"Write about what you know". Catherine Cookson was a phenomenon in her own lifetime. Her illegitimate origins in the Newcastle slums of the early 1900s gave no indication that she would, at the time of her death in 1998, be a bestselling novelist, known to millions as "Our Kate". Cookson worked her way out of her poverty-ridden childhood, and exorcised its worst horrors through her increasingly successful writing. Her astonishingly prodigious output--97 novels in all--was matched by her philanthropic generosity--as her wealth grew, she ploughed resources back into the impoverished community from which she came. Her roots were inextricably linked with the north-east of England. Kathleen Jones has drawn on previously unpublished excerpts from Cookson's own autobiography, plus lengthy tape recordings and interviews with close friends to reveal the deeply troubled woman behind the remarkable success story. Cookson's breakdown and series of miscarriages have been well-documented, but Jones sheds new light on the author's disturbed relationship with her mother, and the intense friendship with Nan Smith which threatened her marriage. Above all, Jones returns to the works, so much more than mass-market fiction, which overcame the scoffing of literary prejudice to earn Cookson the title of " the greatest historical novelist of all time."