Tuesday, 26 July 2011


It rarely happens, but on occasion I’m stuck for something to read. You know, that moment you browse your shelves and nothing appeals, that last book your friend said they couldn’t put down, you, well, put it down. And so, for what it’s worth, here are the five books I’ve enjoyed most this year. Take them or leave them. Actually, don’t leave them: your literary life will be poorer in their absence. And why not tell me your own favourite five reads of the year so far.

Many writers achieve a compelling, powerful narrative at the expense of beautifully woven prose – or vice versa. Robinson’s unsettling yet tender tale pulls off both and so much more.

More a novella, the voice quietly burrows beneath your skin as the horror slowly builds. The book’s power comes from the space left for the reader.

 Masterly crafted stories, one of the strongest collections I’ve read for years.

One of those wonderful novels to lose yourself in, content you’re in expert hands. Can hardly wait to see what Lee writes next. 

Regular readers of this blog will be sick of me banging on about this book. Tough. I first read it in one sitting, appositely by an open fire, in 2009. I did the same in early spring this year, savouring every beautiful and extraordinary page.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I’m not really a city person – the bustle, the clamour, everyone except me knowing where they’re going – but I do enjoy them in small doses, especially my latest sojourn in the capital. The day, particularly the evening, was garbed in surreality, so I suppose there was an inevitability I’d end up lost in Soho at midnight (my agent had abandoned me in a transvestite bar – don’t ask), battling a fug of Sambuca and Old Peculiar in search of my hotel.

This was all after The Method had picked up the Readers’ Prize at the Edge Hill award ceremony in Blackwell’s Charing Cross bookshop, whereupon I shook hands with Dave Gilmore, which alone would have made my day. I then chatted to Jeremy Dyson (pictured above), last year’s winner and one of this year’s judges, who is a lovely, unassuming man. I did laugh when he winced a little, saying that he loved my book, but, boy, it was dark. This coming from one of the writers of The League of Gentlemen.

One of the ways I cope with city-dom is to shove wine, especially the free kind, down my neck with alacrity – a tactic I regretted when asked to do a couple of interviews, one of which involved a TV camera. I think we got to ‘take six’ before something coherent was mouthed. I should probably have prepared a few words, but I really hadn’t expected to win. That’s not false modesty, just that I’d read some of the other books on the list, collections I urge you to seek out.

It was lovely to meet the other shortlisted authors, Helen Simpson, Michelle Roberts and Polly Sampson, although Graham Mort, winner of the main prize, was unable to attend, committed as he was to writing projects in Uganda, a little of which you can read about here. There was also the chance to meet all manner of literary folk and lovers/writers of the short story, and I was even invited to perform at this year’s Small Wonder Festival, which I’ve heard fantastic things about.

Overall a great night, in which I met some hitherto cyber friends, got a little drunk and discussed the wonders of the short story into the early hours.

I’d like to say a special thank you to Ailsa Cox and Carys Bray, who co-ordinated the event and made me feel so welcome. The Edge Hill Prize is unique and I hope it goes from strength to strength.