Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Author Spotlight: Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart remains one of my go to authors when I’m caught short of good page-turning reading. Her plots usually crackle with suspense, interesting characters, and often have an unexpected plot twist. The biggest problem with this author choice is that I’ve run out of her books and there are no fresh titles forthcoming since she past away in 2014.


Born in 1916 as Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, she began writing stories at a the tender age of seven and published her first novel Madame, Will You Talk? in 1954. Critics received her efforts warmly, praising her capable, intelligent heroines and clever plots. 

She met and married her husband, Frederick Stewart, three months after meeting him at a VE dance in 1945. They remained married till his death in 2001. He was knighted in 1974, yet she never referred to herself as Lady Stewart. She was a university lecturer in English Language and Literature, which explains her ease  and ability with storytelling.

Her trademark style involves placing a young intelligent English woman in a foreign setting, such as Greece, Spain, or Austria. The heroine finds herself caught up in a mystery with mysterious men, who are suspect of their intentions. Her prose and attention to details and dialogue placed her novels beyond the usual fare of romantic suspense.

With the success of White’s novel about King Arthur, and taking advantage of the interest in the Kennedy Camelot years, Stewart produced her memorable five part Arthurian series, known as the Merlin Chronicles. This is actually how I first met her.

In college, I became smitten with science fantasy and King Arthur. I spent many pleasurable hours reading about Arthur through Merlin’s point of view. I later moved on to her other titles having hopes, I suppose, she would return to Arthur some day.

One of her novels, The Moon-Spinners became a Disney movie starring Hayley Mills. While it didn’t do well at the box office (due to a darker tone than most Disney movies because of violence) it is a crackerjack of a film because it captures the suspense of Stewart’s novel so well. Yes, some of the plot elrments were changed, but overall Stewart’s plot transferred well to screen.

Stewart’s popularity stayed strong during her writing years through the seventies and eighties, and she produced twenty novels, poetry, and a couple of children’s books.

She retired to Scotland and lived to a well-earned 97 years.

I hope to hunt down the titles I have yet to read through my library’s wonderful inter-library loan service.

Any other Mary Stewart fans in the house?

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10 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: Mary Stewart

  1. Have only read the Merlin books (many many years ago) – it may be time to read more! Thanks for the review!

  2. I forgot about Mary Stewart, and loved that you brought her up here again for the blogging world to see. I’m not sure if I read the Merlin Chronicles, but I know I read something of hers. Which book would you recommend I read first?

  3. Great post! I am a huge Mary Stewart fan, in fact my blog is all about her books. I found – and adored – her suspense novels first but I love the Merlin books too. Which books have you still to read?

  4. I did not count Mary Stewart as one of the must-read suthors during the years I worked as a high school librarian. This post makes me re-think that opinion. Thank you for liking my blog post.

    • She provides some decent cozy reading times. I don’t know if she is a must read author, yet I have certainly appreciated her stories. Intrigue, mystery without a stockpile of violence is difficult to find.

  5. I love her Arthurian stories! The Crystal Cave was my introduction to Anglo-Saxon mythology, which eventually led me to write my MA thesis on Tolkien.

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