It’s a nice question, and speaks fondly to the prospect of shining book sales, but really, I have no idea. I don’t know what you like to read, I don’t know what you usually read, and if you’re anything like me, neither of those questions really work because there is no ‘usual’ and you have eclectic tastes.
Fortunately, I also have eclectic interests in what I write.
So, for the next person who says “I’ve never heard of you, what shall I read?”, here’s a StellaDuffy book list, with a brief run-down for each, starting with the latest.
The Purple Shroud (aka, Theodora, The Power Years, best said in gravelly American cinema-voiceover voice) : the sequel to Theodora, with plague, riot, war and redemption. Not in that order. And silk. Basically Theodora and Justinian as Empress and Emperor, and you know what they say about power …
Published in the US by Penguin.
Theodora, Actress, Empress, Whore : the rags to riches part of Theodora’s life, with late Roman/early Byzantine history, religious conversion (monophysitism/diaphysitism), church history, women’s history, theatre history, child slavery/prostitution, dancing, acrobatics, and a dwarf madam.
Published in the US by Penguin.
The Room of Lost Things : the Loughborough Junction/Brixton/Camberwell book. A south London white working class man of 67 and a second generation British-Pakistani man of 26 become friends. London, politics, faith/no-faith, city life, aging, the river.
State of Happiness : a cartographer has a terminal illness (nb, despite reviews to the contrary, the word cancer is not mentioned in the book once), a book about mapping, mapping one’s life, and how illness affects love. Or not. And some swimming.
Mouths of Babes : the fifth of the Saz books (and the best imo), when the past comes back to bite us, when who we are to our friends and family isn’t who we were to a bunch of other people who used to know us well.
Published in the US by Bywater Books.
Immaculate Conceit : a lap dancer is pregnant with the second messiah. Really. And has an affair with the Angel Gabriel. Really. Women, our bodies/ourselves, faith, the politics of dancing.
Eating Cake : a woman has an affair. And another one. And gets away with them. (because people do.) And what that does.
Fresh Flesh : 4th Saz. Saz and Molly are having a baby, the adoption market, lesbian baby boom, authorities thinking they know better than those they are supposed to care for.
Singling Out The Couples : a fairy princess comes to our land and walks among us and breaks up couples, because she can, because they are lying to each other, because the Compassion Fairy was stuck on the tube and so she was never gifted compassion. Or a heart. And then something starts beating …
Beneath the Blonde : 3rd Saz. Blackmail, group dymanics (in a band), Estonia/LA/NZ, and a transgender character quite some time before anyone else I knew had written one. (Sorry, yes, that is a bit of a spoiler, but come on, it’s really old now!)
Wavewalker : 2nd Saz and, before Mouths of Babes, the other one I used to say was the ‘best’ of the Saz books. Therapy, group practice, a dangerous doctor and a psychotherapeutic practice called The Process about ten years before I’d heard of Processwork. Very Process-y.
Calendar Girl : 1st Saz, 1st book. Introducing Saz Martin, a PI who constantly runs into trouble, around whom people die, who is single and happily so. (Basically Sarah Lund, without the jumper and without the boyfriend dumping her.) I was immensely proud of writing, in the early 90s, a book with a lesbian protagonist that wasn’t about coming out, that didn’t only have good-women and bad-men in it, in which the gay character was just-gay and where it wasn’t (to me as the writer or to her as the character) treated like a big deal, she didn’t live in a lesbian ghetto, and the sex they had was like actual sex, not the soft-focus pretty pretty stuff we usually (still) get. Even now, that combination, that treating it as usual, still feels rare.
(And, as first books go, it’s not bad. It’s a bit heavy-handed in parts and very episodic, because I was mostly writing it at 3am when I had time, so pretty much worked on it a chapter at a time, but it certainly has a vitality to it, and the episodic nature does lend itself to cliff-hangers …)
There’s also Tart Noir, co-edited with Lauren Henderson, an astonishing array of writers and stories. Where else would you get Karin Slaughter, Jenny Colgan, Laura Lippman, Lisa Jewell and Val McDermid in the same collection? (nb, quite a few people love this anthology, and quite a few other people found some of the stories way too dark/sexual/disturbing. Jolly good.)
They’re all available in various forms.
- The Purple Shroud will be out in July, that, Theodora, The Room of Lost Things, State of Happiness and Singling Out The Couples are all Virago paper or e-books.
- Eating Cake and Immaculate Conceit were Sceptre (they’re out of print), but there seem to be various 2nd hand copies around
- all the Saz books were published by Serpent’s Tail and all of them are supposed to be e-books soon. (It’s a stretchy soon, but we think it’s coming …)