Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Queen of Whale Cay - Kate Summerscale

Product DetailsJoe Carstairs, renowned in the 1920s as an "invert" who smoked cheroots and dressed as a man, as an heiress to the Standard Oil fortune and as the fastest speedboat racer in the world.  In 1934 she disappeared to embark on a course even more ambitious and bizarre: she bought an island in the West Indies and created her own kingdom, founding and ruling a colony of 500 Black Bahamians.

Kate Summerscale, the author of "The Suspicions of Mr Witcher", wrote this book after preparing an obituary about Joe Carstairs for the Telegraph.   She discovered a fascinating story.  Let me introduce you to a colourful woman, a woman who's only constant companion was Lord Tod Wadley, a little male doll that had his clothes especially made.  Joe Carstairs was born in London in 1900, her mother was American, and her father a Scottish soldier who left the marriage a month before the birth.  Her mother was, for a time, a lady in waiting to Queen Alexandra , Edward VII's wife.  Her mother married again, but at age 11 Joe Carstairs was packed off to  boarding school in the States.  There was enough money in the family for her to do exactly what she liked, and she did.  She raced speedboats, she was certainly known in the London society of the 1920s, she drove fast cars, she had affairs with attractive women; she gave Malcolm Campbell £10,000 towards a new racing car - The Bluebird, and in that car he broke his own land speed record.  In 1934 she bought the island of Whale Cay and proceeded to build her own kingdom - although ultimately she didn't die there, and her last companion was a man.  She loved Lord Tod Wadley first, boats second, women a close third. A truly  fascinating character.