Born in 1900 to a promiscuous American oil heiress and a British army captain, Marion Barbara Carstairs realised very early on that she was not like most little girls. Liberated by war work in WWI, Marion reinvented herself as Joe, and quickly went on to establish herself as a leading light of the fashionable lesbian demi-monde. She dressed in men's clothes, smoked cigars and cheroots, tattooed her arms, and became Britain's most celebrated female speed-boat racer - the 'fastest woman on water'. Yet Joe tired of the lime-light in 1934, and retired to the Bahamian Island of Whale Cay. There she fashioned her own self-sufficient kingdom, where she hosted riotous parties which boasted Hollywood actresses and British royalty among their guests. Although her lovers included screen sirens such as Marlene Dietrich, the real love of Joe's life was a small boy-doll named Lord Tod Wadley, to whom she remained devoted throughout her remarkable life. She died, aged 93, in 1993.
The extraordinary stroy of 'Joe' Carstairs, the fastest woman on water The Sunday Times bestseller
She was crazy and brave and her story is jaw-droppingly amazing ... Great stuff Val Hennessy, Daily Mail A wonderful account of a truly extraordinary life Mail on Sunday A biography that sparkles with enthusiastic research and empathetic writing Sunday Times A small jewel of a biography The New Yorker A fascinating, hilarious and deliciously subversive book Literary Review
KATE SUMMERSCALE is the author of the number one bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2008, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and adapted into a major ITV drama. Her first book, the bestselling The Queen of Whale Cay, won a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread biography award. Her most recent book is Mrs Robinson's Disgrace. Kate Summerscale has also judged various literary competitions including the Booker Prize. She lives in London.