – and dialogue, of course - already on paper. I also wrote and had performed radio plays and T.V. during this period and contributed dialogue to various films of my husband’s. Dialogue has never been a problem for me. Once I’ve established the characters, I can hear in my head exactly how they speak – even if I don’t necessarily agree with what they have to say.

Beautiful, incidentally, is about a very beautiful, powerful woman who wants to control her world. Gradually it turns from light romance to murder story. I suspect I was also influenced by the Films Noirs of the Seventies.

‘An elegant comedy…a dazzling bauble for our delight’ Kay Dick, The Scotsman

‘A wickedly entertaining story of high London life’ Evening Standard

‘Absorbing insight into darker corners of the female psyche’ Evening News

‘beautiful is a stylish, funny book by Rachel Billington in cracking form’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Well constructed and glossy, written with plenty of high-spirited malice’ Daily Telegraph

Suggested reading: The Space Between, One Summer

The Space Between One Summer