Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, pp388
Will Loxley’s first biography concerns the fortunes of Horizon magazine, the influential 1940s literary title that Cyril Connolly edited, George Orwell and Graham Greene contributed to and Evelyn Waugh vocally detested. Loxley has an engaging and readable style and there is a refreshing lack of reverence in his account of the bitchiness and backstabbing that the writers of the era (verby)indulged in. Writing in the Dark is packed with intriguing, often hilarious, anecdotes, and although Loxley could do with toning down the more overblown aspects of his prose, still this is a promising debut.
One, £16.99, pp408
The villainous Inspector Edward Noone, first introduced in Paul Howarth’s 2018 Only Killers and Thieves, is one of the most compelling antagonists in recent historical fiction. His return in its sequel is to be celebrated, and if the rest of the novel – revolving around the consequences of a genocidal massacre in 19th-century Australia – cannot quite compare to its villain in intensity, then it is testament to Howarth’s skill as a writer that his narrative both engages and challenges in its accomplished depiction of a brutal and violent age.
Inspire, £8.99, pp320
Melanie Hewitt’s effervescent and charming Corfu-set novel is an engaging saga of a book illustrator’s journey in the footsteps of the Durrells and a witty and knowing commentary on the folly – or joy – of taking life inspiration from one’s favourite authors. Although the literary influence here is drawn more heavily from cosy Gerald than the less ingratiating Lawrence, the refreshing vivacity and lack of unearned sentimentality in Hewitt’s account of personal awakening makes this hugely readable book considerably more than a cash-in on all things Durrellian.