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60s newspaper office inspires journalist’s first novel

A reporter turned author has published her first novel based partly on her experiences of life in a 1960s newspaper office.

Marilyn Chapman, who was one of the first female reporters on the Blackpool Gazette, has written Baggy Pants and Bootees under her maiden name of Brown.

The novel is set in a small Yorkshire newspaper office in the 1960s and includes flashbacks to the Second World War.

It follows cub reporter Sophie in the search for her missing GI father – mixing humour with heartbreak and confronting some very real issues of the post-war era.

Marilyn Chapman has written her first novel

Many men and women of that era spent much time searching for their GI parents, particularly paratroopers, who were nicknamed Baggy Pants after the bulky trousers they wore to carry the equipment they needed when they dropped behind enemy lines.

“It was a very different back then. I don’t think people would believe it in some ways. There were not many female news reporters around at that time,” Marilyn told the Blackpool Gazette.

“There was a different attitude and I did face some people who wanted to make it as difficult as possible for me, but I was determined.

“Once I went to the Winter Gardens to cover an event and went up to speak to the press officer, who informed me he was too busy to talk to me, because he was waiting for “the chap from The Gazette.” I informed him I was the ‘chap’ from The Gazette.”

Marilyn worked on The Gazette and Lytham St Annes Express in the 1960s, not only doing the women’s pages, but also as a general news reporter, covering a wide variety of hard-hitting and human interest stories.

Although the novel’s characters are purely fictional creations, Marilyn was able to use her own experiences and knowledge of the industry when putting the stories together.

“It was around the time of women’s lib and bra-burning, so it was an interesting and exciting time. I was about 19 and unusually was being paid the same as the men,” she added.

“My father had three girls – he used to be a journalist – and he always wanted a boy.

“I always wanted to be a journalist and even used to make my own newspapers when I was younger.”

Marilyn’s favourite story when working for The Gazette and Express, was one she wrote about a young girl, who was born with spina bifida.

“It wasn’t as heard of as a condition in those days and this little girl was four and was just taking her first steps,” she said.

“It was lovely. I can still see the photographer taking the photo of her with her arms outstretched, walking.

“It went in the newspaper as a double page feature and I was absolutely thrilled with it.”

After leaving the Express in 1974, Marilyn formed a PR and publishing company with her father and later she freelanced for national newspapers and magazines, including The Daily Mail.

But the grandmother-of-two had always enjoyed writing fiction and decided last year to write her own novel.

She was encouraged by the fact her work was shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award.

“I’d been writing fiction for some time, but this was the first time my work had been acknowledged nationally,” she said.

“My daughters thought it was amusing for me to be recognised as new talent at this stage of my career, but I always wanted to be a novelist, so I’m really pleased.”

Find out more about Marilyn by reading her blog