Wiescka Masterton (ms Walach) (1946-2011)
Literary Agent and wife of Graham Masterton
Wieslawa (Wiescka) Walach married the writer Graham Masterton in 1976. She died in April 2011 and the tribute below was written by Graham, who has given his permission for it to be included here.
Wiescka was born in Cologne, in Germany, in 1946, the daughter of Janina Niconchuk and Kazimiz Walach. Wiescka and Graham Masterton belong to the large group of Mastertons that flourished in the Forfar and Montrose area. Fuller details of the extended family can be found by following connections from this link.
The first time I realized that Wiescka and I had a fateful connection was when I stepped out of my office at Penthouse Magazine one September morning in 1973 and saw her standing in front of her desk in a black dress with the zipper at the back still two-and-a-half inches undone.
I came up behind her, lifted up her hair and zipped her dress up to the top. I was very matter-of-fact about it and didn’t do it with the deliberate intention of being flirtatious. I was the editor of an international men’s magazine and even though I was only twenty-seven, I thought that I was being mature and helpful and (dare I say it) cool. You know. Very Tom Selleck.
But I felt the softness of her skin with my fingertips, and how silky her hair was. In those days she had very long brunette hair, thick but fine, and everybody used to say that she looked like a young Sandie Shaw. She turned around and looked at me and that was the moment that the Van der Graaf generator crackled between us. We said nothing more at the time but our future was already determined.
In those few seconds, the time it took for me to fasten that zip, we were destined to become lovers, and then husband and wife, and then parents, and then, eventually, grandparents. When I fastened that hook-and-eye at the top of her dress, I was fastening US together for the next thirty-eight years – thirty-eight years of love and laughter and adventure and almost unbelievable events.
In mid-December we held the magazine’s Christmas party at the Penthouse Club. Stirling Moss was there; Kingsley Amis was there; Humphrey Lyttleton was there; John Steinbeck’s son was there. I found that I was introducing Wiescka to all of our celebrity writers and photographers, and doing it with pride. She wore an evening dress that she had borrowed from our receptionist, and she looked beautiful.
That night we became lovers and we were lovers every single minute after that for the rest of her life.
What was extraordinary about Wiescka was not only her distinctive Polish looks but her personality – her moral courage and her refusal to accept cant or hypocrisy or dishonesty. But all of these qualities were combined with remarkable shyness, and warmth. She always told me that she would support me in my writing career and do everything possible to promote me and to back me up, but she never wanted to step into the limelight herself.
She didn’t have to. Wherever she went, whoever she met, she was received with the kind of affection that most celebrities can only dream about. She could be sharp-tongued, certainly. She could be highly critical of pot-bellied middle-aged men in shorts that they had dug out of the bottom of the wardrobe for the summer and if a woman walked into a pub looking like mutton dressed up as lamb she would always nudge me and say “I don’t like yours much.” But she was a naturally sympathetic person, a person who would help anybody if they needed help, and a person who would talk to anybody who looked lonely.
Wiescka was born in Cologne, in Germany, in 1946, the daughter of Janina Niconchuk and Kazimiz Walach. Wiescka is short for Wieslawa, which means “great glory.” She came to live in Wales when she was three years old and she was educated at Bedwellty Grammar School. After working for Butlins in Minehead and taking a secretarial course, she came to London and eventually found a job as editorial assistant at Penthouse.
Then… I zipped up her dress.
We had three sons together: Roland, Dan and Luke, and now she has a grandson Blake, from Luke, and a new baby on the way from Roland and his wife Millie.
In 1999 we moved to Cork, in Ireland, for four years, for tax reasons. They loved her in Cork, and several of our friends openly wept when we left. But last week I found one of the diaries she had written when she was there. Over and over again, she had written, “Gosh, I miss my boys.”
She was constantly supportive in my career, helping me to secure some amazing publishing deals, not only because she was so strong and determined, but because publishers found her so enchanting. Probably her greatest achievement was getting my books published in Poland even before the collapse of the Communist regime. We visited Poland in 1989 – the first time she had ever been there – and even the grumpiest of publishers couldn’t resist her. Over the years she has become something of a heroine in Poland, appearing on the covers of magazines and on popular Polish websites.
She insisted on reading all of my books before I sent them off for publication in case I had made some ghastly mistake. In one early book, she spotted that a woman who had lost her leg in chapter three was running around again by chapter seven.
One of her greatest talents, though, was for interior decoration. She had a wonderful eye for making a room look welcoming and distinctive. She was clever, and funny, and impatient, and stubborn, and lovely, and there was no one like her, and never will be.
I have had messages of grief and sympathy from America, from France, from Belgium, from Germany, from Greece, from South Korea, and tearful phone calls from Poland – all from people who had met her and had recognized the same Wiescka magic that first electrified me on that September morning. I could write a whole book about her. Maybe I will, one day, when I can do it without crying. Meanwhile, I will just have to leave you with the lines that I wrote to her seven years ago, in my Christmas card:
We open doors; and there they are
Our lifelong companions
Standing by a window; sitting in a chair.
Not even turning round, or looking up.
They do not recognize us yet.
But the smallest gesture
A fastened dress; a hand held, crossing the street
Will join our destinies forever:
Turn both our faces to the same warm wind.