elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
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elisa_rolle

Iris Bancroft (May 26, 1922 - December 2003)

Nothing about Iris Bancroft was typical, especially her birth. It was exotic—and tragic. She was born of missionaries in King Chow, Hupeh Provence, China, on May 26, 1922, a time of great unrest. Her parents were sent there by the Swedish Covenant Church to work with the Chinese converts. Her life comes full circle in one of her historical romances. Love's Burning Flame,.when the heroine spends some time in Imperial China, where savagery, especially to women, was very common.

Iris was one and a half when she left that turbulent continent, and her father died shortly thereafter. Her mother brought her to Chicago, where Iris spun youthful dreams of becoming a choir director. "I know now," confessed the romantic Iris, "that at the time I had a crush on the director of the choir at Fourth Presbyterian Church, where I sang."

In the early 1940s, she fell in love with a sailor whose religious background differed from hers. By mutual agreement, they stopped seeing each other before they got too serious. Then came World War II. "I married in 1945, and my husband went into the navy. At the war's end he returned, and we had two sons, William and Walter. I must admit now to not being completely honest in that marriage and in 1961 I asked for a divorce. I left my sons with their father because I felt it would be best for them if I did."

After her second marriage in 1961, Iris taught school and also sold insurance with her new husband, Keith Bancroft. Then a big change came over her life: in 1963, the West Coast beckoned.

"We moved to California to work for nudist publications as photographers and writers, and later, as editors," recalled Iris. They continued to work for publishers of such magazines until, in 1977, they both quit their steady jobs to work as writers. Since then, she had made their living from her books. Iris boasted of seven published novels, using the pen-names of Iris Brent and Andrea Layton, along with her own.

But was the switch from writing nudist articles to historical romances a smooth one? "I transferred to books rather naturally," recalled Iris. "There are things I want to say in books, and I knew I'd need to learn a great deal about writing before I could sell anything. However, I was fortunate. My first two books, Swinger's Diary and My Love Is Free, based on the lives of two women I met in Los Angeles, gave me the chance to discover that I could carry a story to completion. Still, I had a good job as an editor of a magazine, and so I spent most of my time writing articles for magazines. Then I became impatient with such work. I suppose it was just time for me to change—to do what I had in one way or another been preparing myself to do for so many years: I started writing historical romances. I felt I could do them well, and I loved history. I try, in all my romances, to include a good deal of real history—to make my characters take an important part in the affairs of their days."

Iris believed that the way romances will move a reader—if they are to become anything but a momentary entertainment—is for them to become as realistic as possible. "I think most readers enjoy learning something about history while they enjoy a good story, and books that give them both entertainment and realism will last longer and give greater satisfaction to the readers—as well as to those who write them."

Her novel. Rapture's Rebel, takes place during the 1710 war between Sweden and Russia—a war that was fought for the most part in Finland. The Finns suffered greatly, losing one-quarter of their population to war, plague, famine, and to conscription of entire villages to work as slaves in Russia. Rebel's Passion, is set near Philadelphia between 1792-95. The plot revolves around the first tax revolt in America. She worked also on the life story of a woman who lived for seventeen years in China as the wife of a missionary.

Iris was a marvelous hostess and liked the life of the party. She also dabbled in painting and clay statues—she made erotic statues in the sixties. Then, there was the viola; she played in the Burbank Symphony Orchestra and in the La Mirada Symphony Orchestra, two community orchestras that accepted nonprofessional players. Her husband, she said, played in them both, too, but he was a pro, and was the leader of the trombone section in both groups.

Neither Iris nor her husband were part of the Hollywood scene, though they were members of MENSA, and the Mystery Writers of America. She also sang regularly at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in Mission Hills, but was not a member of any church.

Their California ranch-style home was in Granada Hills, twenty-five miles south of Los Angeles. "The neighborhood children consider us the 'gurus' of pets, and when they get a new pet, or have a problem with any they own, they call on us. We have raised birds they brought us, and helped search for lost dogs. However, our latest adventure tops all of that. We recently had one of our cats—the playful one—bring home a goldfish, which I found on our doorstep where he customarily leaves dead mice, and other unmentionables. The goldfish turned out to be very much alive, though he wasn't moving when I found him, and he now is settled in a new home—a tank we had put away when we gave up the tropical fish! We consider ourselves unique in that we have the only stray goldfish in (possibly) the world!"

Iris considered her literary success only moderate. "We live on the money I make, but only because we are frugal people. Keith is still just starting out as an author (of nonfiction books on photography), and so his contribution is not large yet. However, we recognize that we want very little that we don't already have. We still travel around the U.S., we visit with our friends, and we enjoy our beautiful home and our pets. We also enjoy each other. Ever since my marriage to Keith, we've worked together a great deal, and I am still delighted in his company."

On the net I found a note about an Iris Bancroft from Los Angeles who passed away on December 2003, no info about her husband Keith. (Love's Leading Ladies by Kathryn Falk)

Iris Bancroft's Books on Amazon: Iris Bancroft
Tags: romance history
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