From the Daily Telegraph, Friday 11th April, 1997 - Page 2

By Sandra Barwick

HELENE HANFF, the author of 84 Charing Cross Road, the correspondence between her and the manager of a bookshop in the Fifties, has died aged 79 in a nursing home in New York, keeping a secret to the last. Leo Marks, the son of the owner of the antiquarian bookshop to whom she wrote, said she had never written what he believed would have been an even better book, about her love affair with a famous American.
Mr Marks, a wartime code-master with the Special Operations Executive, who became a close friend of Miss Hanff, said: "She had something better than 84 Charing Cross Road to write, but she was afraid of doing it. "She had a relationship with a very famous American, whom she had to share with two other ladies, and she was never sure whether she was the senior or the junior."

Her account of this relationship was, he said, even more amusing and touching that her letters to Charing Cross Road. She tried to write it but always destroyed her attempts. Mr Marks said he could not reveal the name of her lover but she had told him of the affair some years ago. "She was an unusual human being, with great humour and incisiveness, and very, very intelligent." When he urged her to write her account, she had always put him off by saying that she would finish her book when he finished his book about the SOE. She had carried with her the poem he had written for the agent Violet Szabo, he said, which begins:
"The life that I have is all that I have - and the life that I have is yours."

Miss Hanff said in one interview that she had been trying to write a book since 1963, but had repeatedly thrown it in the incinerator. "Is it autobiographical? Of course it is," she said. She had contacts in television, for which she wrote scripts, among actors and, during the Sixties, in Democratic politics.

Miss Hanff first wrote to the Marks bookshop in London in 1949, seeking out-of-print titles. It was the beginning of a 20-year correspondence with its manager, Frank Doel. When she finally compiled their letters in a book she was in her fifties and at a low ebb, her scripts and plays rejected. One rejection slip arrived in the same post which told her Doel was dead. In 1971 the book was published, captivating readers, and then a successful film, starring Anne Bancroft in Helene Hanff's character and Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel.

By the time she arrived in London to publicise her book, the shop had closed. She climbed its stairs and looked at the empty shelves and said out loud, "Frank, I finally made it." She hoped he heard, she said later. Michael Reddington, who produced the stage adaptation of the book, said: "She was opinionated and strong, like the character in the book. Her book is unique."

She had suffered from diabetes for some years and Mr Marks said that towards the end she had been unable to write.
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Please select and click an article name to read the piece...
Daily Telegraph - April 11 1997

Article on Helene's death and revealing the tantalising information that Helene had a secret love affair with "a very famous American".
The Guardian - April 11, 1997

Full obituary - again split into parts ONE and TWO.
The Independent - April 14, 1997

Short obit notice.
Daily Telegraph - April 11, 1997

Full obituary - long article which I've split into parts ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR and FIVE