The list of Bristol books so far, whittling down to 32

Updated: 2014-05-21 In pursuit of the best Bristol novel ever written the first stage is finding as many Bristol novels as possible. Then there will be a selection and then the tournament.

The list of Bristol Novels


  1. Ames, Laurel – Castaway
  2. Archer, Jeffrey – Only Time Will Tell
  3. Barnes, Julian – The Sense of An Ending
  4. Benatar, Stephen – Wish Her Safe at Home
  5. Bouzane, Lillian – In the Hands of the Living God (1999)
  6. Boyce, Lucienne – To the Fair Land (2012)
  7. Brown, Chris – Guilty Tiger , Bovver – It’s the 1970s. The hair is shaved, the music is funky and the football is violent – very, very violent. (Recommended as one of the best Bristol novels by Richard Jones from Tangent Publishing.)
  8. Burgess, Melvyn – Smack (or Junk) In this award-winning but controversial novel Burgess tells the moving story of two runaway teens who turn to a life of squatting and anarchism, ultimately falling into the dark embrace of heroin addiction.
  9. Burney, Fanny – Evelina
  10. Butler Hallett , Michelle – Deluded Your Sailors
  11. Butler, Paul – Cupids
  12. Byrne, Eugene – Things Unborn (2001).
  13. Carter, Angela – ‘The Bristol Trilogy’ (link):Shadow Dance (1966), Several Perceptions (1968) and Love (1971) – Locarno Ballroom. “The Bristol Trilogy”, Angela Carter In Shadow Dance (1966), Several Perceptions (1968) and Love (1971) Angela Carter offers a stylish look at the sinister underside of Bristol in the Swinging Sixties.
  14. Carver, Caroline – Gone Without Trace (2007)
  15. Clarke, Roz and Hall, Joanne – Colinthology (Ed.)
  16. Cusk, Rachel – Arlington Park (2010) See review by the Spider’s Library. Cribbs Causeway, a well off suburb.
  17. Douglas, Louise – In Her Shadow
  18. Dunn, Matt – The Accidental Proposal
  19. English, Lucy – Selfish People (1998).
  20. Ferguson, Patricia – Peripheral Vision; the Midwife’s Daughter ?
  21. Filer, Nathan – The Shock of the Fall – Read, excellent. Kingsdown, Jamaica Street and Cheltenham Road.
  22. Flood, C.J. – Infinite Sky (2013)
  23. Freeman, Anna – The Fair Fight (2014)
  24. Godwin, John – Children of the Wave
  25. Gregory, Philippa – A Respectable Trade (1995). The devastating consequences of the slave trade are explored through the powerful but impossible attraction of well-born Frances and her slave, Mehuru.
  26. Tessa Hadley – Clever Girl (Trip Fiction)
  27. Hall, Joanne (ed) – Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion (2014)
  28. Hall, M.R. – The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1) (2009) Jenny Cooper, newly appointed as Coroner for the Severn Vale, is plunged headfirst into a trail of murder, corruption and dark secrets. One of the first pages includes a quote from a fictional Bristol Evening Post.
  29. Hardy, Jules – Altered Land
  30. Harvey, Colin – Future Bristol (Ed.)
  31. Harvey, Colin – Dark Spires (Ed.)
  32. Hayder, Mo – Wolf; Skin; Gone; Ritual – A novel that leads you into the darkest recesses of Bristol’s underworld, where an ancient evil lurks, an evil that feeds on the blood – and flesh – of others – you’ll definitely need a strong stomach for this one! (– Bristol Libraries);
  33. Johnson, Jeannie (pseudonym of Lizzie Lane) – A Penny for Tomorrow (2003).
  34. Le Carre, John – Our Game [Totterdown, BTM]
  35. Lane, Lizzie – Wartime Brides(2012) The war is over…but for three very different Bristol women anxiously awaiting their loved ones return, the story is only just beginning. “Wartime Brides” offers a fascinating insight into post-war family life.
  36. Lee, Jonathan – Who is Mr Satoshi (2010)
  37. Lewis,Robert – The Last Llanelli Train (2005) Robin Llewellyn is a private eye. More or less. Part time really, while he gets on with the full-time job of drinking himself to death on the mean streets of Bristol. He’s one step away from the gutter when he gets one last case.
  38. Lewis, Susan – The Choice
  39. Manson, Mike – Where’s My Money
  40. Marshall, Emma (1830-1899) – wrote hundreds of romantic historical novels, many based on Bristol characters and events – inc. Bristol Bells (the story of Chatterton), Under the Mendips, In Colston’s Days and Bristol Diamonds
  41. Mason, Sarah – Playing James
  42. Maughan, Tim – Paintwork (2011)
  43. Mayhew, Daniel – Life and How to Live it (2004).
  44. McNeill, Fergus – Eye Contact (2012) –Knife Edge (2013?) and a third in the series  (being?) published 2014 The body of a young woman is found at Severn Beach in this gripping debut novel – but how can you trace a killer who strikes with no motive?
  45. Moate, Jari – Paradise Now
  46. Mitchell, Diane – Tainted Legacy
  47. Moggach, Deborah – These Foolish Things, You must be sisters (1982 – set in Bristol Uni)
  48. Myles, Josephine – Pole Star
  49. Nichols, David – Starter for Ten (2004) (see comment for possible elimination) –  ‘And the novel’s setting – is it Bristol? “Some scenes imply Bristol. For instance, there’s a scene where he carries dumbells up a steep hill; that might Suggest Bristol, but some people think it is Exeter. I didn’t want to make up a city, like Rummidge in David Lodge’s campus novels, so I avoided naming it. But there are bits of St Michael’s Hill in there and bits of Park Street.” ‘
  50. Nicholson, Christopher – The Elephant Keeper
  51. O’Brien, Maureen – Dead Innocent
  52. Prowse, Philip – Bristol Murder
  53. Random, Bert – Spannered (Feeder Road)
  54. Rowbotham, Michael – Shatter
  55. Sheers, Owen – Pink Mist
  56. Smith, Zadie – Hanwell in Hell (Park Stret)
  57. Smollett, Tobias – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
  58. Steen,Marguerite – The Sun Is My Undoing (1941)
  59. Stevenson, Robert Louis – Treasure Island
  60. Trewavas, Ed – Shawnie (2006). Set in Knowle West and based on his experiences as a social worker, Trewavas’s highly controversial novel is grim, unrelenting and deeply unsettling.
  61. Wakling, Chris – The Devil’s Mask It’s 1835, and Bristol has put the dark days of the slave trade behind it. Or has it? A routine investigation leads young lawyer Inigo Bright into a web of murder, corruption and intrigue.
  62. White, Tony – Missorts Volume II
  63. Wright, M.P. – Heartman
  64. Young, E.H. – The Misses Mallett (1922). William – A Novel (). One of a series of novels set in “Radstowe”, based on the Clifton area of Bristol, “William” is a sharply observed period novel about English family life set in post-WW I England.

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26 responses to “The list of Bristol books so far, whittling down to 32”

  1. […] ← Coffee with Maya The list of Bristol books so far, whittling down to 32 → […]

  2. Looks more successful already than the list I tried to make a few years back –

    I do have a few more for you – In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas, Ritual by Mo Hayder. I believe Hayder has a few more set in Bristol in the same series. And Douglas is a local author so there may be more of her books set around here.

    One amendment to your list – while the film of Starter For Ten is set at Bristol Uni, the book doesn’t name its setting and I think was meant to be an amalgam of England’s big university towns.

    1. Your list was very helpful and I cited it in the original post. Thank you for the additions. I’m a bit shocked at all the books there are already. I’m going to have a fun time finding most of them from the library.

  3. Sorry, yes, right after commenting I went and read your post from yesterday with the link to my list! I’m sure I’ve come across some others over the past few years but can’t think of them now.

    I’d be interested to know if the library has a display of local authors or locally set novels. Or maybe even Waterstones might. Let me know what you find out!

    1. Turns out that last week the library had a ‘Writing in Bristol’ event but I can’t find it in the Bristol council website yet. Will update if I do.

  4. How about John le Carré’s Our Game, about arms deals and stolen money and secret agency..?

    In chapter 9, the main character Tim Cranmer picks up the trail of his disappeared old friend Larry Pettifer, an academic at Bath University, in Totterdown.

    I took a cab to Bristol Temple Meads railway station and walked from there. I was in an industrial desert made sumptuous by the night. Heavy lorries tore past me, spewing oily mud and plucking at my raincoat. Yet a tender haze hung over the city valley, moist stars filled the sky, and a languid full moon drew me up the hill. As I walked, lane upon lane of orange-lit railway line opened before me, and I remembered Larry and his season ticket, Bath to Bristol, seventy-one pounds a month. I tried to imagine him as a commuter. Where was business? Where was home? Anderson, Sally, at 9A Cambridge Street. The lorries had deafened me. I couldn’t hear my footsteps.

    The road, which had begun as a viaduct, joined itself to the hillside. The summit moved to my right. Directly above me stood a terrace of flat-fronted cottages. A red-brick wall made a battlement round them. Up there, I thought, remembering my map. Up there, I thought, remembering Larry’s affection for abandoned places. I came to a roundabout, pressed the pedestrians’ button, and waited for the motorised cavalry of England to co me squealing and clanking to a halt. Gaining the other pavement, I entered a side street festooned with overhead cables. A serious black boy of about six was sitting on the doorstep of the Ocean Fish Bar Chinese Takeaway.

    “Is this Cambridge Street? Bellevue Road?”

    I smiled, but he didn’t smile back. A bearded Druid in a baggy Irish cap stepped a little too carefully out of Robbins Off Licence. He carried a brown paper bag.

    “Watch your feet, man,” he advised me.


    “You want Cambridge Street?”


    “You’re bloody near standin’ on it, man.”

    1. Is that the only bit that’s in Bristol? Thank you for posting! I will have to add it on. It’s amazing how much of a mention Bristol gets in all this fiction – especially anything to do with crime, it seems.

      1. There is a bit more in Bristol, but essentially it’s limited to chasing up this lead surrounding the house in Cambridge Street.

        To begin with it’s quite a West Country-centric novel, starting off in rural Somerset, taking in Castle Cary and Bath as well as Bristol.

        Then it heads off to more exotic climes – like, err, Cheshire, and the Caucasus.

        I first came across this because I had a stack of John le Carré audio books that due to the author’s mellifluous voice I found a soothing aid to sleep. Then one evening whilst listening to this one I was shaken out of my slumbers because I recognised the area he was describing, having lived around there…

  5. Good to see ‘Peripheral Vision’ in this list.
    In 1999 I did a two-part article in the University’s graduate mag on ‘Bristol in Print’ – lots of poetry as well as novels. Included a lot of what is here, but some other examples of novels I featured were:
    ‘Gulliver’s Travels – starts in Bristol
    Mrs Emma Marshall (1830-99) wrote hundreds of romantic historical novels many of them based on Bristol characters and events, including: ‘Bristol Bells’ (the story of Chatterton), ‘Under the Mendips’, ‘In Colston’s Days’, and ‘Bristol Diamonds’.
    Deborah Moggach’s ‘You Must Be Sisters’ (1982) is set in Bristol University, based on her experiences as a student there.
    The other E H Young novels set in ‘Radstowe’ are: ‘Miss Mole’, ‘Jenny Wren’, ‘The Curate’s Wife’, ‘Celia’, and ‘Chatterton Square’.
    We also did a feature on David Nicholls in 2003 (So ‘Starter for Ten’ must have come out before 2004), as he was a graduate of the University (Drama & English 1988) and included this quote: ‘And the novel’s setting – is it Bristol? “Some scenes imply Bristol. For instance, there’s a scene where he carries dumbells up a steep hill; that might Suggest Bristol, but some people think it is Exeter. I didn’t want to make up a city, like Rummidge in David Lodge’s campus novels, so I avoided naming it. But there are bits of St Michael’s Hill in there and bits of Park Street.” ‘
    The film was actually made in Dublin I seem to remember.
    A very recent example is the excellent ‘To the Fair Land’ (2012) by Lucienne Boyce.

    1. Some great additions, thank you! I wonder if I can still find your article. I’ll hunt for it. (we had internet back then, right?)

      1. I’m afraid you won’t find it on the interweb! Sorry!

  6. ‘Hanwell in Hell’ by Zadie Smith. A novella included with another in
    ‘Martha and Hanwell’, Penguin, 2005.
    “spent just one night with your father, in Bristol, thirty-four years ago. He was down on his luck at the time, as was I. We had both suffered dramatic reversals of fortune and recognized immediately that we had failure in common—a rare example of masculine intuition. Each sniffed out the other’s catastrophe. For my part, I had lost my livelihood and my house; I spent the spring of that year bewildered and outraged, almost unable to comprehend that I now lived in a gruesome basement flat in which lichen seemed to grow upon every damp surface. A crooked business partner who took cash under the counter, compounded by my own careless accounting, had separated me from my business (a small chain of Bristol off-licenses) so completely that I was reduced to a salesman’s existence. I hawked the new American fridge-freezers from a catalogue, door-to-door. It was a dismal job and one that required me to spend a humiliating amount of time—or so I thought then—with women. In the off-licenses, all my staff had been men, and I always appreciated the fact; emotionally men are so much simpler. My new job made me feel as if I were being returned to the domestic scenes of my childhood. I seemed always to be in kitchens having cups of tea pressed upon me, repelling the timid advances of motherly women. Hanwell’s situation was of course somewhat reversed: he valued the domestic and lamented its loss; with it went all the things he cared for—women, the home, family. You ask in your letter if I know why you and your sisters were left in London—I don’t know, but it must have been against his will. No one would choose the life that Hanwell had.

    When I met him, he was washing dishes in Barry Franks’s first restaurant, halfway up the hill on Park Street. It is easy to forget now that Barry Franks was not born on the BBC holding a glass of red in one hand and his own cookery book in the other. That came later, at a time in England when people seemed able to lasso the moon quite as easily as Hanwell and I, ten years earlier, had managed to plummet beneath acceptability. In 1970, Barry Franks was only the owner of a mediocre Continental bistro, eponymously named. The cassoulet was gray, the veal chewy. You didn’t go to Franks for the food. It was that rare thing: a place with atmosphere.”

  7. Oh, and a more recent one – Bert Random’s Spannered, which doesn’t really go anywhere, doesn’t really do anything, but does sketch (and sketch is the right word) out Bristol’s mid/late nineties free party scene beautifully.

    If you were there, you’ll get goosebumps reading the descriptions of the sojourns up and down the Feeder Road.

  8. Thanks for including Eye Contact on this list. Just thought I’d mention the sequel, Knife Edge, which is also set largely in Bristol. Hodder are publishing a third in the series, also set in the city, later this year.

  9. May I humbly submit Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion – an anthology just come out

    1. Hi Pete,

      I read about this and wasn’t sure if short stories would fit in but I’ll gladly include in the longlist. Let me know if you have any copies available for review or I can check at the library. It is coming up to time to start the tournament. Thanks!

  10. You’ve got future bristol which is a short collection I thought?
    I’ll ask the publisher about review copies

  11. Another local author, Jari Moate, wrote “Paradise Now”, set half in Bristol, half in the Middle East. I’ve not read it yet but it’s on my shelf.

    Also, Mo Hayder actually has three novels set in Bristol that I know of: Ritual, Skin and Gone.

    1. Thank you! I’ll add Jari Moate. Mo Hayder has just released Wolf as well. I’m not sure whether to list each book independently or have them combined. So far I’ve been combining – the Bristol trilogy by Angela Carter, the Sagas by Lizzie Lane, the Coroner books. Not sure how practical it’s going to be though.

  12. […] year later I have tracked down 64 novels or sets of novels that are Bristolian in some way. They help create the conceived space of Bristol […]

  13. Another book that is partly set in Bristol is The Bronze Box by Amy C Fitzjohn (on twitter as @tomcatdesigns)

  14. Hive monkey by Gareth L Powell is partly set in Bristol. Filton Airfield, Clifton Downs, Hotwells and Park Street all feature

  15. I’ve come late to the party here – but can I recommend for inclusion James Wilson’s The Bastard Boy (Faber 2004)? A graphic portrait of Bristol in 1774, with the action then transferring to the American colonies – rich engrossing stuff, writing of real authority. Wilson was based in Bristol, but has recently left the city. A serious contender!

    1. Thank you! I will add it to the list as a standby in case I can’t get hold of one of the books. I hadn’t heard of it before so I’m very grateful.

  16. Hi. I offer a developing series of crime thrillers set in Bristol, written by Bristol author Jeff Dowson. Private investigator Jack Shepherd lives in Redland and has an office in a converted tobacco warehouse by the river. Most of his long time friends (and some of his enemies) live south of the river – Windmill Hill, Bedminster and Southville. Bristol isn’t simply a background. The stories are rooted deep. The city is a character in the books. It means as much to Shepherd as Edinburgh does to Rebus and the Northumberland coast means to Vera.
    Shepherd is in his mid 40s, an ex Det. Sergeant, who left the job after shooting a 17 year old kid out of his mind on Angel Dust. His wife died recently from cancer. His daughter lives in Clevedon with her partner – a sub editor on the “Post”
    The first Shepherd thriller “CLOSING THE DISTANCE” was published in Spring 2014, the second “CHANGING THE ODDS” was published December 2015. The third in the series (as yet untitled) is scheduled for release during Summer 2016.
    Please visit for all the stuff you need to know.

    1. Hi Jeff, thank you for letting me know about your work. Funnily enough, I am just in the process of renewing the list because I have come across so many more Bristol novels. I have just downloaded your book One Fight at a Time and will have a read. Thanks.

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