DR CATHERINE GAVIN, who died recently at the age of 92, had a remarkably long and varied career, first as an academic historian, then a war correspondent, and eventually as a widely read historical novelist with a particular interest in France.

Born in Aberdeen in 1907, Catherine Gavin went to school and then to university in her home town: the University of Aberdeen had opened its doors to women during the 1890s and by the time she arrived, in 1924, at its departments of English and History, there was a lively student culture in which women participated fairly equally with men.

Gavin was an active participant in the Debater and Dramatic Society, and specialised in the ''Aberdeen quine (lass)'' comic roles for which her command of local dialect fitted her extremely well. She graduated with first-class honours in History and English, and then chose to specialise in History. Completing her doctorate, on Louis Philippe of France, in 1931, Dr Gavin then began a career as a lecturer in History at the universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow.

In the 1930s she also had political ambitions and stood twice, unsuccessfully, as a Unionist (Conservative) candidate in parliamentary elections. During this period she wrote not only historical studies but also four much-neglected and highly readable novels, published between 1938 and 1944, which deal with life in contemporary Scotland. These books will repay study both as examples of the development of Scottish women's writing of the 1930s and 1940s, and as chronicles of the interplay between Scottish and other cultures in the early twentieth century.

During the Second World War Catherine Gavin turned to journalism, working for Kemsley newspapers, and she had an illustrious career as one of the very few women war correspondents, working in France and the Netherlands. After the war, while working in Paris, she met and married John Ashcraft, an American advertising executive. With him, she moved to the United States and, after a few more years in journalism, she resumed work as a writer of fiction. Now, instead of taking her subjects from contemporary life, she used her expertise as a historian to bring to life several different periods of history, ranging from the France and Mexico of the Second Empire, through the First World War arenas of the Baltic and Turkey, to the France of the Second World War.

She developed skilful ways of combining the personal life of a spirited heroine with a detailed and acute representation of politics and of historical events. Characteristically, the novels create excitement, dramatic tension, and romance, while also containing a sober recognition of the suffering and loss that result from war. The freedom of France was among her greatest passions, and this, combined with her hearty detestation of General De Gaulle, makes her French Resistance trilogy, published in the late 1970s, especially powerful. She was prodigiously energetic, still producing new work into her eighties, and was read in translation in eight foreign languages.

In her later years, although she and her husband based their lives in San Francisco, Dr Gavin maintained a strong and generous interest in Aberdeen University, which awarded her a D Litt in 1986. The Catherine Gavin room in the King's College Conference Centre, which she opened in 1991, is a congenial space for intellectual activity and its existence will ensure that this talented, versatile, and cosmopolitan daughter of the North-east is remembered in her home town and university. A happy marriage of 50 years was ended by John Ashcraft's death in 1998.