Monday 30 April 2018

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings @MandaJJennings @HQstories #TheCliffHouse

Some friendships are made to be broken
Cornwall, summer of 1986.
The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.
If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…
Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings is published by HQ on 17 May 2018, and is the author's fourth novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I've been a huge fan of Amanda Jennings' writing for a few years now, and have read and reviewed her earlier books here on Random Things; The Judas Scar (April 2014), In Her Wake (January 2016).

Once more, Amanda Jennings has set her story in Cornwall, and whilst her characters are perfectly formed, it is the house itself that steals the limelight. The Cliff House is a dark, alluring magnet to lead character Tamsyn. It's the place that she went to with her beloved Dad, just before he died.
Tamsyn is drawn back to the house, time and again. It's not only the building that entrances her, it's the occupants too; the Davenport family, up from London and exuding glamour and wealth; a million miles away from Tamsyn's quiet and lonely life in the small Cornish town that she's never left.

Although The Cliff House is set in the 1980s, it has a distinct feel of the 50s, despite the modern references; there's an air about this story, and the setting that feels beautifully nostalgic, almost as though the real world has crept on and left the occupants of The Cliff House behind.

Tamsyn yearns to be part of the Davenport's life. She doesn't see the danger, or the darkness and unhappiness that is evident to the reader; she sees champagne, and steak, and glittery parties. There's an innocent vulnerability to Tamsyn that is exploited, in different ways, by each member of the Davenport family. Young Edie Davenport is a victim, although she appears confident and brash on the outside. Her heart is heavy with sadness and feelings of abandonment and betrayal.

With a dangerous obsession at its heart, The Cliff House is a coming-of-age story with a haunting and dark difference. This author excels at creating atmosphere, and mystery and the reader is always just one step behind her clever plotting. There are shocks and unexpected twists galore, but this is not a fast-paced drama, it's a gentle untangling of lives and secrets. 

The reader becomes totally immersed in this story, it's an impressive and captivating tale, oozing with beautiful words. A fabulous read, I loved it.

Amanda Jennings lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, three daughters, and a menagerie of animals. She studied History of Art at Cambridge and before writing her first book, was a researcher at the BBC. With a deep fascination on the far-reaching effects of trauma, her books focus on the different ways people find to cope with loss, as well as the moral struggles her protagonists face. When she isn't writing she can usually be found walking the dog. Her favourite place to be is up a mountain or beside the sea.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @MandaJJennings

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Cherry Radford #BlogTour @CherryRad @urbanebooks @LoveBooksGroup

After the break-up of her marriage, Imogen escapes to her aunt's converted lighthouse on Beachy Head. Writing for a tedious online magazine but hoping to start a novel, she wants to be alone until she finds an entrancing flamenco CD in her borrowed car and contacts the artist via Twitter. It turns out that actor-musician Santiago needs help with English, and is soon calling her profesora.
Through her window, the other lighthouse winks at her across the sea. The one where her father was a keeper, until he mysteriously drowned there in 1982. Her aunt is sending extracts from his diary, and Imogen is intrigued to learn that, like her and Santi, her father had a penfriend.
Meanwhile, despite their differences Imogen is surrounded by emotional and geographical barriers, Santi surrounded by family and land-locked Madrid their friendship develops. So, she reads, did her father's but shocking revelations cause Imogen to question whether she ever really knew him.
Two stories of communication: the hilarious mistakes, the painful misunderstandings, and the miracle or tragedy of finding someone out there with whom you have an unforeseen, irresistible connection.

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Cherry Radford was published by Urbane Books on 5 April 2018 and is the author's third novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and to Kelly from Love Books Group who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

The cover for The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter is beautiful, it's incredibly alluring and fits so well with the story.
This is a novel in two definite parts; we have Imogen's Beachy Head based story; she's escaped a disastrous marriage and is staying in her aunt's converted lighthouse. Across the bay, she can see another lighthouse; the place where her father worked, all those years ago, before he was tragically drowned.
Imogen's aunt is sending snippets from her late father's diary; a diary that Imogen was unaware of before now. Through his writing, she is discovering a man that she didn't really know at all. His innermost thoughts and long-buried secrets are slowly revealed to her.

The author has also set some of her novel in Spain. Imogen makes contact with a musician called Santiago when she discovers a CD of his in the car. They chat via Twitter and eventually they meet. Imogen tutors Santi in the use of English, as he wants to audition for a part in an upcoming production, they get closer and closer, and learn more about each other.

I was intrigued by the story of Imogen's father; the introduction of the extracts from his diary were really well done, and kept me guessing.  However, I was detracted from this part of the story by Santi's story, and that of his immense group of family and friends in Spain. I have to be honest, and admit that the Spanish part of the book did nothing for me at all, except to frustrate me and annoy me.
I feel that this author could have really expanded on Imogen's own family history so much more, especially when she discovers something that was such a shock to her and would change her family dynamics for ever. The revelations felt rushed and there was no depth to the feeling around them, I wanted to know more and felt as though Imogen, and her family, just accepted things, with no question at all.

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter is well written and I loved the descriptions of Beachy Head and the lighthouses. I could have done without Spain, and Santi though!

Cherry Radford was a piano teacher at the Royal Ballet Junior School, a keyboard player in a band, and then a research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. She now lives in Eastbourne, UK and Almería, Spain. Her third novel, The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, publishes April 2018. 

TWITTER: @CherryRad

Saturday 28 April 2018

Little Big Man by Katy Regan @katyreganwrites @MantleBooks @ChablisPoulet #Review #MyLifeInBooks

Meet 10-year-old Zac – a boy on a mission – in Katy Regan’s new novel Little Big Man . . .
You can't see the truth from the outside, that's what I've worked out.
Ten-year-old Zac has never met his dad, who allegedly did a runner before he was born. But when his mum lets slip that he’s the only man she’s ever loved, Zac turns detective and, roping in his best friend, hatches a plan to find his father and give his mum the happy-ever-after she deserves. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that sometimes people have good reasons for disappearing . . .
Little Big Man is a story about family secrets and fierce, familial love. It's about growing up and being accepted; grief and lies, and the damage they can do. Most of all though, it’s about a little boy determined to hunt down the truth; a boy who wants to give the Dad he’s never met a second chance to be a father – and his mum a second chance at love.

Little Big Man by Katy Regan was published by Mantle Books / Pan Macmillan on 19 April. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

I can safely say that Little Big Man is one of the my top reads of 2018 so far, I devoured it, every single page is an utter delight.  My review is below (this review was first published in The Daily Express on 20th April 2018).

Ten-year-old Zac lives on a council estate in Grimsby with his single mother Juliet. He has never met his father Liam but Juliet, his nan and grandad have always told him that Liam was uncaring, selfish and that he scarpered before Zac was born.
But one night Juliet goes out on a disastrous date, has too much to drink and when she gets home she reveals to Zac that Liam is the only man she has ever loved.
This is enough to convince Zac that he must track Liam down and bring his parents back together. Along with his best friend Teagan, Zac formulates a plan, little realising that he hasn’t been told the full story.
The real strength of Little Big Man is Katy Regan’s ability to create such convincing and endearing characters.
The setting of a grim council estate in a town devastated by the decline of the fishing industry is gritty and dark yet this is balanced by warm humour and a sense of community binding the characters together.
Regan brilliantly portrays Juliet’s struggles as a single mother whose dreams were shattered by an unexpected pregnancy, the death of her beloved brother, the disappearance of her partner and the impact of these events on her parents.
There is also a heartbreaking poignancy and bravery to Zac’s struggles with bullies in school and his desperation to find his father.
Little Big Man is a compelling, provocative and astute story of families and long-hidden secrets

I'm delighted to welcome author Katy Regan to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that have inspired her in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Katy Regan

The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-winkle by Beatrix Potter

As a child, I loved all of Beatrix Potter’s stories, but The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-winkle was my favourite. This idea of a hedgehog washerwoman, who wore an apron and lived in a house in a tree trunk, completely captivated me. However, I was as obsessed with Beatrix Potter as with the stories she wrote. So much so, that I spent one summer, dressed as her (straw boater, Edwardian long skirt and blouse) penning my own Potter rip-offs in our garden. My mum found the collection of stories in the loft recently. By Katy Regan, aged eight and a half, it says in the inside cover. Even then, I had romantic ideas of growing up to be like Potter: a financially independent writer living a somewhat unconventional life, and, in some ways, I guess I did!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I was given a red, leather-bound hardback of this the Christmas I was eleven and thought it the most beautiful present. I think it was an abridged children’s version, but still the perfect introduction to Dickens. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to identify them as such at the time, I was very taken with the themes of social inequality and moral responsibility, something which I have always been interested in exploring in my own writing.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I studied this for A’ Level English Literature and – partly due to it being so well taught by our brilliant teacher – it had a deep effect on me as a reader, but most importantly, as a budding writer. Reading ‘Tess’ as us sixth-formers affectionately refer to it as, enlightened me to the power of imagery, metaphor and setting and how they can enrich the reading experience. It’s a dark tale, but a hugely passionate one, about fate, morality and of course love, in all its shades from light to the blackest of blacks.

Blazing Fruit by Roger McGough

My boyfriend at the time’s mum gave me this collection of poetry for my seventeenth birthday and I was delighted, mainly because I largely kept my love of poetry to myself. (What can I say? Not really the past time of choice for a seventeen-year old, where I came from anyway!) But she had suspected it, and more so, she honoured it. Still in the embryonic stages of finding myself as a ‘creative’ type, at that point in my life, I was really grateful to her for that! McGough is a northerner (one of the ‘Liverpool poets’) and this collection spoke to me (also a northerner), in a way others hadn’t.

Love in a Blue Time by Hanif Kureishi

For a while, just after I finished my degree in English Literature and had been reading books only to critique then and to write essays about them for what felt like YEARS, I fell out of love with reading for pleasure. This book just so happened to be the first book I picked up that helped me re-find that joy. These are alternative love stories that crackle with Kureishi’s trademark acerbic wit and commitment to realism.

Why be Happy When You can be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

This is the best memoir I have ever read and I still think about it. It follows Winterson’s extraordinary upbringing in a Lancashire town by her Pentecostal adoptive parents (in particular, the God-fearing Mrs. Winterson), her coming out as a lesbian, and eventual search for her birth mother. Not only is it a gripping story, but probably the most inspiring tale I’ve ever read about resilience and one woman’s determination and commitment to becoming the writer and woman she wanted to be, despite of, but perhaps more importantly because of, what she’d been through.

White City Blue by Tim Lott

There are so many books I wish I’d written, but this was the one I was channelling as I wrote my first novel. It tells the story of estate agent Frankie and his journey towards commitment; his struggle to square that mate (romantic partner) vs mates (your pals) conundrum. It felt really relevant to me at the time and was a contemporary and funny novel that wasn’t in the least bit superficial. On the contrary, it really moved me, I loved it, and decided, I wanted to write a book like that.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
I adored this semi-autobiographical novel about twelve-year old Jason growing up in the Worcestershire Hills, finding himself as a wordsmith and surviving his parents’ divorce. It’s full of 1980s (my childhood era) nostalgia and is just deeply moving in that ‘I-so-remember-how-that-loss-of-innocence felt!’ It has one of my favourite ever, truest last lines too. Jason’s sister is trying to reassure him that everything will turn out all right all right in the end and if it doesn't yet feel that way, she says “that's because it's not the end.”

Katy Regan - April 2018 

Katy Regan was born in 1974 and brought up in the northern seaside town of Morecambe. She went on to study English and French at Leeds University where she became features editor of the student newspaper before moving to London. 
She wrote for various magazines and newspapers before becoming Commissioning Editor at Marie Claire magazine. 
Katy’s first novel, One Thing Led to Another, was published in 2009 and her second, The One Before the One, in November 2010. 2013 saw the publication of How We Met, closely followed by The Story of Youin 2014. 
Little Big Man is her fifth and newest novel. Katy, who has one son, now lives in Hertfordshire.

Follow her on Twitter @katyreganwrites

Friday 27 April 2018

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce @ajpearcewrites @picadorbooks @CamillaElworthy #DearMrsBird #Giveaway #Win

London, 1941. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine.
Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong man, or can't bear to let their children be evacuated, she decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .
Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to the enduring power of friendship, the kindness of strangers and the courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce was published in hardback by Picador on 5 April 2018. The paperback will be released in July. This is the author's debut novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I have a gorgeous hardback copy of Dear Mrs Bird to giveaway to one blog reader. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post. The competition will stay open for seven days. UK ENTRIES ONLY.  Good luck! 

I was lucky enough to hear  AJ Pearce read from Dear Mrs Bird at a Picador event and I've been so looking forward to this book. It really did not disappoint. This review was published in the Daily Express on Friday 20th April

It is 1941 and London is under relentless fire from German bombs. Emmeline Lake and her childhood friend Bunty have left their small hometown to live and work in the capital where they are doing their bit for the war effort.

Emmeline already volunteers for the Auxiliary Fire Service, answering their phones during bombing raids, but her dream is to become a Lady War Correspondent and report from the front-line.
She feels that would be an Incredibly Brave thing to do (Emmeline talks in Capital Letters a lot). Her dreams appear to come true when she lands a job at the London Evening Chronicle.
She is to be a war correspondent at last! But Emmeline is in for a Nasty Shock when she realises that she is in fact in charge of typing up the problem page letters for Woman’s Friend magazine.
The closest she gets to the London Evening Chronicle is working in the same building. To make matters worse the Woman’s Friend agony aunt is the intimidating and defiantly old-fashioned Mrs Henrietta Bird. 
She is thoroughly unsympathetic to almost all of the readers’ concerns and has a strict rule: she will not read or respond to any letter that contains unpleasantness. Among the subjects deemed unpleasant are marital relations, pre-marital relations and extra-marital relations.
But these are all pressing concerns for many British women whose love lives have been turned upside down by the war. Emmeline is a modern, forward-thinking kind of girl and she finds some readers’ letters heartbreaking.
She eventually decides she must answer them herself. After all, everyone knows that Mrs Bird doesn’t even read the finished magazine because she is far too busy dealing with Important War Work.
But Emmeline finds it is harder to keep her secret than she hoped. Dear Mrs Bird is an assured and warm debut novel from an author who is certainly one to watch. Incredibly funny yet very touching, it explores friendship and romance against the bleak backdrop of the Blitz with trademark British humour and a stiff upper lip.
Dear Mrs Bird

AJ Pearce grew up in Hampshire and studied at the University of Sussex. A chance discovery of a 1939 woman’s magazine became the inspiration for her ever-growing collection and her first novel Dear Mrs Bird
She now lives in the south of England.
Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @ajpearcewrites
Instagram @ajpearcewrites

Thursday 26 April 2018

Escape And Evasion by Christopher Wakling @chriswakling @FaberBooks #EscapeAndEvasion

City banker Joseph Ashcroft has stolen £1.34 billion from his own bank.
He has given it - untraceably - to impoverished strangers worldwide, and has fled.
Why has he done this? And will he get away with it?
Joseph knows that if he leaves the country, he will easily be tracked down. So he opts for hiding close by - first in the city, then in the woods near the home of his estranged family. An ex-soldier, he's adept at the art of camouflage.
On Joseph's trail is Ben Lancaster, the bank's head of security and, as it happens, a former army friend with whom he shares a violent, guilt-ridden past.
The hunt is on.
Escape and Evasion is a tragicomic tale of buried secrets, the lengths a man will go to win back those he loves, and the fallout from a monumental change of heart.

Escape And Evasion by Christopher Wakling is published in paperback by Faber Books on 3 May 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is the first time that I've read anything by Christopher Wakling, I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I have to admit that it's really not the sort of book that I'd usually pick up. It's incredibly well written; funny and poignant, deals with some dark issues and races along at a pace that can be quite breathtaking at times.

One of the joys of going into a book 'blind' as it were, is that warmth you get as a reader when you discover a story that resonates, that makes you feel good about yourself, and is a bloody good read. That's exactly what happened for me as I was reading Escape And Evasion.

Joseph Ashcroft; City Banker; wealthy, hugely successful, but unhappy. The story opens as Joseph presses a button that will make him a thief. He's taken over a billion pounds from his employers and distributed it across the world. He's left no trace, the recipients will not know where it came from.

What follows is Joseph's escape from the world of flash cars and obscene amounts of money, but what also follows is a carefully crafted story of a man and his history. The reader is witness to Joseph's greatest fear, and also to his madness, vulnerabilities and his kindnesses. There's humour, and sadness and tension that absolutely grips the reader throughout.

Escape and Evasion is a modern story, totally relevant and perfectly pitched. I loved it and can't wait to find more from this author.

Christopher Wakling is a novelist and travel writer whose previous books include On Cape Three PointsThe Undertow and Towards the Sun.
Born in 1970, he was educated at Oxford, and has worked as a teacher and lawyer. He lives in Bristol with his wife and children.
Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @chriswakling

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Tale Of The Tooth by Allie Rogers @Alliewhowrites Blog Tour @Legend_Press #TaleOfTheTooth

Four-year-old Danny lives with his mother, Natalie, in a small Sussex town. Life is a struggle and when they are threatened with a benefits sanction, salvation appears in the form of a Job Centre employee called Karen. But Karen’s impact is to reach far beyond this one generous gesture, as she and Natalie embark on an intense relationship.  

Told in the voice of an intelligent, passionate and unusual child, Tale of a Tooth is an immersive and compelling look at the impact of domestic abuse on a vulnerable family unit.

Tale of a Tooth by Allie Rogers was published in paperback by Legend Press on 19 April 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

Last May I read and reviewed Allie Rogers' debut novel; Little Gold here on Random Things. I was totally blown away by Little Gold, so much so that it ended up on my Top Books of the Year list. So, it was with a slight air of trepidation that I made a start on Tale of a Tooth.

Tale of a Tooth is narrated by four-year-old Danny, in his own distinctive voice. There's been something of a glut of novels told through a child's voice lately, and there are some that have been done very well and some that have left me cold. Whilst I will point out the Danny's voice can be a little difficult, it only took me a few pages to tune in to him completely. This author has created a character who shines from the pages, he's as bright as a button, old before his years, highly intelligent, but is still just a little boy. His speech and mannerisms can change quickly, from loving and caring, to angry and shouting; just like any four-year-old.

Danny lives with his single-mother in a damp flat. He calls his mother Meemaw, and apart from his beloved soft toy dinosour Spiney, Meemaw is the centre of is world, and Danny is everything to her.

Allie Rogers gives nothing away about their past. The reader knows nothing about a father figure, or why they live where they do. However, she does release tiny snippets of information throughout the story; we learn that Meemaw's own mother was Spanish, and is now dead. We find out that her father Mick lives by the seaside in a squalid flat, he's pretty useless, but tries his best.

Danny and Meemaw depend on benefits for their peanut butter, their bread, the data on Meemaw's phone and for her rolly tobacco and when they are late for a Job Centre appointment, their benefits are stopped. Enter Karen. Karen works at the Job Centre and pulls a few strings to ensure that they get their money. This is the beginning of what Meemaw hopes will be a new start, a fresh, loving relationship, but what quickly turns toxic. Karen is violent, manipulative, controlling and Danny sees and hears everything that goes on.

Allie Rogers is an incredible author. She portrays this relationship with such colour and strength. Danny's feelings and reactions are wonderfully represented and the use of his voice only adds strength to what is already a powerful story. Paced beautifully, full of angst and horror, along with the pure and unconditional love between a mother and child, this really is a story that will touch hearts and evoke emotions in the reader. 

Domestic violence is a difficult subject to deal with in fiction, and violence within a same-sex relationship is not something I've seen before in a novel. However, this astute and gifted author has treated the subject with care and compassion. There's nothing gratuitous, no overly-violent scenes, it's delicately and conscientiously developed with a tenderness and grace that showcases Allie Rogers's wonderful talent.

Tale of a Tooth is a story that will stay in my heart, with characters that are precious and that the reader really does care for. There's no worries about that 'difficult second novel' for Allie Rogers, this is a triumph. I loved it.

Allie Rogers was born and raised in Brighton and enjoys story in all forms, the magic of a surprising sentence and books that defy categorisation. 

She is a librarian at the University of Brighton. 

Follow Allie on Twitter @alliewhowrites

Tuesday 24 April 2018

The Black Earth by Philip Kazan #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour @pipkazan @AllisonandBusby #TheBlackEarth

1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoe Haggitiris escapes with her family, only to lose everything. 
Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. 
Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoe. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

The Black Earth by Philip Kazan was published by Allison and Busby on 18 April 2018. I'm delighted to host the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour today, in partnership with Emma Finnigan PR.

The author joins me today to talk about the books that are special to him in My Life in Books.

My Life in Books - Philip Kazan

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson Still my favourite book of all time. Jansson has a unique, off-kilter sense otherworldliness. Her books are beautifully inventive (and beautifully illustrated), happy, sinister and sad all at once. Moomin Valley is where I go in my happiest daydreams.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner It’s hard to choose my favourite Alan Garner. I read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen first, but The Owl Service was probably the first ‘grown-up’ book I attempted. Garner has an incredible sense of place, and I remember being amazed at how language could create such a strong sense of claustrophobia and strangeness. I probably didn’t understand it at all when I read it the first time, but later it all made sense.

The King Must Die and The Bull From The Sea by Mary Renault My Greek grandmother had been a schoolteacher and she loved ancient Greek legends. Renault is an incredible writer and I vividly remember feeling connected to my Greek self through reading her books and talking about them to my grandma, who always assured me that I was directly descended from Alexander the Great. Wouldn’t that be nice.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves Graves’ two Claudius books were my first proper introduction to historical fiction. Enthralling, immersive and intelligent. We were living in a tiny, damp house with no mains electricity at the time, and Graves’ ancient Rome provided the escape I desperately needed.

Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes Being originally from Notting Hill, this has always been one of my favourite books. The style, the humour, the griminess, the music: it gave me my teenage persona and my record collection, though I never got the Vespa.

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre I went very existentialist in my teens and I’ve never quite shaken it off. The seminal existentialist book, I started to reread it recently and couldn’t make it out at all. It had a massive influence on me at the time, though: that French intellectualism, the idea that writing was an important act.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens The breadth of Dickens, his humanity, his joyful use of language. No-one explores characters with quite the same relish. I love cities and books about cities, and Our Mutual Friend is one of the greatest London novels: mystery, social commentary, murder, dust heaps.

Anything by Raymond Chandler I think you can make the case that Chandler is one of the absolutely most important writers of the 20th Century. Genre-defining, obviously, but period-defining too. All the Marlowe books are a masterclass in how to tell a story.

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow Bellow is an incredible writer but I particularly love this one as it’s written by a great writer finding his voice in a totally exuberant story. I love a picaresque and this is one of the best modern examples.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel I don’t think historical fiction has ever really been done better than this. Mantel is an amazing storyteller but also a beautiful writer. I read A Place of Greater Safety when I was dithering about whether or not to write, and it was a huge inspiration.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry Bleak but amazing, this book absolutely flayed me, in part because my life is connected to India in a number of ways. A Zola-esque tragedy, it is intensely compassionate while being unrelentingly grim.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky I once told an editor that this was the book that had influenced me the most and he’d rolled his eyes. “Every writer says that,” he’d said. I’m not sure that’s actually true but I still haven’t shaken off the incredible power of the writing, the way it takes the reader inside an anguished mind and illuminates the human condition.

Philip Kazan - April 2018

PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.
Follow him on Twitter: @pipkazan 
Author's Website: