A prolific author who has penned more than 100 novels retired from writing just before her 90th birthday because she worried she could no longer identify with her heroines.

Jean Bowden, from Tooting, has written more than 100 books under 10 different pen names, as well as countless short stories in her 55-year career.

Her efforts do not quite match fellow-Briton Enid Blyton’s 600 book record but with an average of two novels a year for half a century, Mrs Bowden may well be the most prolific writer in her age group.

The president of the Croydon Writers Group has written everything from historical novels to family sagas, stories about women in crisis and gritty detective novels.

She even tried to break into the American market.

The grandmother-of-two said: “I wrote two historical novels to celebrate the second centenary of independence in 1776 but a style of novel known as the bodice ripper had just emerged so they failed miserably.”

However, having spent more than half her life writing she finally felt it was time to retire.

She said: “This year I am 90, I felt I had lost touch with the kind of young woman who was to be my heroine.

Mrs Bowden started out with by getting her short stories published in the London Evening News.

Her first book was non-fiction, a fascinating history of the experiences of nurses in the Second World War.

She said: “No one had written about this aspect of the war before and the book became a mini bestseller. It was serialised in all the regional newspapers. There is a copy of it in the Imperial war museum.”

Grey touched with Scarlet is the only book she had published in her own name.

Her last novel Diamonds in Disguise, under the pen name Tessa Barclay, is the final installment in a series about amateur detective Crown Prince Gregory of Hirtenstein.

She said she chose to make her sleuth a crown prince because “he could go to exotic locations” with his side-kick and love interest down-to-earth London girl Liz Blair.

She said: “The novel is my favourite medium but there comes a time when you realise you have reached your limit and its time to give up.

“Writing is a very lonely game but I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and made a very reasonable living.

“I still hope to contribute to short stories and help budding writers get going.”