9 famous authors from Norfolk and Suffolk
- Credit: David Kirkham
Much of Ruth Rendell’s writing was inspired by and set in East Anglia. The prolific crime writer was born and grew up in Essex and started out as a journalist and later moved to Suffolk.
Many of her police procedural stories, some of which were adapted for television, featured her best-known character, Chief Inspector Wexford. She also wrote a series of stand-alone crime novels, which delved into the psyche of the criminals and the background of her victims. She also wrote another series of novels under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, including A Fatal Inversion, which was also adapted for television.
Cited as one of the greatest living authors during his time, German writer and academic WG Sebald became a lecturer at UEA in 1970 and lived at Wymondham. His notable works include Vertigo, Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn, about a walking tour of East Anglia. In 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of his birth, Norwich Castle Museum held a major exhibition, Lines of Sight, which featured archive material, curiosities and previously unseen photographs.
Gothic fiction writer Sarah Perry was born in Chelmsford and lives in Norwich. Her acclaimed debut novel, After Me Comes The Flood, won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2014. Her second, The Essex Serpent, was Waterstones’ Book of the Year in 2016 and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Inspired by the myth of a sea serpent which stalks the Essex coast it is currently being turned into a TV mini series starring Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes. Her third novel, Melmoth, followed in 2018 and last year Essex Girls, a celebration of the brilliant women of her birth county was published.
Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, was born in Church Plain, Great Yarmouth. The family moved to east London when she was young, but she spend the last decade of her life back in Norfolk, in Old Catton, on the outskirts of Norwich. It was there where she wrote the book which became one of the best-selling children’s novels ever – even though it was actually intended as a book for adults.
Best known for the popular fantasy series His Dark Materials, which has recently been adapted for TV, Philip Pullman was born in Norwich and his work features references to East Anglia, Norwich and the Fens.
Novelist and playwright Esther Freud, who has a home on the Suffolk coast, was named one of the 20 Best of Young British Novelists by Granta magazine in 1993, following the publication of her debut, Hideous Kinky, which went on to be made into a film starring Kate Winslet. Her other novels include Gaglow, The Wild, The Sea House and Mr Mac and Me, which was inspired by the time Charles Rennie Mackintosh spent in Suffolk.
One of the most celebrated crime writers of all time, PD James spent much time at Southwold, where she had a home. Her series of detective novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh brought her fame and many went on to be adapted for television by Anglia TV, starring Roy Marsden as the police commander and poet. Children of Men was turned into a film directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, and Death Comes to Pemberley, a murder mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice was turned into a BBC mini series starring Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys.
Louis de Bernieres
Louis de Bernieres’s big breakthrough came with his fourth book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was turned into a film starring John Hurt, Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. He has a home near Bungay in Suffolk.
Award winning Norwich and London-based novelist and short story writer Rose Tremain studied English literature at UEA, which set her on the path to becoming a writer. She was one of the university’s first students in the 1960s and her lecturers included Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson. Her books include Restoration, Music and Silence, The Road Home, Gustav Sonata and her latest, Islands of Mercy, was published last autumn. She maintained her links with UEA, teaching on the university’s famous creative writing MA course in the 80s and 90s and in 2013 she was appointed chancellor.