History by the River is a monthly panel event with a social buzz for lovers of books, history and good beer. It’s a chance to get together with fellow readers and authors to hear about the best new historical writing, then discuss it all over a drink afterwards. History the River is going gothic for November! Anna Mazzola speaks to three brilliant authors about the inspiration and stories behind their gothic and ghostly works.
NB: you can’t actually see Tower Bridge from the pub, but Hammersmith Bridge is pretty too.
Tuesday 14 November 2017
Featuring Susan Owens, Andrew Taylor and Laura Purcell, with your host, Anna Mazzola.
Dr Susan Owens is an art historian, curator and writer. She studied English at Oxford and European art at the Courtauld Institute, then wrote a doctoral thesis on Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations to Oscar Wilde’s play Salome at University College London. She worked as a curator for the Royal Collection before becoming Curator of Paintings at the V&A. Susan has written or co-authored books on decadent interiors, natural history illustration, watercolours, drawings and self-portraits, and is a regular contributor to publications including the Times Literary Supplement. Now freelance, Susan lives in Suffolk.
The Ghost: A Cultural History
The idea that the dead can return to haunt the living is deeply rooted in our imaginations, and for centuries ghosts have appeared in plays and poems, novels and stories, ballad-sheets and caricatures, paintings and photographs. The Ghost: A Cultural History (Tate Publishing) describes some of the huge variety of ways in which artists and writers have imagined and presented ghosts. How has their appearance and behaviour changed over time? And what does this reveal about them – and us?
Andrew Taylor is best known as a crime and historical novelist. His books include The American Boy and The Ashes of London, both number one bestsellers, as well as the Dougal and Lydmouth series. The Roth Trilogy was filmed for television. He also reviews for the Spectator and The Times.
He has won a number of awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger (for lifetime achievement in the genre) and the Historical Dagger (three times).
He has a longstanding interest in ghost stories. The Anatomy of Ghosts (2010) was set in a Cambridge college during the eighteenth century. His most recent book, Fireside Gothic, is a collection of three novellas with ghostly or other worldly themes, previously published individually as ebooks.
Laura is a former Waterstones bookseller living in Colchester, Essex. She is the author of two historical novels, as well as Gothic chiller The Silent Companions, which will be published by Bloomsbury Raven in October 2017.
The Silent Companions
Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…
Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…
Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction and, probably due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, published in July 2016, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837.
Her second novel, The Story Keeper, is about a collector of folklore and missing girls on 19th century Skye and will be published in July 2018. She also writes short stories.
Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before accidentally becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, South London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.