[Nora] Geraldine (Gerry) Gordon Salmon, a popular historical fiction writer of the 1920s-1960s, lived in Canterbury and Harbledown for much of her career. Born at Ryton on Tyne on the 19th January 1897, Geraldine was the daughter of John and Jennie Maria (Minnie) Salmon. Her father, a retired solicitor, married Minnie in 1896 after the death of his first wife; Minnie was almost 30 years younger than him. John already had four grown-up daughters and three sons. Geraldine was taught at home by a governess, and as the only child of a much older couple, she may have spent a lot of time in her own company.

At some point, after the death of her father in 1912, Geraldine moved with Minnie to Canterbury, where they lived at 1, London Road, a large townhouse opposite St Dunstan’s Church. Minnie named the house Cleadon, after their former family home Cleadon Park, in South Shields.1 Minnie’s sister Rachel was also widowed at this time and it is possible that she moved to Kent to live with her sister and niece. We do not know much about Geraldine’s life at this time, although we do know that she joined the Beaney Institute, and regularly borrowed books, fuelling her fertile imagination. In May 1919, she entered The Bookman prize competition for the best original lyric and received a special commendation.2

During the 1920s, Minnie and Geraldine moved to The Grange, Harbledown; a large house on Church Hill. It was at this period that Geraldine’s literary career took off. Her first book Quest of Youth was published in 1923, swiftly followed by the Chronicles of a Cavalier (1924) and The Black Glove (1925). The Black Glove was described as ‘a thrilling tale of a maid of honour, who through a drunken jest of the Earl of Rochester, is driven to wed a dishonoured man’.3 It would seem that Geraldine also lived a thrilling life, zipping along the lanes of Harbledown on her motorcycle, and in 1925 she was fined 7s. 6d. for failing to tax the vehicle and for not carrying her driver’s licence.4

Over the next thirteen years, Geraldine wrote at least one or two books every year, using the pseudonym J.G. Sarasin. These were published by Hutchinson’s who were keen to develop a portfolio of adventure and mystery writers. Her 1932 novel Market of Women (1932), was set during the Thirty Years’ War; one reviewer wrote: ‘Miss Sarasin has not been influenced by popular tastes, the sentimental demand for a happy ending is uncompromisingly rejected.’5 Indeed Walter Hutchinson was prepared to take risks with his authors and in 1933 published H.G. Wells’s controversial novel The Bulpington of Blup, which was inspired by the life of Ford Madox Ford. In the following year, Hutchinson’s published Geraldine’s novel, The Mystery of Martin Guerre, based on the famous 16th century criminal trial in Languedoc. Today, Geraldine’s novel is largely forgotten and it is Janet Lewis’s novel The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941) published seven years later, which is credited with inspiring the 1982 film ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’.6

In 1939, a short hiatus in her output (she didn’t publish her next book until 1940) could be attributed to the disruption brought about by the start of the second world war, but also to the lack of stimulating reading material in the previous year. She had written to the Canterbury library committee in 1938 complaining that she had been refused membership to the library for having a Harbledown address and that she was unable to buy all the books she needed. The Folkestone Public Library was too far to travel to and she appealed to the committee to allow her to borrow non-fiction material on payment of a subscription. Councillor Stone and the Mayor Catherine Williamson (Canterbury’s first female mayor) granted her request, allowing her to borrow books free of charge, arguing that it was ‘nice to have a lady of considerable literary distinction in their midst’ and that ‘the favour was with them in being associated with her’.7

At some point during the second world war, the Grange was requisitioned for soldiers, and Geraldine and her mother, aunt Rachel and cousin moved to Charlton, near Shaftesbury, Dorset.8 It was here that she became friends with a nurse [Veronica] Grace Ingrams and her partner, author and radio personality, Commander Rupert Thomas Gould, RN. Gould had written the Marine Chronometer in 1923 as well as several other works including The Case for the Sea Serpent in which he discussed the science behind the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. Gould who loved tennis and cigar-smoking had a reputation for inviting young women for group sex sessions during the 1930s, however, the tall retired naval officer was suffering from a breakdown at this period, and it unlikely Geraldine was part of this party-loving lifestyle.9 In 1945, Rupert Gould, Grace Ingrams and his collection of typewriters went to live with Gerry and her family at the Grange. 10 Gould was unwell during the years he lived in Canterbury, having previously suffered a stroke and died at the Kent and Canterbury hospital on the 5th October 1948.

In 1953, Geraldine inherited The Grange after the death of her mother at the Canterbury Nursing Home on Ethelbert Road. Geraldine’s aunt Rachel Dora Young also died later that year. Geraldine’s last book No Land without Liberty was published in 1962. During her career, she wrote 45 novels, all published by Hutchinson’s. She died on 21 August 1976 aged 79. Unlike her contemporary Victoria Holt, she does not appear to have used Kent as a backdrop in any of her historical novels.

This article was published: 19 February 2022.


  1. In the 1917-18 Canterbury and District Directory Minnie Salmon lived at Cleadon, 1 London Road, Canterbury. 

  2. ‘The Bookman Prize Competitions’, The Bookman, 56(332), 72-74. 1919. Available at: https://www.proquest.com/historical-periodicals/bookman-prize-competitions/docview/3140842/se-2?accountid=9869 p.73 

  3. Westminster Gazette - Friday 22 January 1926. 

  4. Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald - Saturday 06 June 1925. 

  5. Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Thursday 31 March 1932. 

  6. ‘Martin Guerre’ Britannica.com. Accessed: 26 September 2021. 

  7. Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald - Saturday 09 July 1938. 

  8. Catalog of Copyright Entries. Part 1. [A] Group 1. Books. New Series. Library of Congress. Copyright Office. 1940-3.; Betts, J. Time Restored: The Harrison timekeepers and R.T. Gould, the man who knew (almost) everything. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2011. 

  9. ‘Rupert Thomas Gould’, Epsom and Ewell History Explorer

  10. Rupert Thomas Gould’, Epsom and Ewell History Explorer and Betts, J. ‘Rupert Thomas Gould’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.