LitFest Online: The Programme

 Friday 15 May


Leonie Charelton with pony, and her book MarramLeonie Charlton
chaired by C. J. Schüler

‘A beautiful, meditative memoir.’ –  Sunday Express

From the southern tip of Barra to the ancient stone circle of Callanish, Leonie and her friend Shuna ride off the beaten tracks on their beloved Highland ponies, Ross and Chief. In deeply poetic prose, she describes not only the beauties of the Hebridean landscape, its spare, penetrating light and its people, but also confronts the ghost of her mother and their fractured relationship.

Leonie Charlton travelled extensively as a child, living in England, Africa, Wales and Scotland. She has worked as a cowgirl in Australia, an English teacher in Japan, and her degree in Hispanic Studies took her to Catalonia for two years. Marram: Memories of Sea and Spider Silk is her first full-length book, although her fiction and poetry have appeared widely in magazines.

Marram: Memories of Sea and Spider Silk, by Leonie Charlton (Sandstone) rrp £12.99, hive price £9.35


Writer Jacob Ross with cover of Black Rain FallingJacob Ross
chaired by Sunny Singh ‘Jacob Ross is a truly amazing writer. Black Rain Falling is an
outstanding novel.’
– Bernardine Evaristo Black Rain Falling, the gripping sequel to Jacob Ross’s Jhalak
Prize-winning The Bone Readers, finds forensics expert Michael ‘Digger’ Digson is in trouble. His fellow detective Miss Stanislaus kills a man in self-defence, and their superiors believe it was murder. While the authorities bear down on them, Digger and Stanislaus investigate a shocking roadside killing, the first tremors of a storm of crime and corruption that will break over the Caribbean island of Camaho.

Jacob Ross was born in Grenada and lives in Britain. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he is the author of two acclaimed collections of short stories, A Way to Catch the Dust and Song for Simone, and Tell No-One About This, nominated by the 2018 Bocas Literary Festival as one of the three best works of Caribbean fiction published in 2017. His first novel, Pynter Bender, was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Regional Prize.

Black Rain Falling, by Jacob Ross (Little, Brown) rrp £14.99, £13.99 from Blackwell’s


Gerald Jacobs with his novel PomeranskiGerald Jacobs
chaired by Georgia de Chamberet

‘There’s a deceptive matter-of-factness about Gerald Jacobs’ writing which masks an exquisite sadness. His is the art of the refined miniaturist.’ – Howard Jacobson

As Benny ‘the Fixer’ Pomeranski is buried on a cold November morning, a motley crew of mourners assembles around the grave, its members ‘identified by their lived-in faces – faces that indicated a singular kind of past, a chequered hinterland.’ The discovery of Benny’s diaries leads his son Simon back to his childhood and the post-war days of the Astorians, a small group of criminals who ran their business from Brixton Market and exercised their own brand of justice.

Gerald Jacobs is the literary editor of the Jewish Chronicle and has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. He was educated at Cambridge and London Universities. His publications include A Great Deal Of Laughter, the authorised biography of Judi Dench, Sacred Games, and the novel Nine Love Letters.

Pomeranski, by Gerald Jacobs (Quartet) £14.00 from the publisher


Robert Webb with the cover of his novel Come AgainRobert Webb
chaired by Laurel Lindström ‘A genre-defying time-travel tale … a breathtakingly insightful
evocation of grief.’ – Sunday Times

Robert Webb’s debut novel Come Again begins after Kate’s husband Luke – the man she loved from the moment she met him 28 years ago – has died suddenly, and her life is falling apart. One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is 18 again, but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of Freshers’ Week. And this is the day she first meets Luke.

Robert Webb is best known for his work as half of the Bafta award-winning
comedy duo Mitchell & Webb. In 2017, his call-to-arms memoir How Not To Be a Boy was a number one Sunday Times bestseller. Robert has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and the New Statesman, and lives in London with his wife and daughters.

Come Again, by Robert Webb (Canongate) rrp £16.99, hive price £12.75

Saturday 16 May


Tim Finch with the cover of his novel Peace TalksTim Finch
chaired by Lucy Popescu

‘A wonderful novel… Laced with humour and sadness, this is an intimate account of what it means to make peace, both with others and with oneself.’ – Colum McCann

Tim Finch’s latest novel Peace Talks takes Edvard Behrens, a senior diplomat highly regarded for his work on international peace negotiations, to a nondescript resort in the Tyrol. High up in the mountains, the air is bright and clear. When he isn’t working, Edvard reads, walks, listens to music. He confides in no one – no one but his wife Anna. Anna, who he loves with all his heart; Anna, always present and yet forever absent.

Tim Finch is a leading campaigner and writer on refugee and migrant issues. He formerly worked as a director for the Refugee Council, and has founded two charities, among them Sponsor Refugees. As well as working as a senior political journalist at the BBC, he has broadcast frequently on Channel 4, Al Jazeera and CNN. He is the author of one previous novel, The House of Journalists (2013).

Peace Talks, by Tim Finch  (Bloomsbury) rrp £16.99, £11.89 from the publisher


C J Schüler with his travelogue Along the Amber RouteC. J. Schüler
chaired by Mary Novakovich ‘This timely and powerful book is more than an enticing
travelogue or a paean to amber.’ – Sue Gaisford, Financial Times

Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice is both a travelogue and a family history. While charting the origins of amber, the myths and legends that have grown around it, and the dazzling artefacts crafted from it and traded along the way, Schüler reflects on the route’s violent history through the centuries, not least his own family’s experience of persecution and flight.

C. J. Schüler is the author of three illustrated histories of cartography, and Writers, Lovers, Soldiers, Spies: A History of the Authors’ Club of London, 1891–2016. He has also written on literature, travel and the arts for The IndependentThe Independent on SundayThe Tablet and The Financial Times. He was chairman of the Authors’ Club from 2008 to 2015, and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice, by C. J. Schüler (Sandstone) rrp 16.99, hive price £12.25


Historian Greg Jenner with his book Dead Famous Greg Jenner
chaired by Sunny Singh ‘A fascinating, rollicking book in search of why, where and
how fame strikes. Sit back and enjoy the ride.’ – Peter Frankopan

We might think we live in the age of celebrity, but the famous and infamous have been thrilling, entertaining and outraging us for millennia. Greg Jenner’s Dead Famous assembles a wild cast of singers, dancers, actors, freaks, demigods, ruffians and more in search of the historical roots of celebrity. He reveals how people throughout history became famous, stayed famous and, often spectacularly, fell into obscurity.

Greg Jenner is a public historian, broadcaster and author, and an Honorary Research Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the historical consultant to award-winning Horrible Histories, host of the BBC comedy podcast You’re Dead To Me!, and has appeared on BBC2’s The Great History Quiz and Inside Versailles. His first book, A Million Years in a Day, was a UK number 1 audiobook bestseller and was translated into nine languages.

Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen, by Greg Jenner (Orion) rrp £18.99, hive price £15.49


Foreign correspondent Christina Lamb with her book Our Bodies, Their BattlefieldChristina Lamb
chaired by Lucy Popescu

‘A wake-up call… These women’s stories will make you weep and rage.’ – Amal Clooney

Our Bodies, Their Battlefield gives voice to women in conflict across four continents, exposing how rape is used by armies, terrorists and militias as a weapon to humiliate, terrify and carry out ethnic cleansing. Though rape was formalised as an international war crime in 1919, the International Criminal Court has convicted no one. This startling new book calls on us to listen and to act against this, the world’s most neglected war crime.

One of Britain’s leading foreign correspondents, Christina Lamb has reported from most of the world’s hotspots since she was named Young Journalist of the Year in 1989 for her coverage of mujaheddin fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Since then she has won 14 major awards including Europe’s top war reporting prize, the Prix Bayeux. She was made an OBE in 2013 and is an honorary fellow of University College, Oxford.

Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women, by Christina Lamb  (HarperCollins) rrp £20, hive price £16.05

Sunday 17 May


Andrew Lycett with his Book Conan Doyle's Wide WorldAndrew Lycett
chaired by John Walsh ‘For some escapism during the
coronavirus lockdown, it makes a wonderful read.’ – Tom Chesshyre, Daily Mail Arthur Conan Doyle was not only the creator of the world’s
greatest detective; he was also an intrepid traveller whose journeys took him to the Arctic and the Alps, throughout Africa, Australia and North America. In his ground-breaking book Conan Doyle’s Wide World, Andrew Lycett, Conan Doyle’s celebrated biographer, collects and annotates the best of his travel writings from around the world, which illuminate not just the places he visited, but the man himself.

Andrew Lycett is an author, broadcaster and biographer, whose subjects include Muammar Qaddafi, Ian Fleming, Rudyard Kipling, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins. He writes and reviews for a large number of newspapers and magazines, and lectures and speaks at schools, universities and literary festivals. He is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Mary University of London.

Conan Doyle’s Wide World, by Andrew Lycett  (IB Tauris) rrp £20, hive price £16.05


Michael Arditti and the cover of his novel The AnointedMichael Arditti
chaired by Suzi Feay

‘It gives nothing away to say that this fierce, sinewy novel ends with the newly anointed King Solomon laying the cornerstone for the First Temple of Jerusalem. For it is not the new beginning but the preceding dynastic carnage that’s gripping.’ – Howard Jacobson

Michal is a princess, Abigail a wealthy widow, and Bathsheba a soldier’s bride, but as women in ancient Israel their destiny is the same: to obey their fathers, serve their husbands and raise their children. Marriage to King David seems to offer an escape, but behind the trappings of power they discover a deeply conflicted man. Michael Arditti’s The Anointed is a compelling retelling of the Biblical story that centres on a conflict between male ruthlessness and female resistance that remains strikingly pertinent today.

Born in Cheshire and educated at Cambridge, Michael Arditti began his writing career as a playwright for stage and radio. Since then he has written nine novels, many of which explore questions of religious faith in the modern world. They include Easter, which won the Waterstone’s Mardi Gras Award, The Enemy of the Good, and The Breath of Night.

The Anointed, by Michael Arditti (Arcadia) rrp £16.99, hive price £12.25


Hadley Freeman, and the cover of her memoir House of GlassHadley Freeman
chaired by C. J. Schüler ‘Utterly engrossing.’
– Nigella Lawson

When Hadley Freeman found a shoebox filled with her grandmother’s treasured belongings, it started a decade-long quest to find out their significance. House of Glass chronicles her attempt to understand the extraordinary lives of her grandmother Sala and her three siblings, Henri, Jacques and Alex Glass. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne, from Long Island to Auschwitz.

Hadley Freeman is a columnist for the Guardian. Born in New York, she now lives in London. Her previous books include Life Moves Pretty FastThe
Meaning of Sunglasses
, and Be Awesome, and her work has appeared in Vogue US and UK, New York magazine, Harpers Bazaar, and many other publications.

House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family, by Hadley Freeman (HarperCollins) rrp £16.99, £13.19 from Blackwell’s


Amanda Craig with the cover of her latest novel, The Golden RuleAmanda Craig
chaired by Lucy Popescu

‘If you like your novels wide-ranging, ambitious, socially panoramic, and engaged in the most important issues of the day, Amanda Craig is the writer for you.’ – Jonathan Coe

When Hannah is invited into the first-class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train – who could possibly connect them? The latest of Craig’s state-of-the-nation novels, The Golden Rule can be read as a stand-alone work, but shares with its predecessors an interconnected cast of contemporary characters, in which minor protagonists become major ones, and vice versa, from one book to the next.

Born in South Africa, Amanda Craig grew up in Italy, and read English at Clare College Cambridge. After a brief spell in advertising and PR, she became a journalist for newspapers including the Sunday Times, the Observer the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. Her sixth novel, Hearts and Minds, was longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, and her eighth, The Lie of the Land, was chosen as a book of the year by the Guardian, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and the Irish Times.

The Golden Rule, by Amanda Craig (Little, Brown) will be published on 2 July 2020, rrp £16.99, and can be pre-ordered from Waterstones.


The novelist Andrew Miller will announce the winner of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2020.