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Three Memorable Novels

January 22, 2012

Here’s a discussion prompt posted by Jacqui Iwu for her Linkedin group WRITERS SELF Promotions, which I’m a member of:

 “Authors, think back all through your writing years and list your 3 best memorable books.”

And here (slightly amended) is my reply:

 

Gosh, Jacqui, this is a tough call!  The question, of course, is how to whittle down the memorable books of different types to a list of just three.  Sticking with fiction only, I’ve made the following personal selection:

(1)  ‘The Machine-Gunners’ by Robert Westall

The late Bob Westall was a children’s writer of massive talent, arguably the most exciting of his generation, and I was fortunate enough to know him in the latter-80s.  Bob was one of those rare people who colour the world around them and make it a more interesting place for the rest of us.

‘The Machine-Gunners’ was Bob’s first book, though he had no thoughts of publication when writing the first draft longhand in school exercise books for his twelve-year-old son, Christopher.  Drawing on his memories of growing up on Tyneside during the war, he produced a classic of children’s literature.

Chas McGill was much into collecting war souvenirs, so when he finds a crashed German bomber in woodland, he makes off with a machine gun plus live ammunition.  Chas and his friends build a secret fortress from which to fight their own private war against the Nazis…

Bob was awarded the coveted Carnegie Medal for ‘The Machine-Gunners’ in 1975 and won a second Carnegie Medal for ‘The Scarecrows’ in 1981.

(2)  ‘The Night Following’ by Morag Joss

The narrator is an unnamed doctor’s wife who, upon discovering her husband’s adultery, is so shocked and distracted that she accidentally runs down and kills a lady cyclist on a country lane then drives away.  Desperate to make amends, she gradually insinuates herself into the life of her victim’s grieving husband…

This is one of the most extraordinary and thought-provoking novels I’ve ever read and I posted a full review on my blog, Grandy’s Landing, on 21/12/11 [see below].

(3)  ‘Dancing for the Hangman’ by Martin Edwards

Martin is a brilliant crime fiction writer, an expert on the genre and a true gent.  I comment on his prize-winning blog, ‘Do you write under your own name?’  I’ve met him at events occasionally and recently had the great pleasure of chatting with him at length.

I greatly admire Martin’s Lake District mysteries and his Harry Devlin series set in Liverpool.  But ‘Dancing for the Hangman’ is a truly outstanding work, an imaginative reconstruction of the notorious Crippen case of 1910.  The story is told from the little doctor’s perspective through a memoir and secret diary written in Pentonville Prison whilst awaiting execution for the murder of his wife Cora.  Was Crippen really guilty?  He maintained his innocence to the end.

Martin’s novel brings the characters vividly to life – Crippen, Cora, Ethel Le Neve (Crippen’s lover, who disguised herself as his son when they went on the run) and Chief Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard.  And, whilst respecting the proven facts, Martin gives us a fresh interpretation of this ever-fascinating case.

Happy reading!

Paul

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