For my final post for Fiction Uncovered (thanks for having me) I thought I would share ten books by contemporary British authors that you might not have discovered yet and really need to get a wriggle on and read. I should note that I didn’t choose any authors previously chosen by Fiction Uncovered (including some favourites like Dan Rhodes, Catherine Hall, Ray Robinson, etc.) as you obviously need to read those if you haven’t already. Anyway without further ado or waffle here they are, if you have any you would like to recommend to me or the rest of the Fiction Uncovered team do let us know in the comments below.
Diving Belles – Lucy Wood
Diving Belles is a collection of stories that it would be easy to describe as fairy tales for adults, that very statement may of course put people off, and while it is a book that finds the myths and legends of the Cornish coast seeping into every page of it there is so much more to it than that. From tales of wives whose husbands have become mermen and houses that tell you how they feel, to an old people’s home for witches and wizards, Lucy Wood creates the sort of book that really makes reading come alive and re-ignites or invigorates the joy of reading to anyone no matter how little or how much you read.
The Hunger Trace – Edward Hogan
The Hunger Trace has the unusual setting of a rambling wildlife park in the Derbyshire peaks high on a hillside with the village of Detton below, where we meet three people deeply affected by the death of the parks owner David Bryant; his second much younger wife Maggie, his son from the previous marriage Christopher and lifelong acquaintance Louisa who lives in one of the lodges on the site and looks after the birds of prey. Each of these characters is coming to terms with the loss in their lives but also with how to relate to one another. Hogan then weaves a story of how a failure or inability to communicate can cause devastation by what goes unsaid or is misinterpreted.
My Policeman – Bethan Roberts
My Policeman is the tale of a love triangle set in 1950’s Brighton. Marion, an initially rather young and naive girl, falls head over heels in love with her best friend Sylvia’s brother, Tom, and is determined (in a hopelessly romantic fashion rather than a grim, gritted teeth way initially) that one day he will be hers. His teaching her to swim seems the ideal way, which she reminds him he promised her when he returns, to be a policeman, after having been away catering for the army. As the two become better acquainted after his time away from Brighton, he introduces her to his friend Patrick who, we as the reader know, is more than just Tom’s friend and watch as Marion makes the connections that in that time were illegal and seen as perverted. Will she be prepared to share the man with whom she has become obsessively in love with? Bethan Roberts creates a claustrophobic, haunting and dark tale about the love that dared not speak its name for the fear of the consequences it could, and did, cause if discovered.
Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt
What would you do if you advertised for a lodger and the only candidate that turned up on your doorstep was a giant talking dog? What would you then do when you discovered, after some rather uncomfortable questioning that the dog in question was Winston Churchill’s very own nemesis, ‘the Black Dog’, itself… depression? This is the very situation which Esther Hammerhans find herself in during July 1964, as you start to read Mr Chartwell, a witty and dark tale that will have you in its grip within a chapter or two.
The Explorer – James Smythe
An almost one character novel is difficult to pull of but James Smythe excels with The Explorer as we join Cormac Easton, a journalist who has been selected to join a crew of astronauts as they head into the deepest parts of space as yet to be reached by man and document it (think Big Brother) only, and we know this from the first line, something has gone horribly wrong; Cormac is heading out into the furthest parts of space but everyone else is dead and he has no way of turning back. This isn’t just a pulp ‘lost in space’ novel. Cormac is a wonderfully complex character for whom your opinion will run the whole spectrum of emotions. You will love him; sometimes you might loathe him, which is what makes him fascinating.
Skin Lane – Neil Bartlett
Really this is the tale of a turning point in the life of Mr. F (don’t you just want to read more because of the mystery behind the name?) who leads an almost abnormally routine life style. He gets up, gets ready, goes to work, does his job, goes home, baths, goes to bed, gets up, gets ready… you get the gist. Only he does this all to a routine based on precision of the exact times of all his movements every day of his life, he even picks up the paper at the same time each day. You are aware that you are in the company of a rather unusual yet seemingly normal fellow. Until you learn of the dreams Mr. F is having. Dreams seems the wrong word initially, as to you or I these could be deemed nightmares. During his deepest sleeps Mr F starts watching himself, as if in a film, coming into his house, going through his routine until he goes to the bathroom to find a naked young man brutally, and fatally, tied up. The worse thing is, after having no idea who this male is; he ends up meeting the man he dreams of and really the story goes on from there. Only there is so much more to it and surrounding it.
The Girl With Glass Feet – Ali Shaw
St Hauda’s Land is an archipelago of islands somewhere snowbound and filled with forests and mystery and yet somewhere very much of ‘the now’ even if a little different from the rest of the world and the mainland where anything can happen and indeed has as Ida MacLaird has discovered. She is turning into glass after a run in with a local and a mythical creature. Can she be cured and, if so, how could an unlikely hero – in the form of Midas Crook – help her? A beautifully written and wonderful modern fairy tale that has a huge emotional punch and stays with you long after it’s finished.
A Kind of Intimacy – Jenn Ashworth
Annie Fairhurst has left her old lonely miserable married life with her husband Will behind her. She wants to start again and so has found herself a new home in the suburbs of a Northern town for herself, and her cat Mr Tips, to start a fresh. She wants to make new friends, have wonderful parties and maybe meet a man like her old love Boris, who rather liked the larger lady like Annie and twice gave her a glimpse of how life could be. She is full of hope for the future, especially when she meets her next door neighbour Neil, who she is sure came to her aid once when she was a damsel in distress. Yet this unleashes two things in Annie, firstly the fact that her past is a mystery that keeps rearing its ugly head no matter how hard you try and cover it up, secondly Annie isn’t as stable as she might initially appear nor as truthful or lovely. The plot thickens…
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
Frank is a local television presenter in the Midlands where he is seen as a bit of a joke, because like his predecessor Phil, he has built his career on making rather lame, knowing jokes on air. The only difference is that Phil went from Frank’s job to becoming a huge TV celebrity, until he was killed in a hit and run. Phil’s death becomes another addition to the deaths that Frank becomes rather obsessed by, only these other dead people are the lonely souls forgotten by most who are not not successful TV personalities, and who, apart from Frank, have no-one show up at their funerals. Catherine O’Flynn creates a wonderful story, and love letter, to the city of Birmingham, its buildings and its lost and lonely.
Books – Charlie Hill
Richard Anger is a struggling writer – possibly as his short stories are rather dour and so experimental nobody can really read them – who, as he loves books so much, bought and now runs Back Street Books single-handedly. It is on his annual break from the shop on holiday where he meets Lauren, a neurologist he instantly falls for, and then witnesses the first in a series of deaths caused by Spontaneous Neural Atrophy Syndrome, commenting on what a rubbish book the person who died was reading. When Lauren gets back to Birmingham she learns of more deaths from SNAPS and is intrigued and so looks Richard up again. Richard then puts two and two together realising that mediocre books are making people literally brain dead, and in all these cases the books that were being read were written by Gary Sayles – an author set to have the biggest hit of the year, an author who must be stopped. A brilliant satire on the book industry and the possible death of literature.
Simon Savidge is a freelance journalist, blogger and book addict. He writes the (almost daily) blog Savidge Reads. He regularly contributes to several literature based magazines and lifestyle magazines. He is co-founder and Honorary Director of The Green Carnation Prize, you can also hear him on The Readers and You Wrote The Book podcasts. For full reviews of these, other Fiction Uncovered books and more do visit Simon’s blog Savidge Reads.