FIVE GREAT BOOKS FROM THE NORTH EAST OF ENGLAND
THE FAR CORNER: A MAZY DRIBBLE THROUGH NORTHEAST FOOTBALL Harry Pearson (Abacus, £9.99) Published in 1995, Pearson’s account of a season spent watching football between the Tweed and the Tees is still as fresh and insightful as it ever was. From a packed St James’ Park to colliery welfare grounds with barely a hundred people watching, Pearson’s warm, witty prose evokes the history and spirit of a region in a way that makes this much more than a football book.
LOVING GEORDIE Angela Badenoch (Pan Macmillan, o/p) Andrea Badenoch’s fourth novel is a gritty, lucidly-written account of the murder of two young girls in a derelict house among the slum-clearances of early 1960s Newcastle. Written as Badenoch battled the cancer that would kill her, Loving Geordie demonstrates just what a loss this Tyneside-born writer was to literary crime fiction. Based loosely on the infamous Mary Bell case, it’s a book gallingly hard to find these days, but well worth the search.
PIG IRON Benjamin Myers (Bluemoose Books, £7.99) If there was any kind of justice Ben Myers would be waist deep in literary awards, for his most recent book The Gallows Pole alone. His visions of England and Englishness are so vivid you can practically smell the soil, and the Durham-set Pig Iron is a brilliant example of what he does best. It’s the story of John-john, an ice-cream seller just released from a young offenders’ institution and feeling the restless legs of his Traveller background, and his bareknuckle boxer father Mac. A brilliant and warmly human portrayal of those society leaves behind.
THE TAXI DRIVER’S DAUGHTER Julia Darling (Penguin, o/p) Another hard-to-find title from another author taken too soon by cancer, The Taxi Driver’s Daughter evokes suburban and family life in the north east in a way that should be required reading for any politician professing to understand the lives of ordinary people. Darling was born in the Winchester house in which Jane Austen died but moved to Newcastle in her 20s, immediately developing an affinity for the city and the region. This was her last book.
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE the Venerable Bede (Penguin Classics, £10.99) Written in the early 730s, this subjective history of questionably accurate research is one of the most important works of literature in English history. This Benedictine monk scribbling away in a Jarrow monastery left us a vivid and invaluable account of a period from which few written sources survive.
For this reason alone Bede’s history deserves its place among the greatest works in the story of our nation.