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Today marks one of the most momentous events in the literary calendar, namely the two hundredth anniversary of the creation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein. The book came about in highly unusual circumstances. June 1816 was part of what was known as ‘The Year Without A Summer’, a painfully airless time interspersed with storms of terrifying ferocity. At the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, a loose group of writers and intellectuals took shelter and spent their days and nights discussing life, literature and love. These included the poets Lord Byron and Shelley, Shelley’s mistress Mary, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, and the physician (and occasional writer) John Polidori.
I found the Lookers’ Hut by chance, walking around Romney Marsh. I knew the marsh from teenage trips in the early eighties, travelling south from London in a beaten-up Ford or on the back of a motorbike, heading for the coast as the sun dropped over the Channel. Marshland, a haunted place of shifting land and water, was where I wanted to set my second novel about Sam, the daughter of a spy who doesn’t know who to trust or where solid ground can be found. But I needed somewhere for Sam to hide and I wasn’t sure how anybody could vanish in the exposed plain of Romney. And so I went field walking, searching for a safe house.
Our Book of the Week is The Angels of Lovely Lane by bestselling author of the Four Streets trilogy, Nadine Dorries. Nadine returns better than ever with this engrossing novel that draws on her roots in Liverpool, and early experiences as a student nurse.
It was 2011 and I was working nights in an orange factory in regional Australia. I was learning all about citrus fruit. Though really, I was learning patience and humility. The monotony of the shifts unleashed my imagination. While my body and left hemisphere got stuck into the work routine, satiated by it; my wild right hemisphere ideas were set free. Images. Dialogue. Voices. But I was too exhausted to attempt to write the stories, I just scribbled notes between shifts.
I downloaded a lot of New Yorker Fiction Podcasts to listen to at work. I was inspired by the untrustworthy narrator in Two Men by Denis Johnson, how I wanted to believe in him, despite all his admitted flaws and darkness. I wanted to try writing a character like this. When I moved to Perth, I got my notebook out and started the Me opening section of Red Dirt (a short story at the time). Pen to paper, Murph started talking.
In my last series, The Four Streets, I took you onto the dockside streets of Liverpool during the 1950s. My new series, Lovely Lane, is a story of life in St Angelus hospital, close to those same streets, and is also set in the 1950s. Here are some of the main characters:
Our Book of the Week is Four Lions from bestselling football writer Colin Shindler. Four Lions explores the changing landscape of postwar England through the careers of four iconic England football captains: Billy Wright, Bobby Moore, Gary Lineker and David Beckham. Between Wright, who fought in World War II, and Beckham, whose battles against Germany were played out on the football field, huge shifts in English society were mirrored by seismic changes to the national game as television transformed the way in which it is financed and consumed.
Our Book of the Week is Conjuror, by John and Carole Barrowman. The first is a brilliant new fantasy series from the brother-sister writing team who starred in SF favourites Arrow and Torchwood. To celebrate the book getting to #7 in the YA charts this week, we're giving away 10 limited edition Conjuror t-shirts. Simply enter the competition to be in with a chance to win!
Red Dirt is the debut novel from E.M.Reapy, a new and very unique writing talent from Ireland. Set in Australia it follows three young people who have travelled to Australia to escape their past lives in Ireland following the collapse of the Irish Tiger. Red Dirt will appeal to fans of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Alex Garman’s The Beach, and is perfectly placed to be the hit of the summer. Read an extract of the novel and enter our competition to be in with a chance of winning one of 10 copies of the hardback.
Our Book of the Week is The Salt Marsh by Clare Carson, the sequel to Clare’s 2015 debut novel Orkney Twilight. The Salt Marsh is a haunting thriller set in the windswept marshes of Kent and Norfolk.
Tolerant in outlook, equable in temperament, healthy in lifestyle, and aesthetically productive to a degree that appears out of all proportion to their modest populations, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have long been the envy of their European neighbours.
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