Ethel Lina White (2 April 1876 – 13 August 1944) was a British crime writer, best known for her novel The Wheel Spins (1936), on which the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes (1938), was based.
Born in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1876, the daughter of William White, builder and inventor of the Hygeian Rock Building Composition, and Ethel C White, both of Clifton, Bristol. She was one of nine children. White grew up in Fairlea Grange, which was built in the 1880s by her father, and started writing as a child, contributing essays and poems to children's papers as well as passing the Government Examination (Secind Class) in freehand drawing at Newport School of Art in 1890. Later she began to write short stories, but it was some years before she wrote books.
Career as a writer
She left employment in a government job working for the Ministry of Pensions in order to pursue writing. Her writing was to make her one of the best known crime writers in Britain and the United States during the 1930s and '40s.
Her first three works, published between 1927 and 1930, were mainstream novels. Her first crime novel, published in 1931, was Put Out the Light. Although she has now faded into obscurity, in her day she was as well known as writers like Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie. Her works have enjoyed a revival in recent years with a stage adaptation of The Lady Vanishes touring the UK in 2001 and the BBC broadcast of an abridged version on BBC Radio 4 as well as a TV adaptation by the BBC in 2013. Also, many of her works previously unavailable have recently been published for Amazon Kindle.
The first adaptation of White's work was The Wheel Spins. Whilst The Lady Vanishes is primarily seen as one of the highlights of Alfred Hitchcock's career, he almost didn't make the film, as he did so to fulfill a studio contract.
Following the success of The Lady Vanishes there was interest in making more movies from her books and in 1945 her novel Midnight House became The Unseen, directed by Lewis Allen.
Shortly after that came an adaptation of Some Must Watch, one of White's earlier novels. Again the name of the novel was changed and became The Spiral Staircase gaining a Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nomination for Ethel Barrymore.
- The Wish-Bone (1927)
- Twill Soon Be Dark (1929)
- The Eternal Journey (1930)
- Put Out the Light (1931)
- Fear Stalks the Village (1932)
- Some Must Watch (1933; filmed in 1946 as The Spiral Staircase; remade under the same title in 1975, and again for TV in 2000)
- Wax (1935)
- The First Time He Died (1935)
- The Wheel Spins (1936) (filmed in 1938 by Alfred Hitchcock as The Lady Vanishes; remade in 1979 and again for TV in 2013) [Note 1]
- The Third Eye (1937)
- The Elephant Never Forgets (1937)
- Step in the Dark (1938)
- While She Sleeps (1940)
- She Faded into Air (1941)
- Midnight House (U.S. title Her Heart in Her Throat, 1942, filmed in 1945 as The Unseen)
- The Man Who Loved Lions (U.S. title The Man Who Was Not There, 1943)
- They See in Darkness (1944)
- Honey. Pearson's Weekly, 7 September 1935
- Cheese. Reprinted, Capital Crimes (British Library. Ed. Martin Edwards)
- Old Man River Reprinted, Best Mystery Stories (Faber & Faber, 1930)
- [Title unknown]]. Windsor Magazine, April 1933
- Waxworks. Australian Women's Weekly, 25 May 1935. Reprinted, Silent Nights (British Library, Ed. Martin Edwards, 2015)
- The Port of Yesterday (1928)
- , Ethel Lina White, Ancestry.com.
- Abergavenny Local History Society Archived 2009-01-29 at the Wayback Machine
- Big House Holiday Lets
- Devine, Darren (9 April 2014). "For sale: striking childhood home of leading Welsh crime writer who inspired Hitchcock's the Lady Vanishes". walesonline.
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