I make a habit of reading debut novels to get a feel for the competition: who’s been successful, the quality of the writing, what makes a book stand out amongst the millions of manuscripts that are submitted. Some get recognition quickly, like Pidgeon English by Stephen Kelman which was shortlisted for the Booker. The story is told from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old boy, newly arrived from Ghana, and completely unaware of the dangers of becoming involved with the gang culture of East London. My favourite debut novel is currently After the fire, a still small voice by Evie Wyld. Set in Outback Australia, the novel provides a vivid sense of otherness and the on-going effect of involvement in conflict, in this case, the Korean War. I’d like to write a book as powerful as that! I didn’t realise until quite recently that The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was the debut novel by Carson McCullers. I took the book on honeymoon over twenty years ago, thinking my husband and I would read aloud to each other. Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest choice for a romantic interlude, particularly when the the test match was on television, and I finished the book by reading it silently. The title stays with me though, which I’ve now adapted to acknowledge the challenges of being an isolated writer: the writer is a lonely hunter.
The writer is a lonely hunteron November 30, 2011