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The Great Battersby

Ask any passer-by what is, in their opinion, the greatest novel ever written in the English language and you are likely to be greeted with a completely blank stare. Ask the same question outside Threadstone's - the high street bookseller of distinction - and eight out of ten respondents will, without question, offer the same reply: "Not at the moment, I organise all my charitable giving online".

These disappointing statistics notwithstanding, it is generally held by University-indoctrinated students of English Literature, that the greatest novel written in the English language is in fact The Great Battersby, penned by much loved Mottram author F. Scott Thrupiece - great uncle (Lancashire branch) of our own Professor Brian Thrupiece. That family connection may not, it seems, be without interest; particularly to those who have pondered the probable origins of this most puzzling and evocative of stories.

Literary critic, historian and occasional cross dresser Aiden Ann Abbettin believes (s)he has gone some way towards solving what some have described as the literary mystery of the century: just how did F Scott Thrupiece, a man more familiar with a 12" Lamson and Sessions T267 monkey-wrench than a 1924 Woodstock No. 5 Portable Easytype, come up with a plot as compelling and original as that of the rise and fall of Eckersall Battersby, elusive resident of newly fashionable East Eggy? Definitive research in the Thrupiece-Threadbone Archive at Great Heaving settles once and for all, Mr/Ms Abbettin believes, the century-old debate regarding the true inspiration behind this much-loved and much-debated exposé of class, manners, pidgeon-racing and questionable driving technique in the hedonistic world of the Lancashire nouveau riche caught up in the jazz age madness that was the 1920's Burnley Riviera .

Eadie Braithwaite with companions Gladys Tattersall and Monty Mountford were just three of the possible "suspects" in the hunt for the real life Battersby.

Long thought to be based on a people whose antics were known to the author, candidates "in the frame" as the true inspiration for the novel's main protagonists have included:

  • Arnold Sowerby whose visit to the family's black pudding factory in Rawtenstall in 1898 was known to have gone "disastrously wrong"

  • Granville Hawthornthwaite whose tandem accident just outside Bacup in 1904 made "nearly all the local papers"

  • Hepworth Entwistle’s work's picnic ginger ale fiasco of 1906

  • Eadie Braithwaite’s infamous dickey-seat/garage incident of late March 1908

  • Local society belle and later psychiatric patient Flossie Arkwright’s involuntary overnight incarceration in the Tintwistle Mechanics Institute in 1912.

None, however, are - according to Mr/Ms Aiden Ann Abbettin [Can't we just say "her" [ed]] - compelling.

She [Better [ed]] believes that F Scott Thrupiece based his novel on quite a different incident and one, moreover, which happened over 10 years later and so much closer to the time of The Great Battersby's creation. This Mr/Ms Aiden Ann Abbettin [Oh for f***k's sake [ed]] believes involves the story of missing crime writer Agatha Hotel-Towl whose flight to the Swan Inn, Runcorn in 1923 occupied the front page of many of the national newspapers and whose story might, therefore, have been familiar to F S T [Excellent! [ed]] always assuming he could read.

Mr/Ms Aiden Ann Abbettin [I thought we'd discussed this sort of thing [ed]] further argues that - based on a forensic comparison of "several striking similarities" - the novel is also a pre-echo of, or prequel to, a similar incident involving Professor Thrupiece and his still unexplained disappearance from a Swiss hotel room in 2005. [Readers unfamiliar with the details of Professor Thrupiece's disappearance, his consequential inability to give the 2005 Magdalene College Cambridge Association Guest Lecture and subsequent failure to secure Honorary Fellowship of the College should write to: The Development Office, Magdalene College Cambridge, CB3 0AG, enclosing proof of age and a SAE.]

Those startling similarities in detail:

  • All three involve a hotel

  • All three took place somewhere in Europe [a much smaller place at the start of the 20th century than it is now]

  • All three took place in either the 20th or the 21st century and are spanned by a mere 103 years

  • In each case there is a mystery presence - including in one case a party of corrupt FIFA officials

  • Whilst one involves a half empty whisky bottle, another a coat hanger and the third a set of nasal clippers - all suggest abandonment, flight and loss - a key theme of the novel [See Brenda Oats (2007) The Great Battersby: Key Themes for GCSE English Candidates, Threadbone GCSE Study Guides, The Threadbone Press]

  • In later evidence to the police, Ms Agatha Hotel-Towl stated that she had said to Martha Bunce "I am just nipping to the shops"; in the novel, Eckersall Battersby says to Maisy Arbuthnot-Earnshaw "Toodle pip old bean. I'll return in a trice", whilst Professor Thrupiece's poignant "final" note to S-L S - now in the hands of L'Autorités Suisses - reads "Just popping out for the usual. Back in a tick" ie all three signal an exit of some sort.

"That's just about QED, I'd say", says her. [At last! [ed]]

The Novel and the Study Guide

LEFT: Cover of the Original Edition of F. Scott Thrupiece's The Great Battersby. A mint copy can fetch up to £8 at auction provided it is not signed by the author. RIGHT: The 2007 Study Guide by Brenda Oats retails for £12.99 at branches of Threadstones - it is more than 33% more expensive than the original novel.

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