Tom Vowler - What Lies Within - Headline
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    • ISBN:9780755392209
    • Publication date:04 Jul 2013
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    • Publication date:25 Apr 2013
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What Lies Within

By Tom Vowler

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Combining the narrative drive and psychological suspense of BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, with hard-hitting, thought-provoking themes, as Simon Lelic, WHAT LIES WITHIN is an exciting debut from a brilliant new voice in fiction

A tightly spun, atmospheric and powerful psychological suspense.

Living in a remote Devon farmhouse, Anna and her family have always been close to nature, surrounded by the haunting beauty of the moor. But when a convict escapes from nearby Dartmoor prison, their isolation suddenly begins to feel more claustrophobic than free. Fearing for her children's safety, Anna's behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. But why is she so distant from her kind husband Robert, and why does she suspect something sinister of her son Paul? All teenagers have their difficult phases...

Meanwhile, a young idealistic teacher has just started her first job, determined to 'make a difference'. But when she is brutally attacked by one of her students, her version of events is doubted by even those closest to her. Struggling to deal with the terrible consequences, she does what she can to move on and start afresh.

As the two narratives converge, the tension builds to a devastating denouement, shattering everything you thought you believed about nature, nurture and the true meaning of family.

Biographical Notes

An award-winning writer living in south-west England, Tom Vowler's short story collection THE METHOD won the inaugural Scott Prize in 2010 and, in 2011, the Edge Hill Readers' Prize. This is his debut novel.

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  • ISBN: 9780755392186
  • Publication date: 25 Apr 2013
  • Page count: 304
As unsettling as it is minutely imagined, this striking debut novel from Tom Vowler will give serious pause for thought to anyone considering downsizing for a cosy life in the countryside. — Patrick Gale
Headline Review

That Dark Remembered Day

Tom Vowler

Fans of Simon Lelic, Lisa Ballantyne and Rosamund Lupton will love Tom Vowler.A son returns to the small town where he grew up, where his mother still lives and where a terrible event in his childhood changed the lives of every person living there. As the story unfolds through the eyes of the son, the mother and finally, the father, the reader experiences the taut build up to one day's tragic unravelling, and the shock waves that echoed through a once happy family and close-knit community. Will they ever be able to exorcise the damage of that day or do some wounds run too deep?



Associate Publisher Claire Baldwin reveals why What Lies Within chilled her to the bone...


Our Book of the Month is the new one from the brilliant Tom Vowler...


The Sunday Times top ten bestseller Lisa Gardner's latest thriller, TOUCH AND GO, is out now in paperback. Here's an exclusive look at chapter one to whet your appetite...

July Book of the Month

Complete Me: a peek at J. Kenner's explosive finale

Fear yanks me from a deep sleep, and I sit bolt upright in a room shrouded with gray, the muted green light from a digital alarm clock announcing that it is just after midnight. My breath comes in gasps, and my eyes are wide but unseeing. The last remnant of an already forgotten nightmare brushes against me like the tattered hem of a specter’s cloak, powerful enough to fill me with terror, and yet so insubstantial that it evaporates like mist when I try to grasp it. I do not know what frightened me. I only know that I am alone, and that I am scared. Alone? I turn swiftly in bed, shifting my body as I reach out to my right. But even before my fingers brush the cool, expensive sheets, I know that he is not there. I may have fallen asleep in Damien’s arms, but once again, I have awakened alone. At least now I know the source of the nightmare. It is the same fear I have faced every day and every night for weeks. The fear I try to hide beneath a plastic smile as I sit beside Damien day in and day out as his attorneys go over his defense in meticulous detail. As they explain the procedural ins-and-outs of a murder trial under German law. As they practically beg him to shine a light into the dark corners of his childhood because they know, as I do, that those secrets are his salvation. But Damien remains stubbornly mute, and I am left huddled against this pervasive fear that I will lose him. That he will be taken from me. And not just fear. I’m also fighting the damnable, overwhelming, panic-inducing knowledge that there isn’t a goddamn thing in the world I can do. Nothing except wait and watch and hope. But I do not like waiting, and I have never put my faith in hope. It is a cousin of fate, and both are too mercurial for my taste. What I crave is action, but the only one who can act is Damien, and he has steadfastly refused. And that, I think, is the worst cut of all. Because while I understand the reason for his silence, I can’t quell the selfish spark of anger. Because at the core of it all, it’s not just himself that Damien is sacrificing. It’s me. Hell, it’s us. We are running out of time. His trial will begin only a few hours from now, and unless he changes his mind about his defense, it is very likely that I will lose this man. I squeeze my eyes shut, forcing the tears to remain at bay. I can push the fear back, but my anger is like a living thing, and I am afraid that it will explode no matter how hard I try to quell it. For that matter, I’m afraid that suppressing it will make the ultimate explosion all the more brutal. When the indictment came through, Damien had tried to push me away, believing that he was protecting me. But he’d been wrong—and I’d flown all the way to Germany to tell him so. I’ve been here for over three weeks now, and there has not been a day when I have regretted coming, and I do not doubt that what he said when I arrived on his doorstep is true—he loves me. But that knowledge doesn’t diminish the sense of foreboding that has been rising within me. A trepidation that is especially potent at night when I wake alone and know that he has turned to solitude and Scotch when I want him in my arms. He loves me, yes. But at the same time I’m afraid that he is pushing me away again. Not in big steps, but in little ones. Well, screw that. I peel myself away from the cool comfort of our bed and stand up. I’m naked, and I bend to retrieve the white, lush robe provided by the Hotel Kempinski. Damien brushed it back off my shoulders after our shower last night, and I left it where it fell, a soft pile of cotton beside the bed. The sash is a different story, and I have to dig in the rumpled sheets to find it. Sex with Damien is always intense, but as the trial comes closer, it has been wilder, more potent, as if by controlling me Damien can control the outcome. Idly, I rub my wrists. They bear no marks, but that is only because Damien is careful. I can’t say the same about my ass, which still tingles from the feel of his palm against my skin. I like it—both this lingering sting and the knowledge that he needs my submission as much as I need to give myself to him. I find the sash shoved down near the foot of the bed. Last night, it had bound my wrists behind my back. Now, I tie it around my waist and tug it tight, relishing the luxurious comfort after waking so violently. The room itself is equally soothing, every detail done to perfection. Every piece of wood polished, every tiny knickknack and artistic addition thoughtfully arranged. Right now, however, I am oblivious to the room’s charms. I only want to find Damien. The bedroom connects to an oversized dressing area and a stunning bathroom. I check briefly in both, though I do not expect to find him, then continue through to the living area. The space is large and also well-appointed with comfortable seating and a round worktable that is now covered with sheafs of papers and folders representing both the business that Damien continues to run despite the world collapsing around our ears, and the various legal documents that his attorney, Charles Maynard, has ordered Damien to study. I let the robe drop where I stand and pull on the stunning trompe l’oeil patterned sheath that Damien cavalierly tossed over the arm of a chair after peeling it off me last night. We’ve spent a few hours escaping reality by shopping on Munich’s famous Maximilianstrasse, and I have acquired so many shoes and dresses I could open my own boutique. I run my fingers through my hair as I cross the room to the phone by the bar. I force myself not to go into the bathroom to primp and freshen the makeup that has surely rubbed off. It’s more challenging than it sounds; the mantra that a lady doesn’t go out unfinished has been beaten into my head since birth. But with Damien at my side I have thumbed my nose at many of the tribulations of my youth, and right now I am more concerned with finding him than with applying fresh lipstick. I pick up the receiver and dial zero. Almost immediately there is an accented voice on the other end. “Good evening, Ms. Fairchild.” “He’s in the bar?” I do not need to explain who “he” is. “He is. Shall I have a phone brought to his table?” “No, that’s all right. I’ll come down.” “Sehr gut. Is there anything else I can do for you?” “No, thank you.” I’m about to hang up when I realize there is something. “Wait!” I catch him before he clicks off, then enlist his help with my plan to distract Damien from his demons. Despite the age of the building and the elegance of the interior, the hotel boasts a modern ambiance, and I have come to feel at home within these walls. I wait impatiently for the elevator, and then even more impatiently once I’m in the car. The descent seems to take forever, and when the doors finally open to reveal the opulent lobby, I aim myself straight for the Old English–style bar. Though it’s late on a Sunday, the Jahreszeiten Bar is bustling. A woman stands by the piano softly singing to the gathered crowd. I barely pay her any heed. I don’t expect to find Damien among the listeners. Instead, I wander through the wood and red leather interior, shaking off the help of a waiter who wants to seat me. I pause for a moment, standing idly beside a blond woman about my age who is sipping champagne and laughing with a man who might be her father, but I’m betting is not. I turn slowly, taking in the room around me. Damien is not with the group at the piano, nor is he sitting at the bar. And he does not occupy any of the red leather chairs that are evenly spaced around the tables. I’m starting to worry that perhaps he was leaving as I was coming. Then I take a step to the left and realize that what I thought was a solid wall is actually an optical illusion created by a pillar. Now I can see the rest of the room, including the flames leaping in the fi replace set into the opposite wall. There is a small love seat and two chairs surrounding the hearth. And, yes, there is Damien. I immediately exhale, my relief so intense I almost use the blonde’s shoulder to steady myself. Damien is seated in one of the chairs, his back to the room as he faces the flames. His shoulders are broad and straight, and more than capable of bearing the weight of the world upon them. I wish, however, that they didn’t have to. I move toward him, the sound of my approach muffled by both the thick carpet and the din of conversation. I pause a few feet behind him, already feeling the familiar pull I experience whenever I am near Damien. The singer is now crooning “Since I Fell for You,” her voice cutting sharp and clear across the room. Her voice is so mournful that I’m afraid it is going to unleash a flood of tears along with all of the stress of the last few weeks. No. I’m here to comfort Damien, not the other way around, and I continue toward him with renewed resolve. When I finally reach him, I press my hand to his shoulder and bend down, my lips brushing his ear. “Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?” I hear rather than see his answering smile. “That depends on who’s asking.” He doesn’t turn to face me, but he lifts his arm so that his hand is held up in a silent invitation. I close my hand in his, and he guides me gently around the chair until I am standing in front of him. I know every line of this man’s face. Every angle, every curve. I know his lips, his expressions. I can close my own eyes and picture his, dark with desire, bright with laughter. I have only to look at his midnight-colored hair to imagine the soft, thick locks between my fingers. There is nothing about him that is not intimately familiar to me, and yet every glance at him hits me like a shock, reverberating through me with enough power to knock me to my knees. Empirically, he is gorgeous. But it is not simply his looks that overwhelm. It is the whole package. The power, the confidence, the bone-deep sensuality that he couldn’t shake even if he tried. “Damien,” I whisper, because I can’t wait any longer to feel his name on my lips. That wide, spectacular mouth curves into a slow smile. He tugs my hand, pulling me onto his lap. His thighs are firm and athletic, and I settle there eagerly, but I don’t lean against him. I want to sit back enough that I can see his face. “Do you want to talk about it?” I know what his answer will be, and yet I hold my breath, praying that I am wrong. “No,” he says. “I just want to hold you.” I smile as if his words are sweetly romantic, refusing to let him see how much they chill me. I need his touch, yes. But I need the man more. I stroke his cheek. He hasn’t shaved since yesterday, and the stubble of his beard is rough against my palm. The shock of our connection rumbles through me, and my chest feels tight, my breath uneven. Will there ever come a time when I can be near him without yearning for him? Without craving the touch of his skin against my own? It’s not even a sexual longing—not entirely, anyway. Instead, it’s a craving. As if my very survival depends on him. As if we are two halves of a whole and neither can survive without the other. With Damien, I am happier than I have ever been. But at the same time, I’m more miserable, too. Because now I truly understand fear. I force a smile, because the one thing I will not do is let Damien see how terrified I am of losing him. It doesn’t matter; Damien knows me too well. “You’re scared,” he says, and the sadness that colors his voice is enough to melt me. “You’re the one person in all the world I cannot bear to hurt, and yet I’m the one who put fear in your eyes.” “No,” I say. “I’m not scared at all.” “Liar,” he says gently. “You forget that I’ve seen you in action, Damien Stark. You’re a goddamn force of nature. They can’t possibly hold you. Maybe they don’t know it yet, but I do. You’re going to walk away from this. You’re going home a free man. There’s no other way that this can end.” I say the words because I need to believe them. But he is right. I am desperately afraid. Damien, of course, sees through my bullshit. Gently, he tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “You should be scared. This is the kind of case that has prosecutors salivating.” “But you were only fourteen,” I say. “Which is why they’re not trying me as an adult.” I frown because even though he was only fourteen, he’s looking at a decade in prison. “But you didn’t kill Merle Richter.” That, after all, is the most important point. His expression darkens. “Truth is a malleable thing, and once I walk into that courtroom, the truth is what the court says it is.” “Then you need to make sure the judges know the real truth. Dammit, Damien, you didn’t kill him. But even if you had, there were mitigating circumstances.” Only recently had Damien told me what happened. He and Richter fought, and when Richter fell, Damien held back, refusing to step forward to help the coach who’d abused him for so many years. “Oh, Nikki.” He pulls me against him, his arm swooping around my waist and shifting me on his lap so quickly that I gasp. “You know I can’t do what you’re asking.” “I’m not asking anything,” I say, but the words sound brittle, because of course I’m asking. Hell, I’m begging. Damien damn well knows it, too. And yet he is denying me. Anger flares within me, but before it explodes, his mouth crushes against mine. The kiss is deep and raw and all-consuming, and warm desire blooms within me. It doesn’t erase my anger or my fear, but it does soothe it, and I shift closer to him, wishing I never had to leave the safety of his arms. His body tightens beneath mine, the bulge of his erection under his jeans teasing my rear as I shift my weight and lean closer, deepening this kiss and wishing like hell we were in our suite instead of in a very public bar. After a moment, I pull back, breathless. “I love you,” I say. “I know,” he says, and though I wait for the reciprocal words to come, he doesn’t say them back to me. My heart twists a little, and I force a smile. A pageant-quality All I Want Is World Peace kind of smile. The kind of smile I show the public, but not Damien. I tell myself that he’s just tired, but I don’t believe it. Damien Stark does nothing without a purpose. And though it is impossible to truly get inside that head of his, I know him well enough to guess at his motivations, and I want to jump to my feet and scream at him. I want to beg him not to push me away. I want to shout that I get it, that he’s trying to protect me because he knows that he might lose the trial. That he might be ripped from me. But goddammit, doesn’t he know that all he’s doing is hurting me? I believe with all my heart that Damien loves me. What I fear is that love isn’t enough. Not when he’s determined to push me away in some misguided attempt to protect me. So I don’t lash out. That’s not a fight I can win, but I can play the game my own way. With renewed resolve, I kick the wattage up on my smile and slide off his lap, my hand extended to him. “You have to be in court at ten, Mr. Stark. I think you’d better come with me.” He stands, his expression wary. “Are you going to tell me I have to get some sleep?” “No.” His gaze slides over me, and my body quivers in response as if he had physically touched me. “Good,” he says, and that one simple word not only conveys a world of promises but takes the edge off the chilly fear that has filled me. I allow the corner of my mouth to quirk up into a hint of a smile. “Not that, either. Not yet, anyway.” The confusion on his face brings a genuine smile to my lips, but he doesn’t have the chance to ask, as the concierge has approached. “Everything is ready, Ms. Fairchild.” My smile broadens. “Thank you. Your timing is perfect.” I take the hand of the very confused man that I love and lead him through the lobby, following the concierge to the front of the hotel. There, parked on the street beside a very giddy valet, is a cherry red Lamborghini. Damien turns to look at me. “What’s this?” “A rental. I thought you could use a little fun tonight, and the A9’s just a few miles away. Fast car. German autobahn. It seemed like a no-brainer to me.” “Boys and their toys?” I lower my voice so that the concierge can’t overhear. “Since we already have some interesting toys in the room, I thought you might enjoy a change of pace.” I lead him closer to where the valet stands by the open passenger door. “I understand she’s very responsive, and I know you’ll enjoy having all that power at your command.” “Is she?” He looks me up and down, and this time the inspection is tinged with fire. “As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I like. Responsiveness. Power. Control.” “I know,” I say, and then slide into the passenger seat, letting more than a little thigh show as I do. An instant later, Damien is behind the wheel and he’s fired the powerful engine. “Drive fast enough, and it’s almost like sex,” I tease. And then, because I can’t resist, I add, “At the very least, it makes for exceptional foreplay.” “In that case, Ms. Fairchild,” he says, with a boyish grin that makes this all worthwhile, “I suggest you hold on tight.”


The Outlaws of Ennor

Michael Jecks

On their return home from their pilgrimage, Baldwin and Simon's ship is attacked off the coast of the Scilly Isles by pirates and storms and Simon looks on in horror as Baldwin is swept overboard. Washed ashore on the tiny island of Ennor, Simon is distraught to think that his closest friend is dead, but he has to put aside his grief when the master of the castle, Ranulph de Blancminster, orders him to investigate the murder of the island's tax gatherer. Ranulph is convinced that one of the the lawless inhabitants of the neighbouring island of St Nicholas is the culprit and prepares to attack. Meanwhile Baldwin himself has been washed up on St Nicholas and is nursed back to health by the beautiful Tedia. He uncovers a different picture of the island as he too begins to investigate the murder. Although there are plenty of suspects, Baldwin finds it impossible to penetrate the tight network of secrets and loyalties that bind the villagers in this isolated community. As Balwin and Simon's parallel investigations bring them closer to the truth, they become embroiled in the bitter rivalry between the two island communities. Can they uncover the truth in time to prevent a massacre?

Tom Vowler

Tom Vowler lives in south-west England, on the edge of a moor, where he moved to finish a novel set there. His blog about the experience received 9,000 hits in its first year. In 2007 he completed an MA in creative writing, and since then his short stories have appeared widely. A chapter from his first novel came in the top ten of the Richard & Judy 'How to Get Published' competition, which received 46,000 entries. Tom is the assistant editor of the literary journal Short Fiction. His debut collection of short stories, The Method & Other Stories (Salt, 2010) won the Scott Prize (2010) and the Edge Hill Award (2011). He is an Associate Lecturer in creative writing at the University of Plymouth.


A Week in Winter

Marcia Willett

When Maudie Todhunter finally decides she must sell Moorgate, her beautiful farmhouse on the edge of Bodmin Moor, she anticipates strong objections from her family - particularly from Selina, her stepdaughter, with whom she has never seen eye to eye. But no one could have predicted the feelings that Moorgate evokes or the consequences...


Quintin Jardine explains why the time was right to revisit Oz Blackstone's first case...


The Mad Monk Of Gidleigh

Michael Jecks

Alone in his isolated, windswept chapel on the edge of Dartmoor, who could blame the young priest, Mark, for seeking affection from the local miller's daughter, Mary? But when Mary's body is found brutally stabbed, Mark is the obvious suspect, and the discovery that she was pregnant seems to confirm his guilt. Called in to investigate, Baldwin Furnshill and Bailiff Simon Puttock soon begin to have their doubts. Could it not have been one of Mary's many admirers who murdered her in a fit of jealousy? Or her father, the miller, who is acting in an increasingly disturbed manner? And what exactly is the local Baron trying to hide? Will they be able to find the murderer before he strikes again?

Read a thrilling extract from the first novel in the Renegade Angels series here!


Excerpt from A TOUCH OF CRIMSON by Sylvia Day Contains mature content not suitable for younger readers. Lindsay stirred from her dreams before she was ready. Part of her mind still clung to sleep, longing for another touch of wickedly knowledgeable hands, another whisper of firm lips across her throat, another brush of silky white and crimson wings… Her eyes opened on a soundless gasp, her heart racing and her skin hot. She was painfully aroused, her thoughts filled with flame blue eyes and raw, sexual words spoken in a purring voice of sin. Scrubbing a hand over her face, she kicked the covers off and stared at the exposed wood beams above her head. Her future had taken a monumental detour when she’d caught Adrian Mitchell’s eye. Her life had been so black and white before—get up, go to work, come home, and in between kill anything that set off alarm bells. Now everything was so complicated. Lindsay rolled out of bed and crossed the massive bedroom to a private bath that was the size of her old apartment back home. There was a fireplace by the bathtub and a stunning mosaic in a shower that had six showerheads. She’d never even stayed in a hotel as luxurious, yet she felt comfortable and at ease. Despite the opulence, the overall effect was soothing. The soft yellow and blue palette kept the space light and airy, a look she gravitated to because her life could be so dark. After washing her face and brushing her teeth, she returned to the bedroom and found her gaze drawn to the unadorned wall of windows facing the west. The view was of rocky hills covered in dry native brush. The vista inspired feelings of remoteness and isolation, but she knew the city wasn’t far away. She dressed, pulling on a pair of yoga pants and a ribbed tank top. “Don’t get used to this,” she warned herself, even as she walked toward the windows. As she neared, the huge center pane slid leisurely to one side, opening the way for her to step out onto the wide deck. The morning air was cool and crisp, luring her outside. Clutching the wood railing in a white-knuckled grip, she took a deep breath and absorbed the enormity of her change in circumstance. The sun rose at her back and a soft breeze buffeted her from the front. Below, two more tiers of the house jutted over a steep craggy drop, but she couldn’t look for more than a moment, her fear of heights kicking in with a vengeance. The rush of anxiety startled her. Not because she was feeling it, but because she realized she hadn’t been feeling it until now. All her life, she’d felt rushed and agitated. The sensation was magnified by proximity to nasty creatures, but it was always thrumming inside her regardless. The expectation that she was waiting for some¬thing to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, had been a part of her existence forever. And now it was gone, leaving behind an unfamiliar but welcome calm. Whatever might happen next, right now—at this moment—she felt grounded and peaceful. To make it even better, she was actually enjoying the serenity. As she backtracked away from the edge, a large shadow swept across her back and raced along the railing. She glanced up. Sucking in a sharp breath, Lindsay turned completely around. The sky was filled with angels. Against the pale pink and gray morning, they dipped and spun in unique, mesmerizing dances. At least a dozen, maybe more, gliding around each other with such grace and skill. Their wingspans were enormous, their bodies so sleek and poised. They were too powerful and athletic…too lethal to inspire piousness, but they stirred reverence nevertheless. She moved around the corner of the house, discovering that the deck widened extensively at the rear, forming a landing area of sorts. Awestruck and faintly afraid, she remembered to breathe only when her lungs burned. She’d thought she was in over her head with Adrian when he was just a man. Now— He stood out even among angels. His pearlescent wings glimmered in the rising sun, the crimson tips streaking across the horizon as he picked up speed. He shot upward like a bullet, then plummeted straight down, spinning in a blur of blood red and alabaster. “I think he’s trying to impress you.” Lindsay dragged her gaze away. She found Damien standing beside her, his hands on his hips and his attention on the aerial acrobatics taking place above them. He was gorgeous: long and sculpted, with his dark brown hair cut short, and sleek, framing eyes nearly as blue as Adrian’s. But unlike Adrian, there was a stillness about him—like an ocean becalmed. His wings were on display, which she suspected was an intimidation tactic. They were gray with white tips, reminding her of a stormy sky. Framing his smooth ivory skin, they created the effect of a classical marble statue brought to life. “It’s working,” she confessed. “I am impressed. But don’t tell him I said that.” A surge of air and the flap of great wings preceded Adrian’s landing in front of her. His feet hit the deck almost silently, something she barely registered because he was bare-chested and barefoot. Holy shit. Wearing only loose black pants and those glorious wings, his luscious body was on full display. Rich olive skin stretched taut over hard, lean muscle. Her hands ached to stroke his beautifully defined biceps and pectorals; her mouth watered with the desire to lick the fine line of hair bisecting his ridged abdomen. As real as her dream had felt, the reality of him was far more devastating. He’d been crafted by a master hand and honed by battle, and she couldn’t stop her mind from translating all that raw masculinity into hot sexual fantasy. The sheer force of his sex appeal was enough to rock her back on her heels and shorten her breath. “Good morning,” he greeted her, with that low resonance in his voice that damn near curled her toes. “Did you sleep well?”

Chapter Sampler


Read an exclusive preview of Stephan Talty's BLACK IRISH, which is out now in paperback and ebook.

Posted by Christina Demosthenous, Editorial

Blog: Desert Island Reads

When it comes to packing, choosing my holiday reads is definitely the best bit. And while I was spoilt for choice this year, I began imagining (with difficulty) which books I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island. I’ve put this question to some of my fellow Headliners (asking them to ignore the existence of e-readers, which would eliminate this conundrum…) Feel free to take inspiration for your beach book this summer! I would have to choose E.M. Forster’s Howards End – a book to transport me to the streets of London and travel back in time. It deals with almost everything: issues of class, family, philosophy, gender, art and love, but most importantly, it has a very special place in my heart. My dad once gave me a beautiful edition of Howards End with a message inside, saying he hoped the novel would have the same profound and lasting effect it had on him when he was younger. So as well as keeping me entertained and leaving me enriched, it would help me feel less lonely stranded on a desert island! John Wordsworth from Fiction Editorial thinks that ‘you have to choose something that lends itself to multiple reads. I ploughed through The Brothers Karamazov when I was far too young and found it simultaneously fascinating and baffling, so I’d consider that. Although being stranded on a desert island would be depressing enough without Dostoyevsky, wouldn’t it? I think I’ll have go for a story that my grandmother used to read to me, one that makes me think of home, and reminds me that things have a funny way of working out: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr Seuss.’ Two books at very opposite ends of the spectrum, John! Laura Ricchetti from Sales would take the complete works of Frank O’Hara, ‘to keep me happy’ and Moby Dick, because ‘it’s a wicked book and might even teach me some sailing stuff so I could get off the island too.’ Good thinking. Emily Kitchin from Fiction Editorial would take I would take Jilly Cooper’s Score! She says: ‘Other than having obvious physical benefits for a desert island (it’s large and would double up nicely as a pillow, foot stool or weapon), it’s got everything you could want in a novel. All the old favourite characters appear (the arrogant yet charismatic Rupert Campbell-Black; his young yet adorable wife; his snooty but desirable daughter Tabitha, and so on), and are on top form gallivanting about, riding horses and having steamy affairs. In time-honoured Jilly Cooper tradition there’s a host of new characters too, including the hot and sexy Frenchman Tristan who becomes embroiled in a love triangle between icy-but-beautiful Tabitha and plain-but-loyal Lucy. There’s a film set, a blood-curdlingly nasty villain in the form of the monstrous Rannaldini, and a whodunit to rival Eastenders’ ‘Who shot Phil Mitchell?’ storyline. It would keep me entertained for hours.’ I’m sold! Publicity’s Elaine Egan chose two books. She cleverly picked The Swiss Family Robinson, ‘a handy and practical guide to living in a remote paradise, hopefully without the beastly creatures’ and as her back-up read, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, where ‘reading about Yossarian’s jinks would keep me somewhat sane.’ Ben Willis from Publicity would also choose Catch-22 – a popular choice! ‘It's terrifying, silly, hilarious, poignant, dense yet readable, vivid and yet almost cartoonish: basically everything you need to make you feel less aware of being stuck on an island with only a volley ball for company.’ Darcy Nicholson from Fiction Editorial went one better than Elaine and picked three desert island reads. Charles Dickens came out on top with Great Expectations, ‘because this is as meaty a novel as I can imagine – every time I read this, I find new depths, new character flaws, new angles. To me this book is endless.’ Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis comes a close second ‘because fascinating doesn’t even cover it with this one. I could spend hours in open-mouthed awe at the sheer brilliance of Amis’s concept.’ And thirdly, Darcy chose William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, ‘because I have never read it and cannot imagine a more apt time to do so.’ Frances Edwards from Editiorial and Publicity also has three emergency picks. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, ‘for the times when I want to laugh until it hurts’, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which comes top of her list of ‘books I’m embarrassed that I haven’t read’ (and what a better time than to conquer this list than when stranded on a desert island) and finally, ‘anything that Patrick Gale’s ever written’ because ‘he’s got a character to complement every mood and moment. And he writes great stories, beautifully.’ Richard Roper from Non-Fiction Editorial would take Kirsty Young's Desert Island Discs book ‘just to see what other people would be reading on a desert island.’ Great answer! Alternatively, he’d choose Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, partly because ‘it's the first book I can remember properly loving’ and secondly as it would ‘give me hope that other oversized, floatable fruits may lead to my escape.’ Another great answer! Production’s Ant Simnica has two top choices, and neither is a light read! The Dinner by Herman Koch, which he read in one sitting and ‘then wished I’d saved it. Tense, unsettling and darkly funny, The Dinner follows an evening with two brothers and their wives at a restaurant. As we learn of the horrific crime their sons have committed, and the reaction unfolds, it really made me think about far we might go to shift the blame and protect our own’ and Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin: ‘obviously everyone loved this book, but for good reason. A captivating take on mother-son relationships and how our whole perceptions of ourselves and those closest to us can change so much. A true page turner that builds to a jaw-dropping ending. Probably the only book I’ve ever read twice.’ Sherise Hobbs from Fiction Editorial would choose anything by Tasmina Perry, whose novels are ‘not only wonderfully escapist but also fantastically chunky so they would help me while away the hours.’ Agreed! She would also take a really good nail-biting thriller: ‘I’m desperate to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, or the latest by Lee Child, Linwood Barclay or Lisa Gardner, to keep my mind sharp as I puzzle over how to escape from the island.’ And finally, Sherise would have to take the complete set of Anne of Green Gables novels, in case ‘I never escape and I need something I can read again and again…and again…and again…’ So there we have it, a fine selection of books in the event of being stranded on a desert island (if you don’t have an e-reader, that is…) Take your pick!

The Headliners' Verdict...

Blog: The Man Booker Prize 2012

Bringing Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel It was love at first sight. Our romance started this summer in Wolf Hall, where Thomas Cromwell and I were first acquainted. At first I was unsure of him: he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, had a penchant for loose women and was quick to swing a sword around. However, after a brief spell abroad Cromwell reinvented himself, and I swiftly fell head over heels for the most complex fictional character I have ever come across. He is man of contradictions, conflicting passions and sometimes less than altruistic motives. In Bringing Up the Bodies, we see a darker side of Cromwell but he is just as compelling to watch in action. He has achieved the ultimate position of power, but at what price, and how long will he sit at Henry VIII’s side? Mantel’s series is dazzling, noisy, crowded, rich, bloody and brilliant. The fact that my review has basically consisted of me banging on about her main character as if he were a real person is testament to her skill as a storyteller – and her ability to breathe new life into a historical period which has been much represented. I will be cheering on for her and Cromwell come Booker Night. Bring it! Sam Eades, Publicity Umbrella by Will Self Will Self’s first novel is a paragraph-free stream-of-consciousness affair, with a perplexing smattering of italics. Challenging – yes. And I like a challenge. The problem is – and perhaps this is some self-indulgent weakness on my part as a reader – I’m the sort that likes to be rewarded for it, too. I love Ulysses. Perhaps I didn’t discover this until I read it through for the second time, when I began to appreciate its rhythms, its many personalities, its celebration of the complex, surreal, heterogeneous nature of human experience. And I loved it because of its audaciousness: breaking new literary ground, becoming, of course, a byword for Modernist experimentation in form. And I think that was my beef with Umbrella. I hesitate to say that all fiction must have a point, but, in a sense, perhaps it should. It should, in some way, contribute to or challenge our understanding of ourselves and of the world in which we live. And I’m afraid I didn’t feel that Umbrella was making any such contribution. It felt, instead, like a kind of literary historical re-enactment. Joyce was smashing preconceptions of what a novel should be, putting up two fingers to the form that had, in one way of another, persisted for several centuries. Will Self, meanwhile, is aping Joyce – a writer who did the same thing, only far better, almost a century ago. Lucy Foley, Editorial Swimming Home by Deborah Levy Coming in at under 200 pages, this is the skinniest book on the shortlist, but one that packs a significant punch. It’s the story of some family friends whose villa holiday in the South of France is disturbed when they find a naked woman swimming in the pool. It turns out to be an unstable young woman called Kitty, who believes she has a special connection to a member of the party, Joe, a famous poet. Levy is brilliant on atmosphere and from the moment Kitty emerges from that pool, you sense that any equilibrium that existed between the characters assembled at this villa has been irreversibly disturbed, to be replaced by an uneasiness that pervades the entire novel. Levy’s writing is super sharp and taut; every sentence is charged and every scene is loaded. The end result is massively compelling and hugely unsettling; this is a novel that leaves a strange taste in your mouth, in the very best way. Leah Woodburn, Editorial The Lighthouse by Alison Moore ‘The Honeymoon was dreadful – they had delayed fights and lost luggage, twin beds and upset stomachs, bad weather and arguments.’ A bleak tale of a man’s continual attempts to explain the tragedy of his past – from his mother’s abandonment to his wife leaving him after yet another betrayal. The protagonist, Futh, leaves for Germany in an attempt to escape his demons. But by stumbling into the paths of an unhappily married couple running the hotel in Hallhaus, his fate is sealed as soon as he unwittingly adds to their misery. Alison Moore’s skill is to keep the tension high in what is an otherwise immensely depressing story. Richard Roper, Editorial The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng This novel was a pleasure to read. Tan Twan Eng’s writing style is so calming, despite at times describing the horrors of life in a slave labour camp for our protagonist, Teoh Yun Ling. She is a fascinating character, soul survivor of a prisoner-of-war camp who becomes a judge, prosecuting war criminals and terrorists both to seek justice for the tortures she endured and to find out more information about the camp. The novel is split between the present day, where she has recently retired and is reconnecting with old friends in Malaya and 1951, when she first starts out as prosecutor and is forced to face her demons and seek out Aritomo, ‘a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan’ to ask him to build a garden for her sister who did not survive the camp. Both characters are unapologetic of their feelings and beliefs regarding the hostilities but Aritomo agrees to teach Yun Ling the art of Japanese gardening so she can build the garden herself. It is full of cultural and historical complexities that do echo other books that I’ve read but there are some fascinating concepts unearthed, which I absolutely relished. Laura Skerritt, Creative and Marketing Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil I’d heard good things about this unusual, opium-soaked tome, and was pleased to find it as eccentric, vibrant and narcotically stimulating as I’d been led to expect. I’ve always been intrigued by portraits of drug addiction (Melvin Burgess’ Junk, anyone?!), and Thayil paints a disturbing but charged portrait of a group of people enslaved by opium, and their slow descent into hallucinatory madness. And through the opium smoke is an evocation of the chaotic city of Bombay and the quirky, diverse people who populate it. I’d recommend this for anyone who wants something different – or a reading experience which is the literary equivalent to meandering through an opium-induced dreamworld. Emily Kitchin, Editorial


Featuring a book about space war, one about artifact hunters (in a cool way), and loads more...


With Julia Crouch's new novel THE LONG FALL out next month, cover designer Patrick Insole explains how her stunning new cover look came about.


Maggie's Man

Lisa Gardner writing as Alicia Scott

From Lisa Gardner, the New York Times No. 1 bestselling author of TOUCH & GO and CATCH ME, comes the first in the Family Secrets trilogy. Gripping, arresting, classic romantic suspense titles originally published under the name Alicia Scott.When shy and reserved Maggie Ferringer is called for jury duty, she never expects to be kidnapped by an escaped convict. But Cain Cannon, disguised as a prison guard, pulls a gun, and she has no choice but to be taken hostage. Cain claims that he's innocent of killing his girlfriend six years ago, and now he wants revenge on the people who put him behind bars. Soon Maggie becomes more than just a hostage to Cain. As they slowly begin to share the secrets of their respective pasts, she discovers there's more to him than meets the eye, and that his freedom is worth fighting for, at any cost.



Rich heads to the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre for this adaptation of Harper Lee's classic

Posted by Emylia Hall, Author

An Eventful Year, a Slamming End

2012 was eventful in all of the right ways. Over the years I’ve been to plenty of literary festivals on the coat tails of my husband Bobby (one half of the comic book duo The Etherington Brothers), always happy in my role as WAG. In 2012 however, I was hitting the road for the first time as an author in my own right. I knew I enjoyed the lanyards, the green room snacks, the linen jacket spotting, but the actual ‘appearing’ part? I seem sociable, I think I probably am, but I also love the solitary side of being a writer; disappearing into my own head, communing, for hours on end, with no one except the people I’m making up. Talking to a crowd of strangers isn’t necessarily the most natural fit with such a cloistered pursuit but it is part of the job of and, happily, I’ve discovered that I really like it. At the Edinburgh Festival I shared a stage with the brilliant Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard (the New York Times dubbed him a ‘bad boy of European letters’ and I got to feel rock and roll by association). Then there was Appledore, a pretty-as-pie spot on the North Devon coast, for a ‘New Voices’ panel with another Richard & Judy book club author Shelley Harris, and Carol Rifka Brunt. A lovely evening of Q&A at Rossiter Books of Ross-on-Wye, one of the nicest indies I’ve ever visited. The Portsmouth Bookfest for an all-Headline panel, where fellow newbie Morgan McCarthy and I got to line up with Adele Parks and Emily Barr. The inaugural Penarth Book Festival, with my mum in the audience (and under strict ‘pipe down’ instructions). And to end the year, Book Slam Bristol, the Big Daddy and Founding Father of what’s still being called the ‘new wave’ of live literature events. My first Book Slam experience was in 2009, for the launch of Patrick Neate’s Jerusalem. Patrick was my tutor on an Arvon course the year before, and he founded Book Slam to ‘support a diverse reading culture and stand against what is, for us all, an increasingly monolithic cultural life.’ That evening at The Tabernacle, Roger Robinson read his poetry, Soweto Kinch played sax, and Patrick read from his new novel. I’d never before been to an event that so winningly mixed live literature and music; it was very cool. Book Slam’s monthly nights have been running for nearly a decade now, and the list of alumni is crazy-stellar, as well as supporting new, deserve-to-be-heard voices. The second Book Slam short story anthology, Too Much Too Young, was published a little over a month ago and features brand new stories from the likes of David Nicholls, Marina Lewycka, Jackie Kay, Chris Cleave, and, somehow, me. The collection was celebrated with three launch parties at venues across London, and a first ever event in Bristol at the cool art space of Spike Island. I read from my story, Me and Bobby McGee, along with fellow anthology authors Salena Godden and Nikesh Shukla, while guitarist Robin Allender brought the music. For all the events of the summer, I’d never done anything quite like this. It didn’t help at all to think of the Book Slam I’d attended the week before, how completely charming and brilliant Jackie Kay was at the mic, or how swept away we’d all been by the whirlwind poetry of Luke Wright. Later, I was certainly glad that Salena Godden, whose Stage Presence is in capitals and underscored, and Nikesh, who’d also doubled as our winsome compere, came on after me. But I did my bit, read from my story, and had a ball. Standing up there, I realised there’s something magical about telling a story to a roomful of people, and a privilege to have them listen; there’s a sense of togetherness, we’re bound just as tightly as anybody wants, and a charged stillness descends. I’ve employed these next words of Raymond Carver before and while he’s talking about short stories it feels true of the live literature experience too. It’s certainly been mine, whether on the stage or in the audience. ‘…Our hearts or our intellects will have been moved off the peg just a little from where they were before. Our body temperature will have gone up, or down, by a degree. Then, breathing evenly and steadily once more, we’ll collect ourselves, writers and readers alike, get up, “created of warm blood and nerves”, as a Chekhov characters puts it, and go on to the next thing: Life. Always life.”


The Tolls of Death

Michael Jecks