Alexander Cordell, novelist

The author of Rape of the Fair Country, a family saga set in the iron country of South Wales, was born in Ceylon but lived in Wales for much of his life.

George Alexander Graber was born in 1914 into a military family stationed in Ceylon. He followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Royal Engineers. In 1937 he married Rosina Wells. Wounded during World War II he was sent to Harlech, North Wales to convalesce. Having attained the rank of Major he left the Army to work as a quantity surveyor.

It was at this time that he started writing under the name ALexander Cordell. "Every time Rosina needed a new coat I would sit down and write a short story", he is quoted as saying.

In 1949 his daughter Georgina was born in Shrewsbury and in May 1950 his first story, The Gentle Wife, appeared in My Weekly. In the same year he accepted a posting to Abergavenny and moved to The Lodge, Llanellen.

His brother Frank, who was a sub editor on the Financial Times, undoubtedly offered advice as Alexander started work on his first novel. A Thought of Honour, for which he was paid £75, was accepted in 1954. Rape of the Fair Country, his best-known work was published in 1959.

The family moved to Holywell Crescent in Abergavenny, where Alexander was to write Hosts of Rebecca in 1960. After a period in Hong Kong, the family returned, living in Milford Haven and then Tidenham, Chepstow, where Alexander finished the Welsh trilogy in 1969 with Song of the Earth. The Fire People was published in 1972, the same year in which Rosina died. In 1973 he married his second wife, Donnie.

Other books set in south Wales followed: Land of My Fathers, This Sweet and Bitter Earth, Beloved Exile and Land of Heart's Desire. After a brief exile on the Isle of Man, Cordell settled finally in Wrexham.

Cordell died while out walking near Llangollen in July 1997. He had written 30 books and his most famous work, Rape of the Fair Country, had been translated into 17 different languages.

In the author's footsteps

In 1985 local author Chris Barber published Cordell Country, a guide to locations featured in Rape of the Fair Country. A revised edition was published in 1996, Walks in Cordell Country.

Alexander Cordell, the biography written after his death by his friends Mike Buckingham and Richard Frame, was published in 1999.

There is a series of four Cordell Country trails available from visitor information centres. They're designed to help you explore the locations featured in Alexander Cordell's novels. The trails cover the following areas:

  • Tour One: Around Blaenavon, Blaenau Gwent and Abergavenny - on the trail of Rape of the Fair Country.
  • Tour Two: Around the Vale of Neath and Aberdare - on the trail of Song of the Earth.
  • Trail Three: Around the Rhondda and Aber valleys - on the trail of This Sweet and Bitter Earth.
  • Trail Four: Around Merthyr Tydfil - on the trail of The Fire People.

Leaflets can be obtained by calling 01495 792615 or online at