January 9, 2004 by

Joan Aiken

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Categories: Writers/Editors

Joan Delano Aiken, an award-winning author who wrote more than 90 novels, died on Jan. 4. Cause of death was not released. She was 79.
The daughter of American writer Conrad Aiken, Joan was reportedly born in a haunted house in Rye, Sussex, England. As a child, she spent a great deal of time alone, taking walks and making up stories. She began writing these fanciful tales when she was five and penned a children’s story for the BBC’s “Children’s Hour” when she was only 16. Aiken developed her writing skills with the BBC and the Information Ministry during and just after World War II. She married and bore two children, but when her husband, journalist Ronald George Brown, died, she returned to writing as a means of supporting her family.
Aiken worked as a features editor for Argosy magazine and a copywriter for an advertising agency while writing plays, poems and short stories in her spare time. In 1953, she published “All You’ve Ever Wanted and Other Stories,” a collection that was illustrated by Pat Marriott. Aiken and Marriott would eventually work on many books together, including her most famous tale, “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.” The suspenseful story of two girls who are besieged by lupine and human predators was published in 1962, won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and spawned the “Wolves Chronicles.”
Over the next 30 years, Aiken produced dozens of novels, short story collections and plays. She wrote the humorous adventure series, “Arabel’s Raven,” which was adapted for television by the BBC, and two Jane Austin sequels (“Mansfield Revisited,” “Jane Fairfax: Jane Austen’s Emma Through Another’s Eyes”). In 1970, she won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for her juvenile mystery, “Night Fall.” Queen Elizabeth II recognized her contributions to children’s literature in 1999 by making her a member of the Order of the British Empire.
Aiken’s final book, “The Witch of Clatteringshaws,” is scheduled for publication next year.
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