New year and some new book suggestions for you. I read these over the last few weeks of 2016 and they all gave me immense pleasure. Hope you find something you’ll enjoy too.
The Trespasser by Tana French
Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell
Streets of Darkness by AA Dhand
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
To The Island by Megan Delahunt
Dodgers by Bill Beverly
Here are some more titles that I’ve really enjoyed for your delectation…
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
Sirens by Joseph Knox
The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong
The Museum of You by Carys Bray
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
Date With Death by Julia Chapman
While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green
The nights are drawing in. Time to curl up with a good book (well, when isn’t it?) Here are some I’ve really enjoyed, hope you find something you like.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson
Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
King Crow by Michael Stewart
Black Water by Louise Doughty
Or any time at all, really. Here are some titles I’ve enjoyed this year and you might too:
Case Book by Monica Simpson
The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Red Dust by Gillian Slovo
A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
Rapture by Liz Jensen
The Past by Tessa Hadley
I Am China by Xiaolu Guo
Café Assassin by Michael Stewart
Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley
Half The World Away
‘a fascinating glimpse into modern China’ The Sunday Mirror
‘detection merges with high emotion’ The Times
This book, my twenty-second, is the first to venture outside Manchester. It tells the story of Jo and Tom Maddox, an estranged couple, who reunite in a desperate search for their daughter, Lori, who has gone missing in China. I chose China partly because my son lives there, and it would make the job of research a little easier, but mainly because China is such a fascinating country and so very different from here. A place in the throes of huge development and change and somewhere that my characters would feel completely at sea, unable to understand the language, unfamiliar with the culture and customs. I’d never been to China – or anywhere in Asia – so I’d little idea of what to expect when I visited. Once there, as I gathered background material for the book, I knew it was important to capture the particular feel of the city, Chengdu. Not just with visual descriptions but by conveying the sounds and smells, the tactile sensations of the air and dust, the taste of the spicy food, the atmosphere. Here are some of the pictures I took, and some of these locations appear in the book.
Half The World Away comes out in paperback on July 14th.
My book Witness was inspired by two separate events. The first was a near-death experience when a car cut across ours at great speed on the motorway. I was driving but yelled at my son to write down the registration number and when we got home I rang and reported the incident to the police. They took the details and asked me if I’d testify if the case ever came to court. I agreed though I felt uneasy about it. After a few weeks I got a call back – the driver was being investigated for far more serious offences and so the police would not be pursuing my complaint. My gut reaction was a sense of relief, of having avoided something unpleasant and possibly frightening. The second event was the shooting of fifteen-year-old Jesse James in Moss Side, Manchester in 2006. Police believed that Jesse, who had no involvement with gangs, was mistakenly targeted by gang members. I was working in the area in the days after the shooting and there was great sorrow and outrage at the crime and a belief that some people in the community knew who was responsible. The plea for witnesses continues to this day. No one was ever charged with Jesse’s murder. It made me wonder what it would be like to be a witness, what impact it would have. What if you were too scared to go through with it, if you believed you were putting yourself and your family at risk?
That gave me the framework for the novel, four bystanders, people in the wrong place at the wrong time, who witness a shocking shooting. To research the book I spent time with the Witness Service at Manchester Crown Court and saw how they supported the people giving testimony. People without who our criminal justice system would fall apart. Ordinary people like you and me.
Witness is a Kindle Monthly Deal throughout June alongside The Kindest Thing.
Here are some more novels that I’ve read and enjoyed recently and I hope you’ll find something here that appeals to you. There’s all sorts, British and American authors, some historical settings, some contemporary psychological crime, a modern classic and I borrowed most of them from my local library 🙂
The Ballroom by Anna Hope
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Stoner by John Williams
It’s no secret that the question ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ is one of the most commonly asked of writers. And I’d say it’s one of the hardest to answer. My fall-back position is to joke about a stall I know on the market that does two for one and I’ve blogged before about not wanting to analyse the writing process too much as for me it’s about letting go and acting instinctively rather than anything more consciously structured. I do sometimes try and address it more seriously when talking to readers by illustrating how ideas for different books came from a visual image, or from a situation that troubles me. Recently I’ve been developing ideas for my next book and also for radio. This involved quite a lot of time staring at blank sheets of paper, gazing into space, writing list of possible ‘topics’ or situations and seeing if any of these might be ripe for development. Each time I came back to the suggestions I was very much aware of my gut responses: which ones left me feeling a bit flat, or cornered as though I was being tugged reluctantly in that direction; which ones kicked at my pulse yet made me feel slightly sick and overwhelmed and not sure if I was capable of writing them? That latter feeling with its mix of thrill and anxiety is as good a measure as anything for selecting an idea to run with. I imagine it’s a bit like hang-gliding or parachute jumping (which I have never done and never ever intend to), stepping off the edge and hoping to land safely several hundred feet/pages later. Without throwing up.