A “forgotten” Bradford author is coming back into print after a publisher read about his former best-selling books in the Telegraph & Argus.
Windyridge by Willie Riley, originally published in 1912, is set to be republished next month by Northern Heritage Publications.
The T&A reported in May 2009 how David Copeland, a former research student at Bradford University, had for the first time fully documented the life of the writer, who became known as the “father of Yorkshire novels” after the 39 books published in his lifetime sold more than a million copies.
Mr Copeland, who lives in York, has now written the introduction to the republished novel, which is due to be released on Monday, April 12.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s more than anything I ever imagined when I first started my research into Willie Riley, which goes back many years.
“I’m really hoping with Windyridge being republished people will once more become interested in this guy who in his own day was as big as JB Priestley.”
His research into the author began by questioning why his brother’s house, bought in 1971, was called Windyridge. It was by chance, some 15 years later, after his question was answered when he stumbled across the book Windyridge in a charity shop and bought it for his brother.
This led him to discover more about the author which eventually saw him study his life, with the help of the University of Bradford.
Hazel Goodes, publishing manager at Huddersfield-based Jeremy Mills Publishing Limited, the parent company of Northern Heritage Publications, said: “One of our directors saw the story on the T&A website and was quite interested.
“He contacted me and said this is something which could be republished. So we spoke to David Copeland and went from there really.
“We are trying to increase our list of local history titles, and although we don’t publish novels usually, it’s got quite a lot of value as a local history title because he was so famous and everyone seems to have forgotten him. We just thought it was a real shame, so we thought we would like to show everybody the book again. But it also does fit into the sort of thing we are trying to publish at the moment.”
Mr Riley, born in 1866, was the managing director of Riley Brothers, a magic lantern company in Bradford. In 1912, he had a book published which he had written for two sisters who were his friends.
Windyridge became a best-seller which reviewers at the time compared to Elizabeth Gaskell’s series of books about Cranford.
Mr Riley continued to write until the Second World War. He was a major figure in northern Methodism and was a dedicated local preacher for 75 years. He died in 1961.