North West Literary Salon 4th March: Spring Awakening

By Shona Jackson

With spring lingering on the horizon, and a long catalogue of alphabetised storms (hopefully) behind us, the grey skies and icy northern winds are beginning to mellow. If you’re still thawing from the winter months, then get your FREE tickets and wander along to the North West Literary Salon on Friday 4th March at 7pm, for a restorative bout of literary sunshine with our esteemed writers. As always, there’ll be music, nibbles and an abundance of engaging conversation.

CharlesLamberNovelist Charles Lambert lives and writes in the central Italian town of Fondi. His debut novel Little Monsters is a bildungsroman, bridging the landscapes of WWII Britain, and post-war Italy. Beautifully written and intensely thrilling, we follow the protagonist’s journey through time, as sinister threads from the past threaten to unfurl once again in the present. His most recent book, The Children’s Home, is a gripping neo-gothic fairy tale, described by Kirkus Reviews as a ‘one-of-a-kind literary horror story’. Lambert follows in the vein of greats such as Nail Gaiman and Roald Dahl, yet with psychological unease, palpitating suspense and surprising glimmers of hope, Lambert’s work promises a refreshing twist on classic genres.

KirstyLogan_CreditToMonkeytwizzleWriter and journalist Kirsty Logan resides in Glasgow with her fiancé and rescue dog. Her enchanting short story collection The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, takes an age-old form and reshapes it with the lick of modernity. Adorned with fantastical imagery, her short stories navigate clockwork hearts, paper men, lascivious queens and a floating circus. The collection was the acclaimed winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection, among numerous other accolades. Her debut novel The Gracekeepers features the dreamy yet tumultuous seascapes of a flooded world, and traces the journeys of two women fighting against an encroaching tide.

For a little spring awakening this month, join us at the North West Literary Salon on the 4th March for thrillers, fairy tales and thought-provoking discussion.


February Literary Salon: A Master Class in Death and Destruction


by Shona Jackson



On Friday 5th, Lancaster is dark and dank, streetlights glare, and the wind moans as I make my way along King Street. Inside the salon the brooding atmosphere continues, with gripping readings of a slightly sinister nature from our esteemed writers.

Acclaimed novelist, poet and playwright Dennison Smith kicks off the evening with a reading from her latest book, Eye of the Day. Her lilting drawl takes us to 1930’s Vermont, on a night guttering with fire and rain. In the dark, a locomotive crashes and a man is impaled, in a gripping scene of tragedy and violence, pitted in the wilderness. An extract from a further chapter brings us back within the safety of four walls, though domestic space in the novel proves equally as disconcerting. A faded woman sucks martini olives, trading uncomfortable truths with her nephew who lingers uneasily. Dennison is an expert at painting subtle shades of violence- from external, explosive events within the earthy landscape to internalised trauma framed within domestic walls. As she reads, she enthrals her audience. She seems to be speaking from inside the novel, within the shoes of her characters. Later, in the Q & A, Smith speaks about the personal threads of the narrative, her familiarity with the landscape and the intertwined strands of her own family history.

Writer and lecturer Sarah Dobbs reads the first chapter of her debut novel Killing Daniel. We enter the narrative in a submersion, as a thrashing body is plunged into a lake and held down. It’s a gripping, nightmarish montage, rich in textures: worn brown leather, a glimpsed tattoo, purpled lips and water-pooled eyes. The scene is vivid, arresting, with almost lyrical descriptions balancing the grotesqueness of the murder. After, as though for light relief, Sarah reads a commissioned short story, Bone in the Ant. She takes us inside a bustling café, loud with chatter and the slurp of drinks. Cutting through the chaos with chilling clarity are the absentminded thoughts of an adolescent girl, pondering how to kill her twin, who suffers from locked-in syndrome. Not so light relief. Sarah is endearing as she reads, re-writing her work as she goes, I’m going to change that bit. Yet, as it is, her work is startling, poignant, and effortlessly evocative. A further string is added to her bow with the reading of a poem, I Will Repeat You– a heart-wrenching conversation with grief.

Both writers are experts at extremes- crafting intricate scenes of violence, trauma and pain. Their work is a testament to their talent as writers, and their ability to imagine beyond their own parameters. As Dennison Smith macabrely remarks in the Q and A, it only takes killing a fly to experience, albeit on a minute scale, the act of murder.