Bristol book tournament

In Progress: last updated 09 August, 2013 07.58am
And the best ever Bristol novel is … (the list so far)

LA Weekly have been running a 32-book tournament to discover the best LA novel ever written and it got me thinking about the best Bristol book and how to find it.

Bristol has a long and fascinating association with literature but it seems to be one of the less celebrated cultural aspects of the city. Treasure Island was purported to have been written just around the corner from where the Bristol Old Vic set its production two years ago. Allen Lane (1902-1970), the found of Penguin Books was Bristol-born and educated and there are many more well-known and lots not-so-known works that bring life to characters and places.

There’s a list on Goodreads about books based in Bristol but there are only 10 on it including Jeffrey Archer and something about a pole dancer. To be fair there’s also Julian Barnes’ peculiarly-reviewed A sense of an ending and Smack by Malvin Burgess.

Not much fodder for a tournament however.

Bristol Reads offer their own slightly more literary selection which includes Philippa Gregory and Eugene Byrne

The Last Llanelli Train by Robert Lewis sounds fascinating (2005). It features an alcoholic private detective specialising in the seedier side
of his trade, this noir crime-fiction novel is set amid the squalor and splendour of Bristol.

I had assumed the criteria for a Bristol novel would have to include a Bristol setting but there are other links to Bristol : Julie Burchill is a Journalist and novelist born in Bristol and I don’t know whether any of her books are set here. There’s also Jules Hardy, winner of the WHSmith Fresh Talent Award in 2002.

A list of Bristol novels from Bristol Reads

Eugene Byrne Things Unborn (2001).
E H Young The Misses Mallett (1922).
Marguerite Steen The Sun Is My Undoing (1941)
Philippa Gregory A Respectable Trade (1995).
Lucy English Selfish People (1998).
Lillian Bouzane In the Hands of the Living God (1999)
Jeannie Johnson A Penny for Tomorrow (2003).
Daniel Mayhew Life and How to Live it (2004).
Robert Lewis The Last Llanelli Train (2005)
Ed Trewavas Shawnie (2006).
Caroline Carver Gone Without Trace (2007)

A list of Bristol books from Twitter and blogs

Austen, Jane – Northanger Abbey (1818) (Blaize Castle is destination for an abortive expedition in Northanger Abbey)
Brown, Chris – Guilty Tiger
Cusk, Rachel – Arlington Park (2010)
Dickens, Charles – Pickwick Papers (1836)
Flood, C.J. – Infinite Sky (2013)
Godwin, John – Children of the Wave
Hall, M.R. – The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1) (2009)
Lee, Jonathan – Who is Mr Satoshi (2010)
Maughan, Tim – Paintwork (2011)
Nichols, David – Starter for Ten (2004)
Smollett, Tobias – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

Some additions from blogger Nose in a Book.

Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
Dead Innocent by Maureen O’Brien
Future Bristol edited by Colin Harvey
Manson, Mike – Where’s My Money
The Sun is my Undoing by Marguerite Steen

Nathan Filer :

Missorts – a location-based work by app and writing;

A list of Bristol books from Bristol publishers

Redcliffe Press

I’ve contacted the following:

Akeman Press – publishers of books about Bath but they may know of some Bristol novels as they are regional specialists;

Bristol Short Story Prize – they read many Bristol stories.

A list of Bristol books from Bristol libraries

Local history books for sale at the library – scroll down – link

A list of Bristol books from Bristol Bookshops


A list of Bristol from Bristol higher education institutions

University of Bristol
City of Bristol College

book store window

Books from authors living in Bristol

Burchill, Julie
Dunmore, Helen – author of 11 novels
Hardy, Jules
Harvey, Deborah
James, Amanda – A Stitch in Time
Powell, Gareth L.
Wakling, Chris

The Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group – blog

There are all the authors from the Bristol Short Story Anthologies –
Volume 4

  • Brandt, Ruth
  • Bullock, Emily
  • Bunting, Timothy
  • Burton, Ian
  • Fairweather, John
  • Govinden, Niven
  • Gramich, Eluned
  • Lever, Naomi
  • Lewis, Laura
  • Mazzini, Miha

Volume 5

  • Arnold, John
  • Bardsley, Lewis
  • Bokkers, Catherine
  • Boyle, Lizzie
  • Conran, Alys
  • Durrant, Neil
  • Hood, Kerry
  • Richards, Ian

8 responses to “Bristol book tournament”

  1. I came across another Bristol writer the other day. I had to think of you and of Nathan Filer, wondering if either of you know him. But his name? I’ll try and remember where I found out about him. It was a recent book, ah, but not necessarily taking place in Bristol. Not sure now.

    1. Thanks Judith. Do let me know if you remember.

    2. Nathan Filer’s book is on his site
      He’s done R4 stuff as well, and poetry and films (Oedipus is definitely NSFW or kids)

      Other Bristol novels:
      Altered Land by Jules Hardy
      Mr. In Between – first novel by now well-established screenwriter Neil Cross (dark-ish)

  2. If poets are allowed in this list then of course there’s our famous boy poet, Thomas Chatterton. And there’s probably some living ones too 🙂

  3. Though I haven’t read them, local author Lesley Pearse has written several novels set in Bristol ….

  4. […] is the second stage of finding the best Bristol novel ever written and some themes are coming through quite clearly: Drugs, violence, the seedier side of […]

  5. […] of the Costa Book Awards 2014 and a contender for my Bristol book tournament, the only question is why is it taking me so long to read this? I bought this one with my […]

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