Author; Born December 9, 1929; Died November 2, 2007. REAY Tannahill, who has died aged 77, was a versatile and award-winning author who succeeded in writing fiction and non-fiction bestsellers.

Born and raised in Glasgow, she was educated at Shawlands Academy and wanted to go to art or drama school but found herself instead at Glasgow University, from which she emerged with an MA in English and economics and a postgraduate certificate in social sciences.

After a varied early career - as a probation officer, advertising copywriter, newspaper reporter, historical researcher and graphic designer - Tannahill was asked in the 1960s by The Folio Society, where she was working as a press officer, to write a short illustrated study of Regency England.

She was never sure why it chose her but she went on to write another book about the French Revolution. It was a success and the society urged her to think of another subject which was easy to illustrate. She thought of food.

The best-selling Food in History (1973) took seven years to research and write. When it was updated in 1988 she was proud to be one of the first commentators to write at any length about GM foods.

Such was the success of Food in History that her publisher suggested a companion volume on the second great human imperative. Sex in History (1980) was a big seller in the UK and abroad and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Having spent more than a decade researching and writing non-fiction, Tannahill felt a change was called for and embarked on her first novel. The historical family saga A Dark and Distant Shore (1983) ran to 800 pages and was a bestseller. It was, said one reviewer, "a marvellous blend of Gone With The Wind and The Thorn Birds", and "comparable to War and Peace".

It was followed by The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1985), set in the sensual, violent world of medieval Scotland, France and Rome. Passing Glory, published in 1989, won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award. In Still and Stormy Waters was published in 1993, Return of the Stranger (1995). Fatal Majesty, about Mary, Queen of Scots, was published in 1998 to acclaim and was a bestseller.

Her seventh novel, The Seventh Son (2001), was based on the story of Richard III. She tried to paint a more rounded portrait of the notorious monarch than that passed on down the years thanks to Shakespeare's play.

Tannahill said: "I looked at all the evidence, then tried to position him, not as your classic evil character - there are few truly evil people in the world or in history - but as a fairly tough cookie with a desire to elevate himself."

The Seventh Son was followed last year by Having the Builders In and this year's Having the Painters In.

Tannahill said she felt pigeon- holed as a historical novelist and added: "The trouble with historical novels based on fact is you can't kill characters off if you take a dislike to them. If I had done Henry VIII or any of his wives, I'm afraid Henry would have had to go."

A private woman, Tannahill liked to describe "work" as her recreation and lived in a flat on the top floor of a house in an enviable terrace near the Tate Gallery in London.

In 1958 she married Michael Edwardes but the marriage ended in divorce in 1983.

There were no children and Edwardes died in 1990.