In Let Me Make Myself Plain
Catherine Cookson may be said to break new ground as an author. The title echoes her first surprised reaction to a television producer's suggestion that she undertake a series of late-night Epilogues. She accepted the challenge with results so successful that many who heard the talks wrote asking for their publication.
Here they form the core of a remarkable collection of essays and the poems she modestly dscribes as "prose on short lines", into which she has distilled over the years a deeply personal and hard-won philosophy. Uncompromisingly honest and free of illusion, but with an ultimate message of hope and encouragement, the book is imbued with characteristic down-to-earth common sense and humour.
Whether writing of priests or doctors, or looking back to episodes in her Tyneside childhood, she constantly displays all the qualities that have made her one of the world's most widely-read and best-loved novelists.
Catherine Cookson was born in Tyne Dock, the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. She began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings, where she met and married Tom Cookson, a local grammar-school master. Although she was originally acclaimed as a regional writer - her novel The Round Tower won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 - her readership quickly spread throughout the world, and her many best-selling novels established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists. After receiving an OBE in 1985, Catherine Cookson was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1993. She was appointed an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, in 1997. For many years she lived near Newcastle upon Tyne. She died shortly before her ninety-second birthday, in June 1998.