The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler review – a bibliophile’s treat

A lively, diligent guide to more than 100 authors who are not as well-known as perhaps they should be

In 99 potted biographies and 12 short essays, Christopher Fowler endeavours to exhume the names of more than 100 authors who he believes are unjustly forgotten. Well researched and wide-ranging, there are some factual gems: that the author of Bambi sold the film rights to Disney for $1,000; that EM Delafield, famous for The Diary of a Provincial Lady, also wrote novels that “tackled lesbian feelings, real-life murder, alcoholism, family cruelties, adulteries and betrayals”. An essay devoted to forgotten Booker prize-winners should serve to temper the jubilation of future nominees while multiple tales of successful writers suddenly falling foul of publishing trends read all too appositely. The Book of Forgotten Authors is a bibliophile’s treat written with verve, diligence and the author’s evident passion. It’s an anthology for browsing that ...

The Wardrobe Mistress review – out of the closet, into the paranormal

Patrick McGrath’s mesmerising and multi-layered story set in London’s post-war theatreland brings to life a secret past

Patrick McGrath’s ninth novel is a story in which nothing is ever quite as it seems: characters confound those closest to them with shocking secrets; supernatural hauntings morph into real-world horror; and the dead haunt the living in ways more disturbing than a ghost story.

Set in London’s theatreland in 1947, the wardrobe mistress of the title is newly widowed Joan Grice. Her husband, Charlie – “Gricey” – had been a famous actor, and their psychologically fragile daughter, Vera, is following in his footsteps.

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Safe by Ryan Gattis review – a Ghost story with a difference

A junkie turned safe-cracker is pursued by criminals in Gattis’s gripping novel about hope, his second book set in Los Angeles’ ganglands

Ryan Gattis’s 2015 novel, All Involved, featured 17 first-person narratives over a period of 144 hours during the 1992 LA riots. His new book, Safe, again set among the drug ganglands of Los Angeles, similarly features a compressed timeline – 48 hours – but here Gattis pares the voices to just two narrators.

Ricky “Ghost” Mendoza is a former addict and now safe-cracker for the DEA: “Ricky Mendoza, Junior, wasn’t my real name, just one I took as my legal back when it seemed smart to. Like, the real me died back when I changed it and what’s left of me just floats.” Meanwhile Rudy “Glasses” Reyes is a drug-runner for one of LA’s most notorious gangsters, Rooster: “When you work for him, you got ...

Ned Beauman: ‘There’s something extremely seductive about madness’

The novelist on forking out for the West Wing script books, his favourite contemporary writers and the allure of films touched by lunacy

Ned Beauman is the author of four novels including his highly acclaimed debut, Boxer, Beetle. He has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize, won a Somerset Maugham award and has been named one of Granta’s best British novelists under 40.

Your new novel, Madness Is Better Than Defeat, is inspired by the making of the films Apocalypse Now and Fitzcarraldo. What interested you about that process?
The inevitability of it: this sense that you go into the jungle to make a film about white men falling victim to tyrannical hubris and latent insanity, then the exact same thing happening to you. You’re doomed before you even begin. So the book is asking: what if there’s some deep occult reason why this keeps happening over and over again?

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Tin Man by Sarah Winman review – an exquisitely crafted tale of love and loss

Two boys and a girl are caught up in a tender love triangle in the third novel from the author of When God Was a RabbitIn the prologue to Sarah Winman’s third novel, a woman defies her husband at the local community centre when, upon winning a raffle, she chooses as her prize not the whisky her husband desires but a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: “It was her first ever act of defiance. Like cutting off an ear. And she’d made it in public.” The transformative power of art and the untapped potential in quotidian lives are themes that pervade Tin Man. In a novel of two halves, the first narrator is 46-year-old Ellis, who works nights in the paint shop of an Oxford car plant, smoothing out dents so that no imperfection will ever be detected. Ellis had wanted to be an artist but ...

The Riviera Set by Mary S Lovell review – 1930s decadence in the Med

A grand tour of the social whirl of Maxine Elliott’s chateau on the Côte d’Azur – frequented by Churchill and Anthony Eden In 1930, American actress Maxine Elliott bought an unpromising piece of land on the Cote d’Azur – “a long 20-metre-wide strip of rocks lying between the sea and a stretch where the railway line and main highway ran next to each other”. To most people, it would have seemed uninhabitable, but to Elliott it had huge potential: a star of stage and screen she had, over the previous two decades, ingratiated herself into the favour of the upper echelons of English high society, and here she saw an opportunity to create a Mediterranean retreat befitting that social world. Over the following three decades the house Elliott built – the Chateau de l’Horizon – became synonymous with glamour and power. Elliott played host to politicians and royalty, from Anthony ...

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce review – hits all the right notes

Joyce’s heart-warming fourth novel follows a band of shopkeepers in the 80s struggling to halt redevelopment plansSince her bestselling debut in 2012, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce has established a reputation for novels that celebrate the dignity and courage of ordinary people and the resilience of the human spirit. Her fourth novel, The Music Shop, is driven by the same impulse. Set in 1988, it follows record-shop owner Frank, who has a rare gift for music therapy: he can find the perfect piece to remedy any emotional or psychological woes his customers are suffering from. Continue reading...