Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A Literary Weekend in Brighton

Today we welcome another of our guest bloggers. Sara Sheridan is the author of Brighton bestseller ‘Brighton Belle’ – a 1950s murder mystery set you-know-where. Today Sara hands out her top tips for the city’s book-ish hot spots...
Brighton is steeped in history! That’s one of the reasons I love it. I’m not the only writer to get inspired by the city’s lively atmosphere. Over 200 years ago when Jane Austen wanted to send Elizabeth Bennett’s naughty sister Lydia somewhere risqué in Pride and Prejudice, she had her visit Brighton where she eloped with army officer, George Wickham. Later, of course, she marries him but you can’t get more shocking than an elopement in Regency Brighton. Today, you can walk past the spot where the regiment were camped on Brunswick Square, which is just around the corner from Brighton’s lovely independent bookshop, City Books (a shop that appears in several of Peter James’ Brighton-based crime thrillers).

I love visiting Brighton – my Granny lived here for a large part of her life and I’ve been coming down since I was a kid. It’s not surprising I always get ideas for stories while I’m strolling around. It’s a great place to write. Dickens completed both Bleak House and Dombey and Son while he stayed here. There’s a blue plaque these days where he stayed – which is now the Holiday Inn on Kings Road. The city’s been immortalised in books several times. Most famously in the raw appeal of Brighton Rock by Graham Greene who also uses The Cricketers as a location in his much more light-hearted novel, Travels with My Aunt. Greene’s own Brighton pick was the first book in local boy Patrick Hamilton’s Gorse Trilogy – he proclaimed it ‘the best book about Brighton ever written’. Hamilton was a Sussex-born novelist and playwright whose work was adapted for film, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in ‘Rope’.

Today Brighton is best known for its edgy crime books – not only Peter James but Mark Peterson and Peter Guttridge, for example turn out atmospheric forensic police procedurals. I decided to write something more cosy though I gave it an edge (of course!) I’m an historical novelist at heart and I’m fascinated by the 1950s. For me Brighton’s unique relationship with London make it the perfect setting for my ex-secret service agent, Mirabelle Bevan, to recover from WWII. It was fun finding out about the world my grandmother must have lived in – shopping at Hannington’s while eking out ration coupons. Granny had a shop in the Lanes for a while – she sold antiques. My guess is she had a window into some intriguing dodgy schemes. I certainly hope so.

Nowadays I visit Brighton whenever I can. Last weekend I took a literary tour and walked everywhere I just mentioned – from Austen to Graham Greene. Then my friend Jess had a swim in the sea and settled down to read my book on the beach in Hove. Brighton Belle in Brighton – there’s nothing better than that for an author to see!

Thanks Sara for all the tips and don't forget Brighton's annual literature festival City Reads will take place this year from 15 September - 7 October. This year's book is another Brighton based novel My Policeman. 


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