Okay, so that header might be a bit of a fib. A couple of weeks back when I came to look at the lesbian-themed novels featured on the Polari longlist, I realised there were too many to really cover in a single news post, so I planned to do a separate post just like this to give people an idea what the books were about and who they were by.
The Polari First Book Prize is awarded to a début novel “which explores the LGBT experience and is open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction published in the UK in English within the twelve months of the deadline for submissions (this year Feb 1, 2013). Self-published works in both print and digital formats are eligible for submission.” I think the key thing to note there is “explores the LGBT experience;” the novels I’ve picked out to feature here are not necessarily LesFic and some of the blokes on the list might well have written lesbian-themed novels, but time is short and I like an easy life – hence the copy and paste nature of this post! So, in no particular order…
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The January Flower by Orla Broderick (Council House Publishing)
Our narrator Mary has been cast as a Universal Mother with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She is any mother struggling with domesticity, the current economic climate and self-worth. She seeks love unaware that love is already a constant force in her life. Through the beauty of her island home she learns to grow in Nature. She learns that no matter what we endure love will always remain. No matter how hard our winters may seem, the humble flower, the snowdrop will bloom in January. Love is always inside us. We just have to find it.
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Orla Broderick lives on the beautiful Isle of Skye, Scotland. She has been funded, supported and encouraged by HI-Arts. She was mentored by Roger Hutchinson (Calum’s Road, The Silent Weaver). She attended the HI-Arts writers masterclass with tutors Angus Dunn, Kevin MacNeil and Andrew Greig and an Arvon work-in-progress workshop with tutors Jane Rogers and Lesly Glaister. The January Flower was edited by Peter Urpeth (Far Inland). She is Irish, originally from Co. Donegal but was raised in Co. Wicklow. She went to an all girls Irish Catholic Boarding school, but was always in trouble with the nuns, so she learned to write as one way to escape. Orla has participated in and devised creative writing workshops. Her writing is poetic prose and is compared with the writings of Dylan Thomas. Mostly, she likes to walk by the river and dream.
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An erotic thriller set in Victorian England. Miss Benson, a governess, is sent to teach Amy how to be a lady. Amy is discovering the joys of sex and suitors. Miss Benson’s unconventional methods lead to scandal, heartbreak and murder as she becomes obsessed with her young charge.
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Rachael Eyre has been mad keen on writing and fictional worlds since the age of seven- she hasn’t changed much in twenty years. Noticing there was a real gap in the market for gay and lesbian themed fantasy/sci fi/adventure fiction, she decided to fill it. She would never write something she wouldn’t want to read herself.
The Governess is her first completed novel. Her second, The Revenge of Rose Grubb, will join it on Kindle shortly. A revenge saga spanning thirty years, it takes in school bullying, faked deaths and our culture’s unhealthy obsession with celebrity. Our heroine won’t stop till she’s collected her enemy’s scalp. Rachael is currently writing her third novel, Love and Robotics. It’s her first attempt at writing a proper love story, even though the lovers are a (male) robot and an equally male raddled old explorer.
She lives in Lancaster, UK with her long suffering partner Ruth. She loves dragons but doesn’t like ferrets. At all.
Rachael doesn’t seem to have her own blog but there are a few posts over on her Goodreads author page.
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Eleven months after discovering a brutal double murder in a sleepy Northumbrian town, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels is still haunted by her failure to solve the case. Then the brutal killing of a man on Newcastle’s Quayside gives Daniels another chance to get it right, and her first case as Senior Investigating Officer. When Daniels recognises the corpse, but fails to disclose the fact, her personal life swerves dangerously into her professional life. But much worse, she is now being watched. As Daniels steps closer to finding a killer, a killer is only a breath away from claiming his next victim…
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Mari Hannah was born in London and moved north as a child. Sponsored by the Home Office, she graduated from Teesside University before becoming a Probation Officer, a career cut short when she was injured while on duty. Thereafter, she spent several years working as a film/television scriptwriter. During that time she created and developed a number of projects, most notably a feature length film and the pilot episode of a crime series for television based on the characters in her book, the latter as part of a BBC drama development scheme. She lives in Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective. In 2010, she won the Northern Writers’ Award.
Mari is the author of the Kate Daniels crime series: The Murder Wall (which the Guardian newspaper called “a satisfyingly meaty read”) Settled Blood, and Deadly Deceit. Her website with loads more information about the author and her books can be found here.
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When Janie Ryan is born, she’s just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she’d be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma’s swollen belly. In the hospital, her family approached her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they’d had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.
Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of filthy council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can’t help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original — and cry-out-loud funny — voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life’s great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.
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Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Growing up in a succession of council estates, B&Bs and caravan parks provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviour, material for life, and a love of travel.
Her first novel, TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA was published in July 2012 and has been shortlisted for the Southbank Sky Arts Literature Award, Guardian First Book Award, Green Carnation Prize, Author’s Club First Novel Prize and Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year. Kerry’s second novel, THIRST, was developed with support from the National Lottery through an Arts Council England grant and will be published by Chatto & Windus in 2014. She currently lives and writes in Hackney. Her blog can be found here. A recent review in the Observer newspaper had this to say:
It would be easy for Hudson to slip into the well-worn groove of the misery memoir made good, and there are points at which Tony Hogan threatens to lapse into cliche. However, Janie’s irrepressible, childish glee and the sly humour into which it evolves give the novel a wry self-awareness that is both refreshing and endearing.
One senses a broader purpose at work, too: the Ryan women are nothing if not fighters, and the “Ryan Temper” speaks of their frustration at the hand that life has dealt them. In this sense, Hudson’s debut, as undespairing as it is unflinching, manages to be both a personal statement of intent and also a painfully funny, humane commentary on a welfare system that blunts the blade of grinding poverty but fails to address the numbing poverty of aspiration which overwhelms so many of Janie’s contemporaries.
A further review from The Guardian can be found here.
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From the bowels of middle-class England, bona fide Brit Muslim lesbian Jaya Chakarbatti belies her mild-mannerisms and leads her group of Lassi Lesbians from their urban Midland terraced houses, to the smelly back alleys of London’s gay Soho, to seek out other Gaysians. Through the jungle of Bollywood drag queens, unrequited clumsy love, and stark choices between the Quran or The Pink Paper, the group of girls take a snap shot of modern, urban Britain amidst riots, religious tensions, and social discontent, before ending up somehow in the heat of sweaty, uncomfortably straight but shamelessly camp Bangladesh.
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Rebecca Idris is a British author living in London. She writes contemporary stories set in urban, modern England, exploring themes of postcolonial politics, emerging immigrant identities, and gay and lesbian humour. The best I can find for Rebecca in terms of a blog is her twitter feed and an interview with the Gaysian blog (the link on that page to her website is defunct.)
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If last year is anything to go by, the shortlist for the prize will be announced in September and the winner chosen in November. Which will give you all plenty of time to get reading!