Given the wealth of literary talent in Manchester, our guide to the city’s leading authors is far from comprehensive. In fact we’ve left out a few names that you might already know for that very reason; Alan Garner (The Weirdstone of Brisingamen), crimewriter Val McDermid, literary legend Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) and children’s author Melvin Burgess to name but a few. But whether you’re into crime (Joseph Knox), supper clubs (Lara Williams), historical fiction (Beth Underdown – pictured) or young adult fiction (Danielle Jawando), you’ll find something to read in our list. For home delivery, try Chorlton Bookshop on (0161) 881 6374 or which supports local bookshops.

The Private Joys of Nnnena Maloney (2019) | Okechukwu Nzelu

Okechukwu Nzelu is a teacher and writer living and working in Manchester. His debut novel The Private Joys of Nnnena Maloney was published in 2019 and he’s contributed work to Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space amongst a wealth of other publications. His debut novel is a rich, heartfelt, coming of age story exploring race, religion, identity, sexuality, the ever-changing parent/child bond, as told through the eyes of Nnnena Maloney who seeks to connect with her Igbo-Nigerian heritage in modern day England.

The Witchfinder’s Sister (2017) | Beth Underdown

Beth Underdown’s terrifying debut, The Witchfinder, won the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown Award 2017 and brings to life the past. Namely, Matthew Hopkin’s reign as self-proclaimed Witch Hunter General, whose short but deadly campaign resulted in the deaths of over 200 women accused of witchcraft during the British Civil War. Narrated by Hopkin’s fictional sister, the novel explores notions of misogyny, witchcraft & theology, as well as laying bare a fractured, violent, patriarchal society of the time. Underdown currently lectures in Creative Writing at Manchester University.

Fell (2016 | Jenn Ashworth

Jenn Ashworth was born in Lancashire and is currently a lecturer in creative writing at Lancaster University. Fell is a tale that transcends the usual limits of genre and explores notions of magical realism, spiritualism, the uncanny, the Gothic and otherness. Set in the slippery hinterlands of Morecambe Bay, Fell tells the story of the Clifford family who are coming to terms with Nettie Clifford’s cancer and Annette who returns to the family home – now a derelict, crumbling space, as well as the reawakening of her parent’s in spectral form – and Tom, a mysterious figure who holds a sinister grip on the family. In 2018, Jenn was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature as one of their ’40 Under 40′ and Ashworth’s first novel, A Kind of Intimacy won a Betty Trask Award.

Sirens (2017) | Joseph Knox

Crime fiction author Joseph Knox spent part of his formative years in Manchester, working in bars, clubs and Waterstones. Knox’s time spent in Manchester plays a pivotal role as the backdrop of his work, with Manchester coming to life as the murky, urban underbelly of crime, murder and corruption in debut Sirens. We also meet troubled protagonist Detective Aidan Waits, whose own life is spinning out of control, following on from a career-ending mistake and meth addiction. Waits is coerced into a disastrous undercover operation, tasked with searching for Isabelle Rossiter, daughter of the infamous MP Zain Carver, whilst also being pursued by an unknown killer. The success of Sirens led to sequel The Smiling Man (2018) and the third instalment, The Sleepwalker, was published in 2019.

Darklands (1993) | Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle is a thrice winner of the British Fantasy Awards, author of seven novels and currently a Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Writing School. For those who love fantasy, spook and suspense, Royle’s debut, Darklands is a collection of horror stories that explores the psyche and fantasy among other themes. Royle is also an editor for Salt Publishing and runs the Manchester-based Nightjar Press, which publishes fiction in chapbook format.

Frankissstein (2019) | Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Manchester University. Her debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, written when Winterson was 23, also won the Whitbread Prize for best first novel. Winterson’s other literary feats include a re-working of Frankenstein Frankissstein and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale as The Gap Of Time. Desire, the body, physicality and sexuality are explored throughout Winterson’s writing, earning her further accolades including an OBE.

Incredible Bodies (2006) | Ian McGuire

Ian McGuire is a former director of The University of Manchester’s Centre of New Writing where he remains a Senior Lecturer. Author of two novels to date, his first Incredible Bodies (2006) is a satirical, dark-comedy tale of campus life. Expect plagiarism, sordid sex and sarcasm in a book described by John Mullan in The New Statesman as ‘refreshingly low-minded campus novel’. McGuire’s second novel The North Water earned him the Royal Society of Literature Encore Award in 2017. Keep an eye out for The Abstainer, due to be released in September 2020, which explores Anglo-Irish tensions through the two protagonists Stephen Doyle and James O’Connor who come to Manchester for very different reasons.

Lara Williams - Supper Club (2019

Supper Club, a millennial feminist novel exposes the unspoken and unobtainably high standards set for women by society through Roberta and her housemate Stevie. Together they set up the secretive, anarchic Supper Club – a coming together of like-minded women who are fed up with being told how to behave, dress, think and fed up with average men and average sex. The supper club is many things, a celebration of food, cooking and taste. A reclamation of the body from the public to private, alongside drinking, dancing, drugs and indulgence. However, things go awry when Stevie ups the game – insisting they must break the law. Supper Club won The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ award in 2019. When not writing stories, William’s can be found lecturing at Manchester Metropolitan University & freelancing.

The Life-Writer (2016) | David Constantine

David Constantine is a Salford born poet, author and translator. Work includes the translation of Friedrich Hölderlin’s Selected Poems, as well as Tea at the Midlands and Other Stories, published by Comma Press, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story award. The Life-Writer is the story of recently widowed Katrin, a literary biographer who approaches her husband Eric’s death, as she would with one of her biographical subjects. Katrin goes on a journey of discovery and revelation as she unpicks the last 50 years of her husband’s life, thus creating a timeline of her husband’s life before her, including a past lover, a hitchhike through France, as she makes her way through bundles of letters and postcards. Constantine’s novel is a homage to the intricacies, complexities and simplicity of living, life, death and grief.

The Stars Were Burning Brightly (2020) | Danielle Jawando

Manchester based author Danielle Jawando’s debut novel, published in March 2020, is a refreshing, sensitive and honest insight into the impact of school and social media bullying. Based on Danielle’s own experiences, the story is told through the eyes of fifteen year old Nathan (who discovers that older brother Al has taken his own life), alongside high school friend Megan. Together, they seek to uncover the motives and reasons behind Al’s death. Jawando’s novel initiates important trajectory around social media, suicide and bullying in the digital age. Jawando’s previous work includes short story Paradise 703 (2012), as well as several short plays performed at the King’s Arms in Manchester and at Stratford Circus in London. In 2015, she worked as a storyline writer for Coronation Street and last year, The Deerstalker was selected as one of the six finalists for the We Need Diverse Books short story contest.

Fri 22 Jan
Zarina Akhtar
Published on:
Fri 22 Jan 2021