Over 100 books published - including the 2+ million best-seller 'Mavreen'
"Not just a good read;
It's a slice of life."
18th May 2015
Claire is interviewed on BBC World Service 'Outlook'
A lighthearted and interesting discussion on how Claire started writing and the influence of her mother (Denise Robins) and grandmother
Starts 13 mins and 55 seconds into the programme
27 March 2015
Claire is interviewed on BBC Breakfast TV!
"Still writing at 94!" Claire is interviewed on BBC Breakfast about her writing and work and her latest publications.
15th March 2015
Claire Lorrimer Biography
We are sad to announce the death of WWII veteran and bestselling novelist Patricia Robins, aged 95, who also wrote under the pen name Claire Lorrimer, on Sunday. December 4th, peacefully at home.
She will be much missed by her family and friends, as well as her millions of readers worldwide.
Born Patricia Robins, 1st Feb 1921, she was the second of three daughters of Denise Robins, the bestselling novelist also known as ‘the Queen of Romance’, author of 160 novels. Patricia’s own novels sold over 10 million copies with fans including Jilly Cooper. Indeed Patricia was part of a romance writing dynasty spanning generations: Denise Robins’ own mother was also a novelist whose writing rescued the family finances after she eloped with an officer and the family jewels.
Patricia’s father, Arthur Robins had been twice wounded in WW1, the second time seriously and was invalided out of the Army. It was whilst recovering in hospital that he had met and married Denise who had nursed him as a volunteer 'VAD' nurse.
In her younger years Patricia was always getting into trouble with wickedly tomboyish ‘good ideas’. She once blew up the self-contained electrical generator that powered her house by plugging in a toy telephone set to the electrical socket and freed the goldfish into the swimming pool. As a distraction, her mother – then writing for Mills & Boon - gave her a portable Remington typewriter and so aged 12, Patricia began writing.
She was sent to school in Switzerland where she learned to speak French and ski. In 1937 aged 16, Patricia wanted to learn German and was sent to study near Munich, where she was housed with a Jewish German family.
She once found herself stuck in a traffic jam just a few feet away from Adolf Hitler, as he sat in an open topped car. At the time, he didn’t mean that much to her, but nearly eighty years later she still vividly remembered ‘meeting Hitler’s cold blue eyes.’
She made many friends, both German and English, and her group of pretty young girls were in constant demand as partners for German Luftwaffe Officers who had to attend formal dancing lessons.
On her return to England she decided on a career in journalism and with her mother’s help secured a job as a junior editor with Women's Illustrated magazine, at the rate of £3 10s a week. Her mother’s career was at its height with London buses carrying adverts proclaiming 'Robins for Romance’ and she was well on the way to selling 100 million copies.
As war approached, Patricia decided to 'do her bit' and joined the WAAF. After basic training she was assigned to 'Special Duties.' With her language skills, Claire had longed to be a spy and, at first, was unaware of the importance of her duties in the filter room, tracking incoming enemy aircraft with the fledgling British radar system: ‘it seemed like I was to spend the war playing tiddly winks’.
In fact, not only were the WAAFs replacing men for active duty, but Pat's job as a filterer was vitally important, skilled work. Aircraft positions had to be ascertained by a combination of maths and intuition. Pat was given a commission, promoted and served at various locations throughout the war. The RAF had discovered early on that women were generally better at this than men and tributes to their work came from the very top:
‘All the ascendancy of the Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been fruitless but for the system known as the Dowding system. But it is the pivotal role of the Filter room within the system which allowed commanders at all levels to manage the battle from a common picture of the air’, Sir Winston Churchill.
Pat’s work with the Dowding System was highly classified and like those at Bletchley Park, all participants were sworn to a secrecy that continued for thirty years after the end of the war.
Following declassification, Pat and her former colleagues campaigned to receive recognition for their secret work during the war. And in 2014, in time for the 75th commemorations of the Battle of Britain, Pat was a guest at honour at the opening of the Bentley Priory Museum in Stanmore where she was able to show Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, a new bronze statue of her wartime self and others in a replica filter room.
During breaks for bad weather in her top secret war work, Pat first started writing romance stories for magazines. She and her girlfriends used this extra income as petrol money to get to NAAFI dances.
At one of these dances she met for the first time the man whom she was later to enjoy lifelong companionship, Mel Hack, but his background meant that marriage between them, in those days, would have been unthinkable.
Following the war, in 1947, she met and married former RAF pilot Donald Clark with whom she had three children. It was now that her writing career began in earnest and she followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a prolific author of light romantic fiction. Donald Clark's job as air attache to the Ministry of Aviation led them to postings abroad, including Libya and provided her with much material for her books.
Her writing career continued in this vein until 1970 when her legendary literary agent, Desmond Elliott, suggested she change direction to write blockbuster historical romances. The problem was she’d never liked history at school but her local library in East Grinstead provided invaluable help and she decided to write under a different pen name, Claire Lorrimer, to avoid confusing her regular readers. She began to chart the timeframe of each book, noting even the smallest historical event to ensure complete accuracy. Mavreen, her first historical romance became an instant hit, spending several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and selling over 2 million copies in the first year alone.
Pat wasn’t entirely happy though: the publishers had insisted the heroine married the rich Vicomte rather than the handsome highwayman, and she quickly began work writing a sequel to set that right. Denise was ‘her daughter’s biggest fan’ and hugely supportive of her writing.
In 1976 she divorced her husband and shortly after settled with her new partner, Mel, with whom she had rekindled her wartime romance, in a beautiful 400 year old converted former barn in Kent where journalist Jean Rook and playwright John Osborne were once close friends and neighbours.
After a phenomenally successful career writing historical romantic novels, in later years, she devoted more of her time to her three children and eight grandchildren and she moved to new genres, such as murder mysteries - including one mischievous story that all too closely resembled her neighbours in the lane where she lived.
Like her mother, she breakfasted each day at 8am and wrote until lunchtime. She remained physically fit until well into her nineties by which time she had reluctantly but successfully moved from mechanical typewriter to computer, embraced email and was still playing golf into her late eighties. Eventually her health and eyesight started to give problems and her selfless insistence on completing the rigorous schedule of interviews and appearances for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain added to the toll. However she kept writing, even when in hospital. She completed her eightieth book a few weeks ago and was already talking about the eighty-first.
In June 2016 she had a fall with an enforced stay in hospital of three months. She was determined to get home and did so but complications during the recovery led to her peaceful death on December 4th. She was surrounded by loving family at the time.
Asked if she was ever going to retire she used to say "Yes, after every book is finished I decide it is the last one, and then I get an idea in my head and it germinates and before I know it I've started typing and we are off again."
Patricia Robins, born 1st Feb 1921, died 4th December 2016. Married Donald Clark 1947, Divorced 1976. Survived by 3 children, 8 grandchildren and one great-grandchild
Her entire life story, from early writing, through the war years and later success as a top selling novelist is contained in her autobiography YOU NEVER KNOW
Top Secret! Wartime service
On 12th September 2013, HRH Price Charles and the Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall opened the new museum at the former RAF Bentley Priory in Stanmore, Middlesex.
Claire Lorrimer was one of the guests of honour, having served during the second world war as a Radar Filter Officer.
Unlike the often portrayed 'front of house' plotting table with markers being pushed over a map by uniformed girls with giant croupier sticks, the filter room was "back of house" and top secret - in fact it remained so until 30 years after the end of the war. The job of the filter room staff was to sort out the radar returns and discern the wheat from the chaff, identify false targets and work out which aircraft were friendly or hostile.
Claire has now been made an Honorary member of the Association of Fighter Control Officers, and has attended several memorial events to honour those that worked in this area.
"All the ascendancy of the Hurricanes and Spitfires would have been fruitless but for this system which had been devised and built before the war. It had been shaped and refined in constant action, and all was now fused together into a most elaborate instrument of war, the like of which existed nowhere in the world"