By Carolyn Henderson
On July 28, wandering round a charity shop after a visit to the dentist, I struck gold. There on the shelf, for 20p, was a paperback copy of The Horse From Black Loch, by Patricia Leitch.
It was the only one of this wonderful author’s books I hadn’t read, so I couldn’t believe my luck. A few days later, something else I find hard to believe happened – I discovered that on the day I bought it, Patricia Leitch died. She was 82.
I wish I could tell her how much I’ve enjoyed The Horse From Black Loch. It’s a masterful mix of ponies, adventure and the supernatural, put together in a totally believable way. I’ve always loved reading and writing about things we can’t understand (one day, I’ll tell you about the haunted French gite we stayed in) but tethering out of this world happenings to a believable, down to earth story line is incredibly difficult.
I’ve tried to do it in Beside Me and am so grateful to my lovely husband for telling me why bits of the first draft didn’t work and saying “Yes, you’ve got it” several versions later. I don’t know if Patricia Leitch shared her work before she submitted it to her publisher, though I imagine she worked with an editor when Collins published the hardback version, entitled The Black Loch, in 1963. I’d love to know if the story was tweaked when it was issued as an Armada paperback in 1979, because they obviously changed the title to target their market.
The opening paragraphs of the Armada Pony Book cover blurb send shivers down my spine:
“Somewhere over the hills the Horse waited, its magnificent head lifted, listening...
In the great hall at Deersmalen, Uncle Vincent raised his glass in a toast. ‘To the One of the Black Loch,’ he said.”
I’ll raise my glass in a toast to Patricia Leitch, from whose books I’ve learned so much about writing and whose writing still gives me and many others so much pleasure. If you want to read more about her, see Jane Badger’s blog post here: http://booksandmud.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/patricia-leitch-1933-2015.html