Today’s post comes as a result of an urgent request.

A reader Tweeted this:

With pen and pencil I sat down to suggest a few delights but found the list soon out of control. How to choose just six brilliant writers from all the wonders out there?

This particular reader discovered my books through the Smart Women promotion, thanks to other authors she enjoyed. I’ve never met her but I know she’s a jewellery designer and loves beautiful things, she’s an eclectic reader and appreciates well-wrought prose. Finally, when she finds an author she likes, she devours all their work.

So, here are six authors with a body of work to their name, all of whom I can personally recommend. I have also added an example of their writing to start the curious reader on a wonderful journey of words.

Jim Williams

A Renaissance man who apparently turns his hand to all kinds of genres with ease. His prose is witty, erudite and entertaining, sometimes subverting the style with a sly wink. A well-read man who writes well-worth reading books. Highly addictive.

His murder-mystery boxset is a great place to start.

 

Amanda Hodgkinson

A novelist with a poet’s soul, this author makes her words dance like butterflies. Her books are unconnected apart from the beauty of her prose, so start where you like, then relish her short story in the Grand Central collection.

Try 22 Britannia Road or Spilt Milk and you’ll be hypnotised.

Piers Alexander

If surround-sensory, rambunctious historical fiction is your thing, read this man. The Bitter Trade and Scatterwood would not be my traditional fare, but this is a writer who draws you into its world like Süskind’s Perfume.

You cannot stop and don’t want to.

Make your first encounter with Calumny Spinks in The Bitter Trade.

Louise O’Neill

Hardly a hidden gem. Louise is sparkling already, winning YA prizes, rave reviews and readers across the spectrum. Her voice is cool, sharp and simmering with anger against injustice, while remaining articulate and human.

All her work is worth reading but if you liked The Handmaid’s Tale, read Only Ever Yours.

Barbara Scott-Emmett

A writer so versatile and talented, you could spend months engrossed in her work. Crime, erotica, short stories and literary fiction, she messes with your mind in the best kind of way. If you like Euro Crime, get Don’t Look Down for Christmas.

Delirium: the Rimbaud Delusion is an absinthe dream.

 

Jane Davis

A recommendation for all those who don’t know her work, this is a writer with such delicacy of touch when exploring sensitive topics. I love all her books and give them as presents, especially for their glorious covers.

Pick up any one of them and you’ll fall in love, but A Funeral for an Owl is my No.1.

And if you’re still hungry for more, check out the selection over at Bookmuse. We publish two or three new reviews every Wednesday and even recommend the perfect food, drink and audio accompaniments.

Glass of wine, anyone?

 

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100 years ago today, Dylan Thomas was born.

So with kind permission of Barbara Scott Emmett, an extraordinary wordsmith herself and author of Delirium, The Rimbaud Delusion, I share my guest blog for her on Poetry: The One That Got Away, as my mark of respect.

***

I woke up this morning with a regret.

Nothing unusual there. Yet this time, said regret was unconnected to a bottle of tequila, a roguish pair of eyebrows or another spectacular failure in a foreign language.

I realise I told a lie.

Yesterday, someone asked me if I read poetry. “Poetry? Not really my thing,” I said. “Much rather read a book.”

That is an untruth.

I met Poetry in primary school. We got on well. Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience lured me in and RS Thomas finished the job. Kiss-chase and rounders were neglected for lines such as these:

 Men of the hills, wantoners, men of Wales

With your sheep and your pigs and your ponies, your sweaty females

How I have hated you …

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

Secondary school led me to another Thomas. (Listen to this now and if you are not smitten in 90 seconds then you can stuff your Christmas card.)

Here are words, looking for trouble.

Here are words in a strange, ancient rhythm I already know.

Here are words tumbling, effervescing, colliding, exploding with energy and lyrical power.

Poetry made me laugh and cry. Poetry understood me. I swore eternal allegiance.

Biology was one of my favourite subjects in Sixth Form. Kidneys are intriguing. But arts and sciences don’t mix so I did French Literature instead. Poetry and I went InterRailing and met Paul Verlaine. Green and the earthy passion contained in those words connected with a song I’d heard – Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man. Love as raw exposure.

(I was only sixteen at the time and my poems were devoted to some public school twit I met on a sponsored walk. Still, his kidneys are mine now.)

University’s Professor Turner turned me on to Wordsworth and the worth of words. His lecture on Nutting is still etched on my memory and caused one of my housemates to fall in love with his forearms. I kept reading French poets, not least to be pretentious, and bumped into Baudelaire. An encounter I’ll never regret.

As often happens with childhood friends, Poetry and I drifted apart. I got in with a bad crowd (Crime), dropped out for a while (Literary Fiction) and messed about with one night stands (Short Stories). I knew where to find Poetry but wondered if we had anything in common anymore? In weak moments, I looked it up. Re-reading Robert Graves after The White Goddess: An Encounter, I recalled how poems of war carried a mightier punch than any footage or statistics. Raw words connected. Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds – a different kind of war – left me wretched and awed.

IMG_0552One compilation CD in my car includes Nick Cave, PM Dawn, Suzanne Vega, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen (hello again) Alanis Morrisette and Joni Mitchell. I keep getting it mixed up with the others, so needed an identifying title. Why did I collect these singers/songwriters on one album?

Because they use words in a way that shocks me, gives me shivers, sends me pictures, tells me stories and makes me think. Words doing things I didn’t know they could. Like Poetry used to do.

Hello, Poetry?

Are you on Twitter?

 

 

@JJMarsh1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or
How I Avoided the Allure of False Paths and Became a Writer

A guest post by Barbara Scott Emmett

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Like most writers I scribbled from an early age – poems and stories, homemade magazines for which I was the sole contributor – you know the sort of thing. You would think therefore that I was set on a brilliant writing career before I was out of junior school. Alas, like all hero(in)es my journey was beset by obstacles. Many were the byways I lost myself in before I found my One True Path. The Trolls of Indecision and The Lure of Other Artistic Outlets had to be conquered before I could reach my goal.

It started with The Jezzebels – note the two zeds. This was a girl group I set up with a couple of schoolmates, Sylvia and Hazel. Sylvia changed her name to Cilla, I called myself Bob, or Apples, (don’t ask – it really isn’t worth it) and Hazel sensibly stuck to her own name.

Oh how we entertained the neighbours – Hazel plinking away at my mother’s piano, me on my ten bob guitar and Cilla doing a Mick Jagger impression with the maraccas my brother brought back from British Guiana. Occasionally the brass candlesticks would be deployed – makes a satisfying chink, does brass.

Growing up and other life experiences got in the way of our glittering career. The Jezzebels faded from memory.

Travel, education and some failed relationships later, I took up Art. With Art I could mooch around moodily in paint-spattered jeans and suffer. My blue period John and Yoko was extremely well thought of; almost everyone could guess who it was meant to be.

Copying photographs and album covers was all very well but it was never going to make me the next Hockney. Despite a steady hand and a prediliction for painting in different shades of the one colour, I had to admit the truth: I lacked the spark of originality necessary for greatness.

The battered paintbox was slung to the back of the cupboard with the ten bob guitar.

I met up with writing again. We flirted and dabbled. Created satisfying sentences, felicitous phrases, veracious vignettes. But the Troll of Music hadn’t finished with me yet.

When a singer-songwriter boyfriend upped and went to Germany to pursue his career I was devastated. I coped with this rejection by deciding to outdo him. (I think this is known as the I’ll-get-you-you-bastard form of therapy.) Despite an inability to distinguish a B flat from an A minor, I equipped myself with a Fender acoustic and a Play in a Day instruction booklet. I learned all the chords I hadn’t bothered with in my earlier musical interlude.

In no time at all I was strumming along with my Nigerian friend Bowale while he slapped his congas and shouted in Yoruba. It was a kind of Sprechgesang but a lot louder. Astonishingly, we got gigs in pubs. Some of them actually gave us money. Other friends, inspired by our bewildering overnight success, muscled in on the action. Before long I was a member of a seven piece combo called Nigerian Grass and had acquired an electric guitar and an amplifier. The band now featured at least three real musicians. (Who let them in?)

We played on the then burgeoning Alternative Comedy circuit. (Reader, I shared a dressingroom with Paul Merton!) I put our success down to the fact that African music was becoming popular at that time but no one yet knew enough about it to realise what it should sound like. The highlight of our career was a gig at the Rock Garden. Which just goes to show you can get away with anything if you have thick enough skin. And a good sound engineer.

Sadly, musical differences (the fact that some of us could actually play an instrument while some of us, ahem, couldn’t) eventually split us up.

There was nothing else for it. I returned to my first and most lasting love: writing.

And I’ve never looked back. Well, apart from a brief foray into amateur dramatics but I soon hacked the head off that Troll. (Actually, it was my head that was hacked off. I played Dr Crippen’s wife and was poisoned, shot, chopped up and boiled. I only appeared in the first act.)

So after many adventures, after finding myself lost in numerous dark woods, after fending off all the dragons that tried to steer me from my course, I finally killed the Grendel, found the Grail, and married the princess.

Writing and I have been together for nearly thirty years now. We’ve spawned a clutch of novels, a fistful of short stories and a bunch of miscellaneous other scribblings.

And we’re still very much in love.

 

://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FKJ1OCE/Barbara Scott Emmett’s new novel Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion will be published in association with Triskele Books in October 2014. The ebook will be available from 1st August. Find out more about it here. (http://bit.ly/1rYqaDT )

Her other work is available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online stores via Pentalpha Publishing Edinburgh. Find out more from her blog or website.

Check out An Erotic Conversation on this very blog, where Barbara and I discuss what constitutes hot writing.

~

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/barbarascottemmett/
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BarbaraScottEmmett/
Pentalpha: http://pentalphapublishing.weebly.com/
My Blog http://barbarascottemmett.blogspot.co.uk/
website http://www.emmettweb.co.uk/bse/