Praise for ‘Virgin & Child’

The reviews for Virgin & Child are in – and they’re amazingly positive. ‘Clever and intriguing’ Niamh Donnelly, The Irish Times. ‘Lively and sympathetic…. read the book’ Caroline Bowder, Church Times. ‘A compelling alternative papal mystery’ Elizabeth Fitzherbert, The Lady. ‘Invokes thriller tropes… journalistic observation and lyrical descriptions’ Michèle Roberts, The Tablet. ‘A thinking person’s page-turner’ Michael Bartholomew-Briggs, London Grip magazine. ‘Deserving of wide public attention… unique, bold and challenging’ Paul Burke, NB Magazine

Podcast on ‘Virgin & Child’

Danny Rhodes, author of Asboville, Soldier Boy and Fan, and Creative Writing Lecturer at the Canterbury Christ Church University, has interviewed me about how and why I wrote Virgin & Child – you can listen to the podcast here:

First reviews for ‘Virgin & Child’

I’m delighted to have received two reviews for my new novel well ahead of the 2 April publication date – from Paul Simon of the Morning Star
and Barry Forshaw at CrimeTime
The Morning Star review has serious spoilers, so here’s a quote for those who don’t want to look yet:
‘Gripping… Hamand goes on to relate a tale so humanely, so movingly and with such authorial depth and deftness that the reader would have to be a saint not to read it through in one enormous sitting.’

Welcome to my new website

Welcome to my new website! After five years writing my next novel, Virgin & Child, as part of a PhD, I am emerging back into daylight! I’m now writing part of an Online Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, as well as continuing to teach on the Complete Creative Writing Course at the Groucho Club in Soho. I will now be posting news, writing tips and book reviews on a regular basis.

Fathers and Sons launch

I’m looking forward to the launch this evening at Daunt Books, Marylebone High Street, of our tutor Howard Cunnell’s beautiful memoir, Father and Sons. It tells the story of his growing up without a father, and later in life his reaction to his daughter becoming his son. It’s a book which explores masculinity in all its complexity and vulnerability, with unflinching honesty and in vivid and evocative prose. This stunning book has received stand-out reviews – the Financial Times described it as: ‘Truly heart-stopping writing: a unique and hard-won perspective unfolded in lucid and unforgettable prose” and it is soon to be a BBC Book of the Week. Congratulations to Howard for his achievement, and I look forward to raising a glass tonight!

Bath Prize long-listing for CCWC student

Many congratulations to former CCWC student Elisa Lodato, who took our original and intermediate courses in 2008. She’s been long-listed for the Bath Novel Award and her novel, An Unremarkable Body, is to be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in December 2017. You can read an interview with Elisa here on the Bath Novel Award website.

Keeping my head down

I haven’t posted for a while and this is for the very good reason that I have been keeping my head down and working away on my next novel. Since April it has gone from a mass of disconnected scenes to a coherent 84,000-word second draft.

I’ve made trips to Ireland and Rome for research (it’s such a good idea to set parts of your novel in foreign places!) and given the draft to my first readers for feedback.

As always when writing a novel, it’s a massive struggle and I never feel I know what I am doing. And then it starts to come together and repay the effort I’ve put in.

I came across a quote this morning from the 14th Century German mystic Meister Eckhart: ‘Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.’ And I thought; that’s what it feels like to sit down to write. As a writer, you are always a beginner, even if you’ve done it many times before. There is never a right way, an easy way, a method that works, just that terrifying – and then sometimes exhilarating – place of not knowing.

Event at Hackney’s newest bookshop!

On Thursday 12th May Burley Fisher books will host a panel discussion on British crime writing. Critic Barry Forshaw will be joined by local novelists Maggie Hamand, Melanie McGrath and Laura Wilson for a conversation on their writing, setting it in the context of the vibrant British crime writing scene.

Copies of Barry Forshaw’s new book, Brit Noir, as well as books by all three novelists, will be for sale, and the panelists will be available for a signing after the discussion.

7pm, Entry £3, includes a glass of wine!

Burley Fisher Books is at 400 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA

@burleyfisher | 020 7249 2263

CCWC Writer’s Book Launch 7 April 2016

On Thursday 7th April, in Bloomsbury’s Gay’s the Word, Sarah Walton lights up the night with the launch of her new novel RUFIUS. ‘Highly recommended’ by the Morning Star and compared to writing by Gore Vidal, this is a tremendous story of religious crisis and illicit love in 4th Century Alexandria.
Expect the remarkable, with an appearance by Rufius himself, magicked by the Olivier-award winning Christopher Green.

All CCWC writers welcome!


My best (and worst) books of 2015

I’ve decided that 2016 is going to be the year when I review books I read – on Amazon and on my blog! Too late to do it retrospectively, so here, a little belatedly, are my stand-out reads, both good and bad, in 2015.

I tend to read one book I like by an author and then starting reading the whole oeuvre – this year it’s been the Irish writers Brian Moore and John McGahern. I started Brian Moore with his fantastically terse and gripping Lies of Silence, and other stand-out books of his were The Colour of Blood and Cold Heaven. Moore’s writing is masterly in its economy. A friend gave me McGahern’s debut, The Barracks, and I’ve also been reading his amazing short stories,  as well as The Dark, The Pornographer, and The Leavetaking. I’m about to start That They May Face the Rising Sun. And on my Irish theme I’ve also finally been reading George Moore’s 1905 classic The Lake, which is remarkably fresh today.

On reading a review by Jonathan Frantzen of the “greatest realist novel of the postwar era”, I read Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters. I found this hard to get into, and very far from meeting Frantzen’s claim, but ultimately rewarding. At least I think it was rewarding. There’s a stand-out scene where the couple catch a cat and take it to the vet. It’s utterly mundane and yet utterly gripping. It  may sound weird but I’m really glad to have read it just for that one scene!

On summer holiday I was completely spellbound by a debut thriller by Paul Hardisty with the intriguing title The Abrupt Physics of Dying. The book is an environmental thriller set in Yemen in the 1980s and deals with the oil business. The author works in the field and knows what he’s talking about and it really shows. I love intelligent, well-written thrillers and there aren’t enough of them around – I really couldn’t put this one down, and it’s thought-provoking too, staying with you long after you’ve turned the final page. It was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey (new blood) Dagger and in my opinion should have won.

I also read Ali Smith’s startlingly original How To Be Both. I had made a false start earlier in the year because the version I bought ( the book was printed with the two different sections in random order) started with the Eye section – which I couldn’t get into. But then someone told me that if I started with the Camera section first it would all make sense – and it did. I’m not sure that the random printing of two versions worked, but I’m glad I read this delightfully clever and sometimes affecting work.

The books I didn’t enjoy? Well, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant just plodded on and on  most unrewardingly. I can’t help feeling that it was a mistake for an author whose main strength is his handling of memory and internal narrative to make his main characters lose their memories, and to use a detached omniscient voice throughout. He’s such a brilliant writer but this was a complete dud for me. And Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch! I had read wildly opposing reviews, so I saved it up for an uninterrupted week away to give it my full attention.  I was seriously disappointed. There were flashes of brilliance and some scenes really held my attention, but other parts simply dragged. The book seemed to lurch wildly from one genre to another. The narrative relied too much on coincidence and the central metaphor of the goldfinch was never adequately revealed. I knew before I began reading that in medieval and renaissance art the goldfinch, usually seen in paintings of the Madonna and child, symbolises the foreknowledge of Christ’s passion, so I expected this motif to underpin the narrative, but it didn’t seem to. I sensed that Tartt wanted to avoid any suggestion of spirituality anywhere in the story – she has written in an essay that: ‘the novel in its history and genesis is an emphatically secular art form: the product of a secular society, addressing primarily secular concerns’. If this is her point, then why use a religious metaphor for the title and subject of the work? I have to say that, despite enjoying some of the sections, especially the Las Vegas one, I was left frustrated and puzzled.