Love, Death & Trousers: Fifty Stories from a Nearby Life

By Laura Francis and Alexander Masters

Stories gathered and edited from the lost diaries re-discovered in A Life Discarded

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Original Sketch

A signed copy of the book with a signed and framed original art work from Laura’s personal sketchbook.

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A signed and dedicated copy of the first edition hardback plus the chance to help Alexander by guest editing a section of Laura’s diary to be included in the final book (limited to six).

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A nice day in general; just enjoying myself.  No particular thoughts, except perhaps I’d like to change my life.

Laura Francis, now 81 and one of the most prolific and eccentric diarists in history, was a live-in companion and domestic servant to an ageing professor of IT — ‘like his wife in every respect except the sex (thank goodness)’.

She barely knew how to cook and had no time for tidiness.  On several occasions during her decades of service, she grabbed a knife and was vicious to the old man’s furniture.  She was also funny, self-sacrificially kind, and a profound observer of loneliness and disappointment.

In 2016, she was tracked down by the award-winning investigative journalist, Alexander Masters, after 148 of her anonymous journals were rescued from a skip. The story of his pursuit and discovery was told in his book, A Discarded Life. But until now the million-plus words of Laura’s diaries haven’t been available to read.

Love, Death & Trousers is a collection of fifty exquisite, deeply personal short stories extracted from the diaries by Laura and Masters.  (The first eight stories, published in The Paris Review, were anthologised in The Best American Non-Required Reading).

Feel pretty sure I’ll have something published sometime in my lifetime — is inevitable really, even if hard won.

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  • Alexander Masters avatar

    Alexander Masters

    Alexander Masters’ biography Stuart: A Life backwards won the Guardian First Book Award and the Hawthornden Prize, and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa Biography Prize.  It was turned into a BBC film starring Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch.  A Life Discarded, 148 biographies found in a skip, his account of the hunt for Laura Francis, was short listed for the James Tait Black Biography Prize.  ‘As tense as a thriller … a bizarre, engrossing, affectionate book that is a triumph on every level.’ The Times.


    Masters works also (unsuccessfully) as an illustrator and (with more luck) a scriptwriter and science journalist.  In 2015, he won the British Science Writer’s Investigative Journalism Award for his proposal of a new way to fund clinical trials.   He recently founded This is Me! a project for primary schools, to provide strong female role models for girls and boys.


  • LOVE, DEATH & TROUSERS: An Excerpt

    It’s quite possible that these non-fiction stories, taken word for word from a collection of 148 anonymous diaries found in a skip in 2001, have nothing at all to do with the diarist’s life.  

    That’s not some sparkling post-modern observation: it’s a genuine risk.   

    All the sentences, events, perceptions, shocks, humour and fineness of writing belong to the diarist, but the stories are mine.   The themes have been spotted across diary sections containing tens of thousands of words, and edited down into narratives of at most four or five hundred.   Nothing about these stories is made up, except their existence.

    The discovery of these diaries and the four years I spent hunting down their author are the subject of my book, A Life Discarded.         

    Laura Francis could be an excellent diarist, but frequently wasn’t.  Why should she be?  She wasn’t writing for an audience.  She had no duty to entertain.   Her writing is repetitive, self-obsessed, confused and 2mm high.  A typical 200-page notebook from the 1990s contained over 100,000 words and covered just six weeks of her life in which nothing happened.   Yet the diaries are full of good stories.   Her writing also has the one quality that professional writers, fiction or non-fiction, find the most difficult to capture: vitality.   Even when the diaries are agonisingly tedious, you want to go on reading them because they are true.  No novelist has clattered into this woman’s life to impose a narrative ‘arc’ on her images of incarceration and waste.   There’s none of the story-teller’s fraudulent scene ‘setting’, character ‘development’, point of conflict, concluding resolution.  You are peering in on a real woman who thinks she is alone – a woman in the final stages of tedium.  She is writing about being an ordinary human: the arbitrariness, the impotence, the fog.  Vitality – aliveness – comes to her just because she has picked up her pen.   Her drama is that she is not fiction.    

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