Brilliant flights of fancy from husband and wife team

PUBLISHED: 13:31 24 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:28 07 September 2010

Husband and wife writers, Edward Thorpe and Gillian Freeman, talk to Bridget Galton about their latest novels HIGHGATE couple Edward Thorpe and Gillian Freeman have published books in the same month – both released by Arcadia. Both are works of fiction b

Husband and wife writers, Edward Thorpe and Gillian Freeman, talk to Bridget Galton about their latest novels

HIGHGATE couple Edward Thorpe and Gillian Freeman have published books in the same month - both released by Arcadia.

Both are works of fiction based closely on factual events - although the similarities end there.

Freeman, 77, a novelist and screenwriter who worked with directors Jack Cardiff, Robert Altman and Sidney J Furie, has brought to life the famed Bloomsbury Group of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey and Vita Sackville-West.

Thorpe, a former actor and Evening Standard dance critic, has imagined the close personal correspondence of a fictional German pilot for The Luftwaffe Letters.

Both works have been years in gestation. Freeman had originally researched the Bloomsbury Group for a planned script that never came off.

Reluctant to waste her efforts, she decided to release the unconventional band of intellectuals from the pages of biography and vividly colour in their conversations in a novel.

But Nobody Lives In Bloomsbury took Freeman two years to write because she can only type with one finger following a debilitating stroke a decade ago.

"It's such a claustrophobic little group of people all in love with the wrong person," she says. "That kind of unrequited love can be personally devastating - but at the same time they broke the boundaries of their day. They took the stuffy Edwardian milieu and broke all the social rules and morals."

Freeman has often been drawn to unconventional subject matter. Her novel and 1964 screenplay The Leather Boys had a taboo-busting homosexual theme, The 1967 book The Undergrowth Of Literature, was a cause celebre for its study of contemporary publications about fetishes and dominant/submissive relationships, and 1972's I Want What I Want was one of the first films to deal with transsexuals.

Freeman feels that Woolf was probably a "very prickly person".

"You would have to feel yourself on the same intellectual plane to talk to her. She was so highly intelligent, rigidly examining everything. She could be devastatingly exact in her thoughts but was probably a difficult person to love."

Thorpe, who is also the Ham&High's dance critic, says he has channelled a "lifelong obsession with aircraft" into his latest novel.

"I wanted to be a pilot. When other boys were reading Magnet or Wizard I was poring over Aeroplane and Flight."

In later life he became fascinated by the story behind the Luftwaffe - how the Nazi leaders created an elite force with the most advanced military aircraft - then self-destructed in a mess of bad mistakes and overbearing egos.

Thorpe says the German fighter pilots were the least touched by Nazi Party politics - but were finally thwarted by Hitler's bad decisions.

He has created a whole network of family and friends for his fictional pilot Peter von Vorzik - an aristocratic background, a new wife, a devout Catholic sister and a brother high up in the SS.

Von Vorzik doesn't sign up to Nazi ideology but is passionate about flying and wishes for the war to be over so he can join Lufthansa.

"They were a very special band those fighter pilots," says Thorpe.

"The cream of their generation. Although we were outnumbered in the Battle of Britain, we had radar and our Spitfires and Hurricanes were a match for the Messerschmidts. We also had the advantage of flying over our own airspace, while they could only engage in combat for 10 to 12 minutes before having to return to refuel."

Thorpe says the demise of the Luftwaffe is detailed in the book, Goering's tactical mistakes, the force overstretched in attacks on Russia and Hitler's refusal to accept the numbers of aircraft from Russia and America.

"On D-Day, the fighting force was totally overwhelmed."

The couple, who have two daughters, Harriet and Matilda, and live in Southwood Lawn Road, maintained a long friendship with Gosford Park director Altman until his death last month.

Freeman wrote his early 1969 screenplay about a psycho killer, That Cold Day In The Park, and says she probably got on well with him because she "wasn't too upset about any changes he made to my script".

The auteur was renowned for encouraging improvisation and shooting on multiple cameras - deciding later what would make it into the final cut.

"It was one of my first films and I thought everyone worked like that," smiles Freeman. "Bob was malleable and open to suggestion. He wanted his actors and writers to tell him what they felt about the film."

Thorpe says the 81-year-old had kept quiet about a heart transplant nine years before for fear of losing the vital insurance needed to secure his films' finances.

"Bob had an easy laid-back charm. We had a lovely evening with him in his house in Malibu three weeks before he died. He looked frail but was in great spirits and didn't seem ill. He was chafing to get back to New York to his next project.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Lucy Casey has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the “unbelievably brutal attack” that killed Hannah Leonard.


A sixteen year old boy has been charged with grievous bodily harm with intent over the Billy Fury Way stabbing which left another teenager in a “critical condition” in hospital.


Only the wind in the trees and the sound of planes passing overhead could be heard at Highgate Cemetery yesterday morning, as it marked Armistice Day.

Yesterday, 18:15

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell slammed Barnet Council’s controversial Capita contracts as “a really good example of the iniquities of outsourcing” – but Barnet leader Cllr Richard Cornelius hit back and appeared to rule out bringing the outsourced services back in-house under his administration.

Yesterday, 12:04

December 8 will see a parade of beards and red woolly hats at Alexandra Palace as, for the first time, YMCA North London holds a Santa Run at the historic Haringey location.

Yesterday, 11:50

Highgate Newtown’s historic Konstam Nursery has unveiled a commerorative mosoaic celebrating its links to the First World War.

Yesterday, 10:00

When the sound of rockets was heard across north London on November 11, 1918, some feared for their lives.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Jamie Brown, of Archant Local Impact, explains how to make your business stand out from the crowd


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now