Every generation has its great books, its key theatre and best films. Theatre is chosen on merit and performance as well as popularity (witness the huge success of ‘Jerusalem’), films have money thrown at them by studios and some stick (so that a film as godawful as ‘This Means War’ can still do respectable business) but books are rather more randomly selected by publishers.
So through capricious fate and an appealing back story (that cafe! Those notebooks!) JK Rowling was selected for superstardom over books by Jonathan Stroud, Eoin Colfer and others, Bram Stoker saw off Richard Marsh even though Marsh outsold him, Holmes beat the wonderful Dr Thorndyke, and Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Brady was trounced by Miss Marple.
A determination to ensure that these other writers should not be forgotten inspired me to start ‘Invisible Ink’, my ongoing newspaper column of neglected authors. To this list should be added my friend Polly Hope, about whom I’ve written before. I also profiled her in the London Times, here.
Polly recently told me she was turning her most popular novel, ‘(HERE) away from it all’, into a Kindle e-book, and I was thrilled for her, because I’d read it at the age of 19 and was knocked flat by it. The book had been championed by none other than Anthony Burgess, so it was with some trepidation that I returned to the novel to reread and see if I still admired it, or if its time had passed.
Two sleepless nights later I find it as astonishing as I ever did. Here’s what I’ve written for the Amazon synopsis;
One summer’s day on a Mediterranean island overrun with tourists, all communication with the outside world suddenly ceases. At first, bemused locals and foreign residents work together, but the banks quickly run out of cash and the restaurants stop taking credit.
For the unnamed narrator and her family it’s an inconvenience, but when the material goods run out they need something else to barter with. As the rules of civility become ever more strained, the islanders start to exact horrific revenge. Events escalate, sides are drawn up, old-time religion returns and the island slides into terrifying acts of rebellion and anarchy…
This beautifully written thriller plays like an adult ‘Lord of the Flies’, and was described by Time Out as ‘stunning’ and ‘superb’ on its original publication. Now it is back to mesmerise and haunt a new generation of readers with a message more timely than ever before.
Okay, that’s a blunt sell to new readers, but it’s hard to convey the strange wit and joy with which such a ghastly subject is treated. The book is still lodged in my head like a hot pin. I’ll post when it’s available once more. Meanwhile, there are a few copies of the original paperback knocking about online.