A Distant Cry, Bungay

IAN COLLINS There was a full house at the Fisher Theatre for the launch of a new book of East Anglian short stories which also showcases some of the best contemporary writing in Britain.

IAN COLLINS

There was a full house at the Fisher Theatre on Saturday for the launch of a new book of East Anglian short stories which also showcases some of the best contemporary writing in Britain.

A Distant Cry – a volume containing tales by 20 writers from the Victorian era to date – was put together by Norwich publisher Peter Tolhurst and is already a local best-seller.

As a taster of the collection, novelist Louis de Bernieres compered a programme of spell-binding readings by four of the featured literary voices.

Elspeth Barker, who lives near Aylsham, read a haunting story about a war widow visiting her husband's grave in France.

Julia Blackburn, who is based near Halesworth, offered a saga called The Mermaid. Drawn from her novel The Leper's Companions, it dealt with magical events on the North Norfolk coast in 1410 which sparked a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Novelist and critic DJ Taylor, lately moving to his native Norwich to complete a biography of George Orwell, read a dark tale from Breckland in authentic West Norfolk accent.

And Esther Freud contributed a story called The Visit, which trailed a then unwritten and untitled novel set in and around Walberswick where she lives some of the time.

“Over the summer my cousin Emma rented a house in Southwold where her partner, Richard Curtis, could write. He never found the time to get there, but I did,” she said.

“So I took my laptop and bicycle over on the ferry and finished the novel which I now know will be called The Sea House. It will be published next year.”

t A Distant Cry: Stories from East Anglia is published by Black Dog Books at £14.95.

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