After the RAF, Adrian Bleese began working for Suffolk Constabulary and spent twelve years flying on police helicopters. In Above The Law he recounts the most intriguing, challenging, amusing and downright baffling episodes in his career working for Suffolk Constabulary and the National Police Air Service. Rescuing lost walkers, chasing cars down narrow country lanes, searching for a rural cannabis factory and disrupting an illegal forest rave…they’re all in a day’s work.
It’s a side of policing that most of us never see, and he describes it with real compassion as he lives his dream job, indulging his love of flying, the English landscape and helping people. Perhaps more than anything, it’s a story about hope.
“I have been incredibly privileged to get to see the things I saw, do the things I did and get to know the people I was lucky enough to fly alongside. This book allows me to share my perspective on the world we flew over and the work we did and also to show people a little of what went on, a little of the work done every day by people up and down the country to keep them safe.
“I’m very much looking forward to the Festival. When I moved to East Anglia it was to Bury St Edmunds that I came. I’ve not yet managed to live there, and I love where I live on the Suffolk Coast, but Bury has a real place in my heart. This is my first festival as an author and so I am really rather excited at the prospect.“
This promises to be an entertaining and intriguing event.
D J Taylor
Norwich born David Taylor has written over 26 books, a dozen novels among them. These include English Settlement, which won a Grinzane Cavour Award, Trespass and Derby Day, both long-listed for the Booker Prize, Kept, a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year, The Windsor Faction, joint winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and, most recently, Rock and Roll is Life: The True Story of the Helium Kids by One Who Was There. He has published two collections of short stories, with a third, Stewkey Blues, due to come out next year.
He is also an acclaimed and prolific writer of non-fiction and literary critic, writing regularly for newspapers and periodicals His book A Vain Conceit: British Fiction in the 1980s took potshots at the London literary establishment and the recently published The Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature 1939-1951 shone a light on the lives of the young women seeking to find a place for themselves in London’s literary scene. He writes (anonymously) literary parodies in Private Eye and in 2016 The New Book of Snobs: A Definitive Guide to Modern Snobbery.
He has written two magisterial biographies, one the life of Thackeray and a Whitbread prize-winning biography of Orwell. David is currently annotating Orwell’s novels as well as writing a new updated biography Orwell: the New Life and it is this he will talk about at the Festival.
“Last year has consisted of working, exercising, dog-walking, volunteering for local food bank and watching box sets. I yearn to attend the Festival, having not attended anything resembling a literary gathering (except online) since March 2020.”
David is married to the best selling novelist, Rachel Hore, who is also appearing at the Festival.
Julia Blackburn was born in London, 1948, the only child of the poet Thomas Blackburn and the painter Rosalie de Meric. She has two children, one stepdaughter and four grandchildren and was married to the Dutch sculptor Herman Makkink from 1999 until his death in 2013. She lives in Suffolk and sometimes in northern Italy.
She started as a writer of fiction and was shortlisted for both the Orange and the Esquire/Waterstones prizes.
She then turned to non fiction, to biography and memoir for which she has been shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award, the Ondaatje Prize and the Wainwright Prize. She has also received the J.R.Ackerley Award, the East Anglian Book of the Year Award and the New Angle Prize as well as the National Book Critics’ Award (US) and the Deems Taylor Award (US) Julia has also written poetry and plays.
Liz Trenow was born and brought up in Sudbury, Suffolk next to the mill which is the oldest family-owned silk weaving company in Britain and one of just three still operating today. She worked as a journalist with regional and national newspapers and on BBC radio and television news for 15 years before starting to write fiction. She is the author of a series of closely researched best selling historical novels, mainly set in East Anglia. Her latest novel is The Secrets of the Lake which was inspired by Wormingford Mere, a lake near Bures, and the medieval legend that a dragon lived in its depths. Liz still lives in East Anglia with her artist husband.
This year’s Festival will end with An Evening with Jan Etherington. Jan is a multi-award-winning comedy writer. She has written for local and national newspapers and magazines as well as being an entertaining broadcaster.
She is best known – and best loved – as a script and play writer for stage, television, and radio. Her gentle, but perceptive (sometimes uncomfortably so) comedy has universal appeal. Many listeners identify with the couple in her hugely popular BBC Radio 4’s Conversations From a Long Marriage which stars Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam and it turns out this isn’t restricted to older listeners either: “When we were recording, a 21 year old production assistant, told me after we had finished one scene: ‘I had exactly that conversation with my girlfriend this morning,’ which pleased me no end.”
This is going to be an evening to remember.
Jan has always written comedy, having started young contributing to her school magazine. Her early career, as a journalist, began on music magazines and continued through features, humorous columns and star interviews for major newspapers and magazines. She is still works as a freelance newspaper writer, contributing travel, features and comment articles to many national newspapers and magazines, as well as a monthly column to the Suffolk magazine.
Rachel is a million copy Sunday Times bestselling author, has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year, and was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick. She is an Honorary Lecturer in Creative Writing at UEA. She is the author of ten beautifully written and very enjoyable novels, many of which are woven from the past (accurately portrayed thanks to her training as an historian) and the present. Her latest book A Beautiful Spy was inspired by the life of Olga Gray.
“I was researching an idea for another novel entirely when I came across Olga’s story in a biography of the spymaster Maxwell Knight (‘M’) and was immediately fascinated by her gruelling career spying on British Communists in the 1930s. She was on the surface a very ordinary middle-class woman and yet she put her work for the Secret Service above the traditional destiny of marriage and children. I was also intrigued by the nature of her relationship with her charismatic handler, who became her anchor, and how she negotiated working in a man’s world. Her tenacity and integrity made her extraordinary, but at great personal cost and I wanted to explore her inner life in fiction.”
Bury born Nicola Upson is the author of a hugely enjoyable series of novels starring Josephine Tey, one of the Queens of the Golden Age of crime writing. Tey was a remarkable woman, living in remarkable times, and each novel blends fact and fiction, setting its crimes among the people and events which defined the 1930s, from the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the pioneering early days of the BBC, to momentous changes in women’s lives and the national upheaval of the abdication. The latest novel in the series, The Dead of Winter, includes Marlene Deitrich in its cast of characters and references the rise of the Nazis.
“To take part in Bury St Edmunds Litfest always means such a lot to me, not just because it’s a great festival with an exciting programme and a wonderful bookshop in Waterstones, but because it’s the town where I grew up and I love it. Bury, and Suffolk in general, have been inspirational to me all my life, and have cheered my books on from the very beginning, so to be back talking about the ninth novel in the series, with a crime writer whose work I admire, is very special, particularly after the difficult year we’ve all had.”
Comic writer Simon Edge will open this year’s Festival talking about his latest book Anyone for Edmund, which Francis Young calls; “Gripping, funny and richly entertaining. Not only a compelling read, but also grounded in real history and the genuine questions of national identity that are still thrown up by the legacies of medieval patron saints.”.
Anyone for Edmund takes aim at politicians who never miss an opportunity to promote themselves. “A perfect marriage of archaeology, patron sainthood, and Downing Street dirt.”
He will talk about the genesis of his novel, the benefits of telling historical stories in a modern setting, and the ups and downs of publishing his tale in the year everything was cancelled.
Simon is a former journalist and gossip columnist so is familiar with the world he satirises in Anyone for Edmund. His books mix historical facts and figures (and, in one book, the Creator) with warm hearted comedy and satire. He is also a publisher, editor and enthusiastic yoga practitioner.
Before becoming a crime writer, William Shaw was an award-winning music journalist and the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns in the Observer Magazine.
Starting out as assistant editor of the post-punk magazine ZigZag, he has been a journalist for The Observer, The New York Times, Wired, Arena and The Face and was Amazon UK Music Journalist of the Year in 2003.
William’s series featuring DS Cathal Breen and the brash young constable Helen Tozer are set in late sixties London amidst the cultural and political revolution of the times. They have been called “an elegy for an entire alienated generation.”
Following his acclaimend novel, The Birdwatcher, set in the bleak landscape of Dungeness, he has written a contemporary series also set there featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi, a woman making hjer way in what is still a male dominated world.
“To convince readers our murders are real we have to build a plausible world around them. Crime fiction often does that by bringing the real world and its issues into the plot. Detective fiction at its best is not just an examination into one or two murders; it’s about detecting something bigger about the world. At least, that’s the bit I really, really enjoy.”
Dr Francis Young
Dr Francis Young is a well known historian with a particular interest in Counter-Reformation culture and popular religion (including magic and the supernatural) in England. He is also an expert on St Edmund and his Abbey in Bury St Edmunds, the ruins of which are in the glorious Abbey Gardens. Edmund was the martyred monarch of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia and England’s first patron saint. Francis firmly believes that St Edmund’s body will be found somewhere beneath the Abbey Gardens, possibly under the site of the old tennis courts and has set out his theories in Edmund In search of England’s lost King.
Francis is an entertaining speaker as well as being a knowledgeable one. Following Simon Edge’s appearance at the Festival talking about his satirical novel Anyone for Edmund (in which Edmund’s body is indeed found), Francis will talk about the real Edmund and his cult both here in England and in Ireland and France.
Matt Gaw is a writer, journalist and naturalist who lives in Bury St Edmunds. His first book, The Pull of the River, was released last year and chronicles the adventures of Matt and his friend James as they explored Britain’s rivers by canoe.
Matt has had work published in the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Times. He works with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, edits Suffolk Wildlife and writes a monthly country diary for the Suffolk Magazine.
The Pull of the River, ‘a journey into the wild and watery heart of Britain’, has been described as a beautifully written debut exploring nature, place and friendship. There are moments of real peril and breath-taking encounters with nature. Their travels take them from the Waveney and the Lark and other rivers close to home, to the exhilarating white water of the Wye, the vast expanse of a Scottish loch and wild camping on the Thames. Matt has written an ode to the great art – and joy – of adventure.