Writers’ bookshelf Shamini Flint recommends To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Vintage, £7.99)
My five-year-old son asked me recently whether there was ‘really such a thing as a superhero.’ I admitted nervously that superheroes did not, actually, exist. ‘But who is going to save people from burning buildings?’ he demanded.
The first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I was not sure whether I wanted to be Scout or Atticus Finch. On the second or third reading, I decided on Atticus, and from that moment on I have waited for my ‘Atticus’ moment – you know the sort of thing – when I am called upon to remove my glasses and shoot a rabid dog or sit outside the county jail as a mob gathers….
Unexpectedly, it was my mother who first demonstrated courage to me. A housewife-turned-lawyer, she wore a black armband to court to mourn the death of an independent judiciary during one of the worst crackdowns of Malaysia’s Mahathir era. Inevitably, I followed Atticus – and my mother – into law. And when I started writing a fictional crime series based in contemporary
Asia and was contemplating the character of my policeman, my thoughts turned to Atticus again. I decided against making my cop so good-looking that Gregory Peck or some such actor would be called upon to play the movie role – Inspector Singh is overweight, sweaty and smelly. But, of critical importance to me, was that Singh,
albeit reluctantly, would always
step up to prevent an injustice and defend the innocent.
As a mother of two, I no longer wait for an ‘Atticus’ moment. In fact, I almost dread it – especially when the press in Malaysia ask me if I expect my first crime novel, A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, to get me into trouble with the authorities! But in answer to my son’s question, I tried to explain that we don’t need superheroes, just ordinary people willing to be brave when someone is in need. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird epitomised that idea of a hero. I hope Inspector Singh does too.
SHAMINI FLINT’s latest mystery, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul, is out now from Piatkus.
OUT NOW by Mslexia subscribers How I did it Bronia Kita
The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum by Bronia Kita (Picador, £12.99)
THE BOOK Wilbur McCrum is born in the wrong place at the wrong time: the American west in the late 19th Century. Narcoleptic and with a morbid fear of cows, he becomes an outlaw by accident, encounters madmen and conmen, men of God and women of the world; escapes bounty-hunters and bodysnatchers; and embarks on a variety of careers – including tending bars, working in a library and working in the kitchen of a brothel – but never gives up on finding the love of his life.
THE LONG HAUL I started out writing short stories and took a long time to complete this, my first novel. I submitted the opening paragraph to The Mail on Sunday First Novel Competition and won. But with two small children as well as a part-time job, I made slow progress and wasn’t able to find an agent willing to take me on. Then I saw a flyer for the Creative Writing MA at Goldsmiths, got a place on the course, and signed with an agent who had read
an extract of the novel on the Goldsmiths website. He found my book a home with publisher Picador.
MY ADVICE It’s important to allow other people to read your work, not
just friends and family. If you’re not in a position to enrol on a formal course, consider finding a writing group – as much for the validation of your need to write as for the practical criticism and feedback it will provide. However little spare time you have, try to find 20 minutes a day to write – and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t manage more. And above all, remember that your material is all around you: wherever you are, whoever you’re with, keep your eyes and ears open.
BRONIA KITA lives in South London with her husband and two children. She read English at York University and has worked as a librarian.
ALSO OUT NOW:
FICTION > Bitter Fame by Emma Lee (YouWriteOn, £7.99) > The Search by Maureen Myant (Alma Books, £12.99) > A Place of Safety by Tamsin Reeves (YouWriteOn, £6.99) > In Restoration by Valerie Thornhill (Austin & Macauley, £9.99)
STORY COLLECTIONS > Dark Tales Vol. XIV. Includes Jane Hayward (Dark Tales Publishing, £3.99)
AUTOBIOGRAPHY > Through the Net by Madeleine Slade (Outsider Publications, £6.95)
ANTHOLOGIES > The Mechanics’ Institute Review: Issue 6. Includes Kavita Jindal (Birkbeck, £7.99)
POETRY > Skylight by Carole Bromley (Smith/Doorstop, £4.00) > Foray: Border Reiver Women by Pippa Little (Biscuit Press, £6.99) > When the Sun Turns Green by Jane McKie (Polygon, £8.99) > Feeding Humming Birds by Melanie Penycate (Oversteps Books, £8.00)
NONFICTION > Southborough War Memorial by Judith Johnson (Odd Dog Press, £14.99) > A Trans-Siberian Odyssey by Kate Young (Fast-print.net, £7.99)
CHILDREN’S FICTION > Goodnight, Magic Moon byJanet Bingham (Scholastic, £10.99)
YOUNG ADULTS > Troubadour by Mary Hoffman (Bloomsbury, £10.99) > Play the Game by Corinne Williams (o-books, £9.99)
54 | Mslexia.co.uk | Oct / Nov / Dec 09