New general fiction titles

A Close Connection by Patricia Fawcett9780719814471

Eleanor and Henry Nightingale, and Paula and Alan Walker, are two very different couples brought together by the marriage of Nicola, the Nightingales’ daughter, to Matthew, the Walkers’ son. A holiday in Italy, intended to bring the four closer together, creates both bonds and rifts with long lasting effects. On their returning home, a health scare brings Eleanor’s life into sharp focus and she calls on Paula, who will soon experience her own struggles, to help. Meanwhile, Nicola and Matthew’s marriage is facing its own crisis point. Will these historicthree marriages survive such turmoil?

Born in Preston, Lancashire, Patricia Fawcett now lives in Devon, close to her family. She divides her time between writing, being a lively grandmother and a volunteer at a National Trust property. She is a member of the West Country Writer’s Association. Her previous novels include Best Laid Plans and A Small Fortune, both published by Robert Hale. You can find out more about Patricia at http://www.patriciafawcett.co.uk.

Buy your copy of A Close Connection here.

9780719814907A Killer Past by Maris Soule

Mary Harrington doesn’t want to revive her past. She certainly doesn’t want her son and granddaughter to know what she did forty four years ago. But when two teenagers from a local gang try to mug her, old habits are hard to forget. Sergeant Jack Rossini, Rivershore, Michigan’s lone investigative detective, initially doesn’t believe an ‘old’ woman could have put the youths in the hospital, but once he meets Mary, he becomes curious. That curiosity grows when he discovers there’s no record of her existence prior to forty four years ago. Mary and Jack’s lives continue to intersect as the gang vows to teach Mary a lesson, and a man from Mary’s past arrives in Rivershore, threatening to reveal her secrets.

Born and raised in California, Maris Soule was studying for a master’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara when she was swept off her feet by a red-head with blue eyes. Soule now lives in Michigan, a quarter mile from Lake Michigan, with an oversized Rhodesian Ridgeback and the same red-head. Maris Soule is on Facebook, Twitter (@marisSouthHaven), and LinkedIn. She also writes a weekly blog on writing and Rhodesian Ridgebacks http://marissoule.com/blog/.

Buy your copy of A Killer Past here.

9780719814990Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell by Séamas Duffy

The Adventure of the Soho Picture: When murders are accompanied by unmistakable symbols of ritualism, Holmes’s trail leads to a respected peer of the realm and he unearths a web of vice, deception, and intrigue beneath Victorian society’s respectable veneer.

The Adventure of the Edmonton Horror: A case which causes the wildest speculation, and seems destined to join the apocrypha in Holmes’s ‘uncommonplace book’ – a collection of the strangest and most mysterious occurrences ever recorded in the capital. Is it a matter for a detective, a clergyman, or an occultist?

The Adventure of the Rotherhithe Ship-breakers: Holmes tracks down a would-be assassin, yet no one is certain whom the bullet was meant for. The investigation leads Holmes to one of the foulest, most dangerous corners of riverside London, a criminal plague spot which even the locals call the Four Corners of Hell.

Séamas Duffy lives and works in Glasgow. He is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland, author of Sherlock Holmes in Paris (Black Coat Press, 2013), and wrote the Foreword to The Aggravations of Minnie Ashe, by Cyril Kersh (Valancourt Books, 2014).

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell here.

9780719815423

The Tolpuddle Woman by E. V. White

Wesley Gillam has had little chance of romance, growing up in a strict Methodist household in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle. It’s his headstrong brother Saul who’s ignored his parents’ wishes and has turned his attention to local girl Saranna Vye. Wes first sets eyes on Saranna at Dorchester market when she warns him of vagrants plotting to steal his takings, and as he walks home at the end of the day he can’t get the image of her waif-like beauty out of his mind. But when Wes learns she’s his brother’s girl, family loyalty stands in the way of romance. Wes knows in his heart what he wants, but with tensions mounting in the West Country, as farm labourers suffer from crippling wage cuts and rickburners storm the land in protest, Wes is committed to protecting his fellow countrymen from the law’s injustice, before he has the freedom to pursue his most cherished dream.

E.V. Thompson was born in London. After a spell in the Royal Navy, and then at Rhodesia’s Department of Civil Aviation Security Section, he returned to England. His novels have won him thousands of admirers around the world. In 2011 E.V. Thompson was awarded an MBE for services to literature and to the Cornish community. Ernest died in 2012.

Buy your copy of The Tolpuddle Woman here.

New non-fiction: Charleston Saved by Anthea Arnold

Charleston Saved 1979–1989

Charleston Saved 1979–1989 tells the9780719816222 remarkable story of how the home of key members of the Bloomsbury set was brought back from ruin and lovingly restored to life.
When the painter Duncan Grant died in 1978, the house in East Sussex that he and
Vanessa Bell had rented since the First World War was in a very sorry state. Amazingly, the original designs and decor the couple had created over the years were still in place – the wall surfaces, the furniture, the wood panels, the ceramics, the fabrics, the paintings and, of course, the garden – but damp, dirt and neglect had reduced all of these to a most wretched state. The nation risked losing a house of real historical, cultural and artistic significance.

This reissue tells how Deborah Gage, a determined young woman in her twenties, set about saving this house by galvanizing support, raising money and masterminding the project. With the help of many individuals and despite setbacks, the restoration was a success. This account discusses the work in detail, giving a fascinating insight into the restoration of an historic building and gardens.

Today, Charleston is open to the public – an extraordinary achievement, carried out with passion and conviction, and truly a fitting celebration of the lives of those who lived there.

 

Anthea Arnold

Anthea Arnold has worked for Cambridge University Press, the Nuffield Foundation, and as a primary-school teacher in the London Borough of Brent. She has written two books: Briglin Pottery, published in 2002, and Eight Men in a Crate: The Ordeal of the Advance Party of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955–1957, published in 2007. She became a Life Friend of Charleston in July 1986 and has worked there in various capacities as a volunteer. Anthea lives in Burwash, East Sussex.

New non-fiction: Gallipoli by Arthur Beecroft

9780719816543Gallipoli: A Soldier’s Story
At the start of the First World War, Arthur Beecroft was a recently qualified barrister in his twenties. Determined to enlist despite a medical condition, he volunteered for military service, first as a regular soldier, then as a despatch rider. Offered a commission in the Royal Engineers, in 1915 he saw action at Gallipoli.

Now a byword for catastrophic military disaster, the Gallipoli Campaign was the ill-conceived Allied invasion of the Dardanelles. The campaign stalled almost immediately, resulting in over half a million casualties on both sides.

Lucky to survive, several years later Beecroft wrote a detailed memoir of his experiences. Discovered by his granddaughter and now reproduced here almost exactly as it was written nearly a century ago, Beecroft’s vivid narrative takes us through those heady days of the declaration of war, enlistment, initial training, the bungled landing at Suvla Bay, and the exceptionally difficult conditions of the Gallipoli terrain. This is no mere jingoistic account. With a keen eye, Beecroft brings to life the men dogged by disease and exhaustion – ordinary soldiers who, even as they suffered the betrayal of incompetent leadership,  displayed extraordinary reserves of heroism and bravery.

Throughout this rare insight into what it was like for an ordinary ‘civilian soldier’ swept up in the fog of war, Beecroft’s authentic voice still speaks honestly to us today –  of comradeship and devotion to duty, of fear and facing death.  Now published for the first time in the centenary year of the Gallipoli Campaign, this is a soldier’s story in his own words.

Arthur Beecroft

Arthur Beecroft enlisted in 1914 and served as a Signals Officer during the Gallipoli campaign. After the First World War, he wrote several detective novels under the pen-name Arthur Salcroft, and was awarded an MBE in 1922. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard. Arthur Beecroft died peacefully in 1974.

New fiction: Three Strange Angels by Laura Kalpakian (Buried River Press)

9781910208120Francis Carson, brilliant British novelist, renowned for his lyrical prose, his drinking, and his womanizing, was a free spirit who crashed through life. In February 1950 he was found dead in the Garden of Allah swimming pool. Diffident Quentin Castle–newly-married, a lowly junior partner in his father’s firm, Castle Literary Agency–must convey this terrible news to the widow in Oxfordshire. Claire Carson’s plight, impoverished, alone with three small children, her dignity, her desolation, her deep blue eyes awaken in Quentin wholly new emotions. In a spasm of gallantry, he promises to escort Francis’s body home to England from California.

Regent Films are making a movie of Carson’s best known book in sun-splashed Hollywood. As a Brit, accustomed to austere, pinched, post-war London, Quentin navigates uneasily through artifice and opulence. The top executives at Regent treat him with conventional sympathy, polite condescension, and something obscure, tinged with evasion. But these few days in California—and a weekend in Mexico—will change Quentin Castle forever.

His subsequent choices—variously brilliant, audacious and unethical—are enveloped in impenetrable layers of betrayal that will crack, crumble, and finally destroy.

Laura Kalpakian is the author of eleven novels and three prize-winning collections of original short fiction.  Her work has appeared extensively in the UK and the USA.  She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a residency at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and her 2006 novel, American Cookery, was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A native Californian, Laura was educated on both the east and west coasts of the USA, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.  You can find out more about Laura at her website at www.laurakalpakian.com

Order your copy of Three Strange Angels here

New fiction: Francesca and the Mermaid by Beryl Kingston (Buried River Press)

9781910208076Unhappy in her life and relationship, Francesca is inspired by her sighting of a mermaid swimming away to freedom, to leave her lover and uproot her life. She moves to Lewes to stay with Agnes Potts, her loving, eccentric friend. Francesca begins to paint again with Agnes’s encouragement and when her painting of the mermaid is seen by Henry, a local potter, he takes her into his employment and plans to organize an exhibition of her art.

When Agnes suffers an accident, Francesca must become nurse, chef and companion to her friend. Meanwhile, her ex-lover reappears and attempts to con Henry. Preoccupied by her new duties as Agnes’s carer, Francesca is too late to stop him and suddenly everything she has worked for and built in her new life is put at risk.

Beryl Kingston was born in South London, where she lived throughout the Blitz. Having married her first love at the age of nineteen, Kingston went on to have three children and spent many years teaching English and Drama to secondary school children. Now a full-time writer, Kingston has published over 20 novels, many of which have been bestsellers. Her recent novels Girl on the Orlop Deck and Off the Rails were also published by Robert Hale. For more information, please visit: www.berylkingston.co.uk

Order your copy of Francesca and the Mermaid here

New non-fiction: I Leap Over the Wall by Monica Baldwin

I Leap Over the Wall: A Return to the World After 28 Years in a Convent

9780719816437At the age of twenty-one, Monica Baldwin – the niece of Stanley Baldwin – entered one of the oldest and most strictly enclosed contemplative orders of the Roman Catholic Church. At the age of forty-eight, and after struggling with her vocation for many years, she obtained a special rescript from Rome and left the convent. But the world Monica had known and forsaken in 1914 was very different to the world into which she emerged at the height of the Second World War ….

This is the fascinating account of one woman’s two very different lives, with revealing descriptions of the world of a novice, the duties of a nun’s day, and the spiritual aspects of convent life. Interwoven with these are the trials and tribulations of coping with a new and alien world, as the author is confronted with fashions, interventions, politics and art totally unfamiliar to her.

Written in the post-war years, this re-issue is as fresh and engaging today as it ever was. Humour, intelligence, an endearing humility and a searing honesty all characterize this remarkable classic, giving readers both a glimpse into a hidden world and a unique view on one more familiar.

Praise for I Leap Over the Wall on first publication:

‘What a wonderful book! Now that I have finished it I want to read it again … whatever you think about nuns, whatever your religious views or lack of them, I don’t see how you can fail to be enriched by this book.’ John Betjeman

‘A sympathetically written and extraordinarily interesting account of one of the strangest and most disturbing experiences a modern woman ever lived through.’  Daily Mail

‘Witty, enlightening, entertaining.’  Daily Express

‘A story brilliantly told.’ Observer

‘Witty and intensely moving.’ Sunday Times

‘Works well. Amazing.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Straightforward, quiet and sincere. Profoundly interesting.’ Spectator

‘The book describes in fascinating detail life in an enclosed order.’ Irish Times

Buy your copy of I Leap Over the Wall here

New non-fiction: Neglected Music by Neil Butterworth

Neglected Music: A Repertoire Handbook for Orchestras and Choirs

This book is a unique guide for musicians who are seeking new material to perform. Over 400 pieces of music from the seventeenth century to the present day have been selected, covering a very wide range of styles and nationalities. Under each entry details are given of numbers and types of performers required, duration of piece, publisher, and availability of material and recordings. A description is supplied for each item with an assessment of difficulty, plus other specific guidance.

9780719815805Emphasis has been placed on works the performance material of which can be purchased, to enable musical organizations to avoid the cost of repeatedly hiring music and allowing them to build a library for the future.

In addition to choral and orchestral works, a section on opera has been included with information on thirty works suitable for amateur and student performance. A wealth of information, this book will prove invaluable for musicians of all kinds wishing to widen their repertoire.

 

Neil Butterworth

Neil Butterworth was born in London in 1934. He studied at Nottingham University, London University and the Guildhall School of Music. From 1968 to 1987 he was Head of the Music Department at Edinburgh Napier University. For many years he was music critic for the Times Educational Supplement and the Sunday Times Scotland, and a reviewer for Classic CD. In addition he was a frequent broadcaster for BBC Radio Scotland. He also conducted the Glasgow Orchestral Society for twenty-six years.

Buy your copy of Neglected Music here

What We’re Reading in… March

psycho film psycho

Back in 1959, Robert Hale published Bloch’s psychological thriller Psycho, which was quickly snapped up by Alfred Hitchcock and made into a film the following year.


What are our favourite book-to-film stories at Robert Hale? 

 

Sarah Plows, Marketing and Publicity Manager:
My favourite is Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Trumabreakfast at tiffanys filmn Capote (Penguin Classics). The first half of the film follows the book very closely, albeit set in a different decade, and much of the early dialogue is almost word-for-word, but of course the film was given an ending much better suited to Hollywood audiences than that in the book.
TRUMAN_CAPOTE_Breakfast_at_Tiffanys_2009
The film certainly deserves its spot among the classics, but it’s a shame that the book is often overlooked. Truman Capote’s writing is so captivating, and the story is the ideal anti-fairytale for twentieth-century American life. And who doesn’t identify just a little with Holly Golightly’s desire for self-reinvention?

 

 

 

Esther, Editorial Controller:
They always say the book is better than the film, and in this case it is true. Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent’s Tail) somehow seems far more shocking in print; Eva’s narrative in the form of letters to her estrangkevin filmed husband, post Kevin’s organised mass-shooting at his school, shows how she’s suffering as a consequence of his actions. The fact that she jumps back in time through her letters, chronicling Kevin’s sixteen year existence, suggests she’s been suffering the entire time. Straight from the letters, there are unknown truths, long-hidden secrets and twists.kevin book

The film itself, compared to the book, seemed quite tame. With books, we imagine how the action plays out but when it comes to the film, it’s often very different. While the adaptation stays relatively faithful to the book, the pace was slow, it had an eerie quietness to it and the most brutal scenes felt a bit anti-climactic. Lynne Ramsay (director) probably was right to censor most of it; after all, it is horrendous to talk about.

 

 

Gill Jackson, Managing Director:
I suppose like all avid readers, film adaptations of much loved books are often a disappointment. The adaptations of Jane Austen’s books are for the most part no exception, but one film in particular is very well done. 

Persuasion (Vintage Classics) waspersuasion-1995 produced for television in the first instance by the BBC and then put on general release. Although it differs from the book in subtle respects, the performance of Amanda Root as Anne Elliot has never been bettered, and she inhabits the character completely. I fell out with the casting of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth but then, every Janeite has their own vision of what their heroes should look like, but he has, over time, also persuaded me of his claim to the role.

The book is my favourite Austen and read every year or so in the original edition my aunt gave me as a girl. Pride and Prejudice had me hooked from the age of nine (again as persuasiona result of a gift from my prescient aunt) but Persuasion is the ‘adult’ Austen to which I turn when in need of comfort in both book and on film.

Hale’s series on Jane Austen continues her wonderful legacy. Adding to great contributions by Maggie Lane and Hazel Jones on ageing and travel in Austen’s books, Hale are publishing a new book by Stephen Mahoney in the autumn on wealth and poverty.

 


Isobel, Marketing and Publicity Assistant:
Ifight club book think Fight Club (Vintage) is a good example Fight-ClubMovie-Still2CRof a
book-to-film success story. Both book and film hold their own, but also complement one another. While it’s a lot to do with great script and actors, I think the subject matter – of crazy insomniacs and manic addictions – helps out too.
 The story is a fragmented, schizophrenic narrative which moves all over the place and works really well in book or film setting.

half yellow sunOn the other hand, one of my favourite books, Half of a Yellow Sun by  (4th Estate), was recently adapted until a film. Even though the two leads – Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton – are very good actors and the author has endorsed the project, I’ve resisted going to see it just in case it disappoints. I think there are some books for each person where its better to preserve the characters as you imagined them when reading the story.


The mystery behind Murder on the Minneapolis

by Anita Davison

As a reader, I have always loved the cosy mystery genre, the Agatha Christie style gatherings of genteel characters among whom one, or maybe more, turn out to be the villain(s). I like the easy to read formula which works without taking the reader into too many dark corners. Psychological thrillers are compelling but there will always be a place for the lighter crime story where the threads are neatly tied; the villain is revealed, justice prevails and everyone gets what they deserve. Maybe because it’s so different to real life, which is often inconclusive and messy.

When I decided to write a cosy mystery, I wanted to set it in the Edwardian age, mainly because this was a time of great change and also because there are vast amounts of documented and photographic evidence available to help give the novel an authentic atmosphere. I chose the location to be one of the steamships, which became all the rage during the late nineteenth century. The SS Minneapolis, built in Belfast, and was commissioned in the 1890s by the American Atlantic Transport Line. Along with their sister ships, she was a luxurious, seagoing palace designed to ferry first class passengers only between New York and London before the First World War.

The SS Minneapolis left New York on her maiden voyage in April 1900, which is not strictly Edwardian as Queen Victoria died in 1901 – but close enough as her influence had been usurped by the Prince of Wales by then. At 600 feet long and with a passenger complement of under a hundred, I imagined my characters wouldn’t get lost in a vast, floating city.

                       SS Minneapolis

The murder plot was inspired while researching the skyline passengers would see as they sailed up the Hudson into the Atlantic. I came across a report in the New York Times dated December 1899, whose bold headline announced ‘BRIDEGROOM ***** DEAD’. With journalistic straightforwardness, the report said a businessman had died unexpectedly within a week of his secret wedding. The details were brief and factual, with no speculation as to what had led up to the death, or the effect on his bereft bride.

This lack of back story prompted me to invent a scenario as to the possible circumstances of this tragedy, if there was one. My cosy mystery plotline, complete with villain, red herrings and solution was all there in that one, short news clipping. I have not produced it here as I’d like to avoid leaving little for the reader to work out for themselves – which is surely half the fun of this genre.

I was still unsure as to who my sleuth would be. A Poirot type character or a Miss Marple? Or neither? Then, while searching through Victorian photographs in a local antique shop, I came across a gentle-faced girl with light eyes, her hair upswept into a soft bun, and her slender neck encased in a delicate lace collar. Instantly, I knew this girl would be my investigator and gave her the name Flora Maguire. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the photograph as it was part of a much larger collection, but she’s lodged comfortably inside my head and resides there quite happily.

Flora is an English governess; intelligent, educated, and a striking woman, though her station in life means that her intellect is often overlooked. She’s observant, but not too forward as she is used to keeping to the background.

When a man dies on board ship, Flora isn’t satisfied with the opinions of the crew and ship’s doctor, so she embarks on a personal mission to solve the mystery before the ship reaches England.

I felt Flora needed a confidant on this voyage, a young man to talk out her theories with, but who would also make her rethink her conclusions.  He needed to be attractive, kind and somewhat enigmatic, after all, any one of the passengers could be a killer. Whether their friendship would progress is unclear as he is from a different class, something which would have been a real barrier in the year 1900.

Amongst the usual complement of shipboard characters is one who appears almost as interested in the death on board as Flora, but whether or not he is a villain is not evident.

Flora’s story was fun to write, but more challenging than I imagined when it came to feeding clues and red herrings into the plot without giving too much away. If the outcome is too predictable, the reader will become bored and if too convoluted, they will become frustrated and give up.

I have heard of strange coincidences cropping up during the course of research. Thus far this has not happened to me – except in this case. During the WW1 Centenary celebrations of last summer, I discovered that all the ‘Minne’ class steamships of the Atlantic Transport Line were used as troopships. At the same time, I was also researching my paternal grandfather’s and great uncle’s service records, discovering they both served in the same regiment. The battalion in which my great uncle served was transported to the Western Front in October 1914 on the SS Minneapolis, and took part in the Battle of Ypres. My grandfather survived the war, but my eighteen-year-old great uncle was killed in France in June 1915.

This was something I was unaware of until then, more than a year after I went looking for a steamship on which to base my murder mystery.  Research, mystical connection or simply coincidence?

Murder on the Minneapolis by Anita Davison will be published by Robert Hale on 30 June

Wendy Perriam: ‘Mother’s Day – And we’re all awash with schmaltz’

Wendy Perriam on mothers in fiction.

‘“Mothers are angels in human form, divinities on earth”; “God moulded my mother’s heart from gold and put shining stars in her eyes”. Such tributes paid to mothers online are surely only fitting for unbelievable paragons like Marmee in Little Women. Most psychologists agree that the mother/child relationship, and especially the mother/daughter relationship, is often intractable and fraught. According to research, women only finally appreciate their mothers after 183 rows and 164 door-slammings. (Don’t ask me how they record such things!) And serious mother/child disruptions are all too familiar in literature, from Ancient Greece to modern times – think Oedipus, Medea, Hamlet, Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary, or Lolita’s mother who puts her own sexual satisfaction above the safety of her daughter. And most crass and vile of all mothers must surely be Matilda’s, depicted by Roald Dahl as neglectful, idiotic and tyrannically abusive.

Even some of my close friends are in constant daily conflict with their daughters, or despairing of children who seem distant, recalcitrant or downright bolshie. So we’re faced with a dichotomy: angelic mothers, on the one hand, hymned and praised in treacly Mother’s Day cards and, on the other, the unwelcome truth of slammed doors and family rifts. Last year, I asked my Creative Writing students to write a one-page study of their mothers and was shocked by the number of callous harridans who nagged and scolded from those pages.

And, when it comes to me and mothers, I didn’t have the best start in the world! Born in the middle of the war to a highly anxious mum, who already had an underweight toddler, born prematurely and still giving much cause for anxiety, the last thing she wanted was another child. And who can blame her, with my Dad away, bombs raining down on the family home, and us forced to sleep in the cramped and smelly air-raid shelter under the dining-room table?

Even my actual birth was far from serene. Mum’s labour started in the middle of a horror film, precipitating a mad dash from cinema to hospital, where I emerged in an undignified rush, sickly-yellow from jaundice. One look at my ghastly hue and satanically dark hair was enough to convince my parents to change my name from Angela to Wendy – I was clearly more devil than angel. But, since Wendy isn’t a Saint’s name, the nuns who schooled me from age 4 to age 21 disapproved of it intensely.

Those same nuns constituted a whole troupe of alternative “mothers”– scary forbidding figures with, apparently, no hair and no discernible bodies, just long black gliding robes. Nor could one expect much mercy, let alone mothering, from such strict, judgemental disciplinarians, who regarded touch as dangerous and pleasure as a one-way ticket to Hell. My schoolgirl diaries record how often we were told we were “vegetables”, “hopeless failures” and “miserable worms”, who would never amount to anything.

9780709093862So perhaps it’s little wonder that my latest short-story collection has Bad Mothers in the title. However, I didn’t consciously set out to write about mothers, good or bad, and it was only when I re-read the whole collection that I realized how many bad mothers feature in the stories. The thing about short stories is that they require much less pre-planning and structuring than novels, and seem to arise spontaneously, often prompted by childhood experiences. And, certainly, as a child, I was in frequent trouble both from my mother and the nuns. The latter eventually expelled me and told me I was in the devil’s power – the most frightening moment of my life, since Satan seemed totally real and terrifyingly evil.

In the story A Cuppa and a Biscuit, I recreate a younger version of my troubled schoolgirl self and re-enact her dread of Hell and damnation – still with me at the age of 74! This story is based on a real-life incident, when I was told by Reverend Mother (the most daunting of all mothers) not to keep fainting at Holy Mass. But how could I stop what she called “this pernicious habit”, when it seemed to happen automatically and I’d find myself blacking out and slumping to the floor? Truth to tell, I was probably just weak and hungry, since we girls ate nothing from early supper to post-Mass breakfast the next day.

However, as a counterbalance to punitive Reverend Mothers and cantankerously critical real mothers, there are some benign and gentle mothers in my new short-story collection. The title-story, Mouse, for example, features a kind and decent mother, whose only fault is her fear of mice. (This is an extremely common phobia, judging by the statistics, so I hope musophobics readers aren’t unduly alarmed by the book-jacket!) And Debs’ Mum in Presents is genuinely loving and caring, a supportive figure who cooks her daughter proper porridge in the morning; has her supper waiting when she returns knackered after work; makes her a hot-water-bottle if her period-pain is bad; sews new eyes on her old, balding teddy bear, and offers to make her curtains if and when she moves away from home. And the reason Debs doesn’t move, despite her desire for her own flat, is because of the very strength and solidity of that love, which she now sees as a precious gift – a gift of time, effort and devotion

And talking of gifts, I hope that, despite its title, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers will make an apt and unusual present for Mother’s Day. After all, if a few of the mothers prove alarming, the brilliant lovers may well compensate!’

Order your copy of Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers here