Author of the Month: Val McDermid

Our Author of the Month for February is the brilliant, Val McDermid.

Val McDermid is perhaps best known for the series ‘Wire in the Blood’ which was adapted for television starring Robson Green and Hermione Norris

Val McDermid is the ‘Queen of Crime’ and part of the ‘Tartan Noir’ sub-genre

Val is a quiz show regular and beat the Eggheads!

Her band ‘Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers’, formed entirely of crime writers, has played at Glastonbury.

Find Val McDermid books on the catalogue

Author of the Month: Bernard Cornwell

Our Author of the Month for January is the ever popular Bernard Cornwell.

Bernard Cornwell has written over 60 books and sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

Bernard is best known for the ‘Sharpe’ series, the central protagonist played by Sean Bean in the hugely popular Television Series.

Bernard primarily writes Historical fiction and his novels always end with an exploration of how they differ from real History.

Find his work on our catalogue:

‘I play merry hell with history, I admit it’ – Bernard Cornwell, The Guardian

Author of the Month: Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble is our Author of the Month for December.

Dame Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield in 1939. She attended a Quaker Boarding School in York then studied English Literature at Cambridge.

She is the author of numerous novels, in a long career chronicling British women’s experience throughout the changing stages of their lives.

She was appointed CBE in 1980 and made DBE in 2008. Margaret was also awarded the Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature in 2011.

Find her collection of work on our catalogue here.

Author of the Month: Hilary Mantel

It’s November, and that means it’s time for a new Author of the Month. This month we are celebrating the late, Hilary Mantel.

Hilary Mantel was an award winning author who won several literary accolades in her lifetime. She was the first female author to win The Booker Prize twice. The Wolf Hall trilogy has sold more than 5 million copies and has been translated into 41 different languages.

Find Mantel’s collection of novels on our catalogue.

Author of the Month: Dorothy Koomson

Our author of the month for October is the brilliant Dorothy Koomson.

Born in 1971, Dorothy Koomson is a bestselling author of adult fiction books with over 2 million books sold. She has earned her title ‘The Queen of the Big Reveal’ with her nail-biting psychological thrillers, which pack an emotionally devastating punch.

Dorothy Koomson has been a strong advocate for Black authors to write the stories they want to tell without compromising their vision.

Try her latest novel ‘My Other Husband’ which critics are calling one of her best yet. This expertly crafted novel is full of twists and turns sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Check out our full catalogue of Dorothy Koomson titles.

Author of the Month: Haruki Murakami

August 2022

Biography

Haruki Murakami was born in 1949 to middle class parents in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. However, at an early age the family moved to the bustling port town of Kobe, where a young Murakami was exposed to American culture through books, movies and jazz music. Murakami studied drama at Waseba University in Tokyo, where he expanded his reading and developed a taste for Western writers such as Jack Kerouac, Franz Kafka and Kurt Vonnegut. After completing his studies, Murakami and his wife Yoko opened a coffee house and jazz club in Tokyo called the ‘Peter Cat’. Murakami began to write during this time, publishing his first novel Hear the Wind Singin 1979 at the age of 29. This debut novel would win the well-respected Gunzo Prize for New Writers (1979) and convince Murakami to continue writing.

Career

Murakami’s writing does not sit easily within the cannon of Japanese literature, and for much of his career he has been seen as an outsider due to the American influences in his novels. Murakami’s novels are generally seen as examples of magical realism. However, the plot and style of his novels are eclectic at best and defy all attempts at categorisation. Murakami has characterised himself as a conduit from his own subconscious to that of the reader, expressed through his dreamlike and often experimental prose. Common themes in his work include cats, baseball, jazz, classical music and the Beatles.

Following on from Hear the Wind Sing (1979) Murakami would complete a trilogy of works with A Wild Sheep Chase (1982). The novel was successful in Japan and received critical praise from Western reviewers. However, Norwegian Wood (1987) was the novel which would bring Murakami to his widest audience yet. It became a sensation in Japan and then abroad (in 1989), selling more than 1 million copies in the first 7 days of its release and 3.5 million in its first year. Murakami has been a household name in Japan since, with fans going to great lengths to meet the famously reclusive author.

Awards and Accolades

Some of Murakami’s most notable works include The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995) which won the Yomiuri Literary Award and Kafka on the Shore (2002) which received a World Fantasy Award for its English translation in 2006. Murakami has also received a Hans Christian Anderson Award (2016) and an America Award in Literature (2018) for lifetime achievement in writing. Notable exceptions to this trend include Murakami’s three volume novel 1Q84 (2009-2010) which has been voted one of the greatest novels of the last 30 years in Japan but received poor reviews with Western critics and fans. For first time readers A Wild Sheep Chase or Norwegian Wood are a great place to start, while Murakami’s short story collections are interesting and challenging in shorter manageable chunks.

Links  

The Paris Review – Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182

The Guardian – Haruki Murakami: ‘You have to go through the darkness before you get to the light’

The New Yorker – The Underground Worlds of Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami – Author

NPR – Haruki Murakami: ‘I’ve had All Sorts of Strange Experiences in My Life’

Fantastic Fiction – Haruki Murakami

Find Murakami’s books here

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” – Haruki Murakami

Author of the Month: Marian Keyes

Early Biography  
Marian Keyes is an Irish author born in 1963, who grew up in and around Dublin as part of a large family. Keyes completed degrees in law and business, moving to London in 1986 to take on an administrative role. However, Keyes began to struggle with alcoholism and depression in her twenties, eventually attempting to take her own life in 1995. Keyes underwent rehabilitation for her alcoholism in Dublin and began working on short stories, based in part on her own experiences. Keyes submitted these stories to the publisher Poolberg Press, with the promise of a novel to follow. The novel she submitted, Watermelon (1995), would become a best seller in Ireland and launch her career as an author. While Keyes has struggled with mental health difficulties for most of her adult life, she has described her writing as a ‘rope across the abyss’ which has given her the strength in times of crisis. Keyes has been sober now for over 25 years and lives with her husband Tony in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin. 

Work and Career  
Keyes’ works are darkly comic but insightful novels, often based on her own experiences. They cover sensitive topics such as mental illness, divorce, substance abuse and domestic violence while maintaining a tact and approachability which makes them instant favourites with readers. While Keyes’ books tackle heavy topics, their tone and narrative are optimistic and uplifting with a happy ending for all your favourite characters. Keyes main series is the Walsh Family novels, where we join the Walsh Sisters as they navigate the ups and downs of modern life. Watermelon (1995) is the First book in the series, while her latest work Again, Rachel (2022) is the most recent addition. Despite being associated with the genre, Keyes has been a strong critic of the term ‘chick-lit’ and its ‘belittling’ and ‘demeaning’ connotations. Equally, Keyes is a strong feminist and has drawn attention to differences in the way that male and female written works are represented and awarded.  

Accolades, Awards and Statistics 

Keyes is the British Book Awards Author of the Year 2022, recognised for her ‘expert storytelling, incredible warmth of heart, and significant contributions to the publishing industry over three decades of writing’. She has sold over 33 million books worldwide and her works have been translated into 36 different languages. Keyes has won ‘Popular Fiction Book of the Year’ at the Irish Book Awards in 2009 and 2017 for This Charming man (2008) and The Break (2017) respectively. Keyes has had multiple best-selling books in the UK and Ireland, where her works routinely top bestsellers lists. 

Marian Keyes – Biography 
Penguin – Where to start reading Marian Keyes’ books 
The Guardian – Marian Keyes: rehab was one of the happiest times of my life 
Twitter – Marian Keyes  
BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs Marian Keyes 
Independent.ie – Author of the Year 
Chatelaine – Keyes on the term chick lit 

Check out our Marian Keyes collection on our catalogue

“Writing about feeling disconnected has enabled me to connect, and that has been the most lovely thing of all.” ~ Marian Keyes

Ann Cleeves

A great advocate and supporter of libraries, the best-selling writer Ann Cleeves was awarded an OBE in the 2022 New Year Honours List ‘for services to Reading and Libraries.’ Typically modest, this author of more than 30 novels responded to the nomination by saying, ‘I’m delighted that this honour highlights the importance of reading and libraries and celebrates the skilled staff who work in the field.’

Throughout her long career Ann has created a number of enduring characters whose exploits have made the transition to television, including Vera Stanhope, of the eponymous series Vera, Shetland’s Jimmy Perez and mostly recently an adaptation of The Long Call, the first in Ann’s new series set in North Devon featuring Detective Matthew Venn.

In 2017 she was presented with the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association, the highest honour in British crime writing, for her excellent writing and contribution to the crime writing world. In 2006 Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers’ Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland series. In addition, she has been short listed for a CWA Dagger Awards – once for her short story The Plater, and twice for the Dagger in the Library award, which is awarded not for an individual book but for an author’s entire body of work.

We have picked out a selection of titles from Ann’s long career – for the full list of books, eBooks and aAudiobooks by Ann Cleeves we have available to borrow, please visit our website.

In true Agatha Christie style, Cleeves once again pulls the wool over our eyes with cunning and conviction.

Colin Dexter

Sea Fever

Amateur sleuth, George Palmer-Jones, and his fellow bird-watchers on the Jessie Ellen catch sight of a rare sea bird. When one of the party goes missing and is found floating in the sea, Palmer-Jones must find out who murdered the man.

Murder in My Back Yard

When a proposed housing development results in uproar and murder, the pressure is on Inspector Ramsay to find the killer. Just as he thinks he is nearing a conclusion, disaster strikes again and Ramsay must test his measure as a detective.

The Crow Trap

At the isolated Baikie’s Cottage, three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey. The three women each know the meaning of betrayal. So when people begin to mysteriously die, DI Vera Stanhope is sent to investigate.

The Glass Room

DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her hippy neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation so she has more tolerance for them than most. When one of them goes missing she feels duty-bound to find out what happened. But her path leads her to more than just a missing friend.

Raven Black

The murder of teenager Catherine Ross sends shockwaves through a small Shetland community, and most of the fingers of blame point to loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But Catherine’s vicious and sudden demise has thrown a veil of suspicion over everyone who knew her, and one local detective is keeping all options open.

Blue Lightning

Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancée, Fran, to his parents. When a woman’s body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, Jimmy must investigate the old-fashioned way.

Too Good to be True

When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don’t happen. But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case.

The Long Call

In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too. Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region.

The Heron’s Cry

Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder – Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed. His daughter Eve is a glassblower, and the murder weapon is a shard of one of her broken vases. Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband. 

Graham Greene

Graham Greene, was an English novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and journalist whose novels treat life’s moral ambiguities in the context of contemporary political settings.

Following the modest success of his first novel The Man Within (1929), Greene quit his job as copy editor for The Times and worked as film critic and literary editor of The Spectator. He travelled widely as a freelance journalist until the 1950s and used his trips to scout locations for novels.

His 1932 thriller, Stamboul Train was the first of his ‘entertainments’ books which combined with spare, tough language and suspenseful plots with moral complexity and depth. Stamboul Trian was the first of Greene’s novels to be made into a film in 1934 and his fifth ‘entertainment’ The Third Man (1949) was originally written as a screenplay for the Director Carol Reed.

Brighton Rock (1938, films 1947 and 2010) shares some of the characteristics of his pacy thrillers – the protagonist is a hunted criminal roaming the underworld of Brighton, but Greene explores the moral attitudes of the main characters with a new depth, including the violent teenage criminal, whose tragic situation is intensified by a Roman Catholic upbringing.

I read Brighton Rock when I was about thirteen. One of the first lessons I took from it was that a serious novel could be an exciting novel – that the novel of adventure could also be the novel of ideas.

Ian McEwan

Catholicism became the dominant theme of his finest novel, The Power and the Glory (1940; also published as The Labyrinthine Ways; adapted as the film The Fugitive, 1947). The book follows a weak and alcoholic Priest who tries to fulfil his duties in rural Mexico despite the despite the constant threat of death at the hands of a revolutionary government.

Greene worked for the Foreign Office during World War II and was stationed at Freetown, Sierra Leone, the setting for The Heart of the Matter (1948; film 1953), a novel which traces the decline of a well-meaning British Officer, whose pity for his wife and mistress leads him to commit suicide.

The Quiet American (1956; films 1958 and 2002) chronicles the doings of a well-intentioned American government agent in Vietnam in the midst of the anti-French uprising there in the early 1950s. Our Man in Havana (1958; film 1959) is set in Cuba just before the communist revolution there, while The Comedians (1966; film 1967) is set in Haiti during the rule of François Duvalier.

Throughout his long career Greene’s novels share a preoccupation with sin and moral failure against a backdrop or setting wrought with danger, violence, and physical decay. Despite the downbeat tone of his books, Greene was in fact one of the most widely read British novelists of the 20th century, due to his superb gifts as a storyteller, especially his masterful selection of detail and his use of realistic dialogue in a fast-paced narrative. Throughout his career, Greene was fascinated by film, and he often emulated cinematic techniques in his writing. No other British writer of this period was as aware as Greene of the power and influence of cinema.

Throughout his career he also published several selections of short stories, essays a collection of film criticism.

Visit our online catalogue for the entire Graham Greene collection, or see displays in your local library.

Author of the Month: Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s novels are as diverse as his upbringing. Born in Hampshire in 1948, his childhood was a transient one, spent moving between east Asia, Germany and north Africa, following his father’s military postings. His similarly wide-roaming career has positioned him as one of Britain’s foremost literary voices. 

Whether penning eerie psychodramas or delicately wrought period pieces, what unites McEwan’s novels is an unerring curiosity about people. Whether the book’s key concern is personal or political, it is the intimate interpersonal relationships that provide their emotional core.  

McEwan’s career began with a penchant for the gothic. His first two novels The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were released to uneasy admiration, with critic John Krewson describing the former as being “beautiful but disturbing”. Subsequent works went on to stray from this generic darkness and, in doing so, found a wider readership. After the divisive release of The Child In Time (1987), an unusual tale of time travel, cold-war era romance The Innocent (1990) was met with near-unanimous critical praise. 

The image shows the book cover of The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
The image shows the book cover of The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

 

It was his 1998 novel, Amsterdam, that marked a true popular breakthrough. The tale of love and death won him the Booker Prize, with critics praising its “sardonic and wise examination of the morals and culture of our time.” 

A popular candidate for adaptation, McEwan’s works have frequently been seen on screen. Joe Wright’s 2007 film Atonement, adapted from McEwan’s 2001 novel of the same name brings to life a confusion of sexuality, war and guilt, replicating the author’s ability to vividly capture a moment frozen in time and imbue it with sizzling heat.  

More recently, Man-Booker prize shortlisted On Chesil Beach (2007) was adapted into a 2017 film starring Saoirse Ronan. Once again McEwan’s meditations on desire in a repressive society of the past are proven to have a continuing contemporary appeal. This reliable appetite to see McEwan’s work reinvented speaks to his continued appeal to diverse audiences.  

With the ability to wheedle his way to the emotional heart of any story, regardless of how convoluted, McEwan brings his readers into an unfamiliar situation only to find relatable humanity. 

The image shows the book cover of On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The image shows the book cover of Atonement by Ian McEwan

These titles are also available to loan through our eBooks app, BorrowBox.

Written by Flora Pick