Spotlight on: Ruth Rendell

Ruth RendellAnother great author passed this year when prolific crime writer Ruth Rendell died on May 2 following complications from a stroke.

Best known as the creator of Chief Inspector Wexford, Rendell authored over 50 novels and numerous novellas, short stories and even a few non fiction titles.

The daughter of two teachers, Rednell was born in London in 1930, becoming a writer for the local Essex paper straight out of high school. Her first published novel came in 1964 with From Doon with Death, featuring the enduring Inspector Wexford. Rendell was known for providing a human side to many of the criminals in her stories, portraying them not as mindless evil stereotypes, but real people with desires, lives, families, and often mental illness.

Many stories were made into telemovies in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries in the 1980s.

She became a political figure in her later years, sitting in the House of Lords and providing large donations to the Labour party.

Spotlight on: Veronica Roth


Veronica Roth

It’s been ages since we highlighted a popular author (who hadn’t recently passed), so to reignite the spotlight series we’re focussing on the young adult author Veronica Roth. Roth herself is a young adult, having been born in 1988 and celebrating her 26th birthday in August.

Roth of course wrote the Divergent series. The runaway smash hit featuring a dystopian future society where people are sorted into ‘factions’ based on their core values and personal ambitions. Beatrice is born into Abnegation but doesn’t really fit into any specific faction when tested and is hence considered Divergent. This is not something you want to advertise, so the story revolves around her defection to another faction and the discovery of her society’s political motivations and sinister plans.

divergentDivergent spawned two sequels, Allegiant and Insurgent and a collection of short stories based on the point of view of another character called Four, and also a recent film starring Shailene Woodley.

Roth wrote Divergent during Summer break of her final year at Northwestern University studying creative writing, and sold the rights to the film just before she graduated. She lives with her husband Nelson Fitch in Chicago.


Spotlight on: Iain Banks

iaian banksIain Banks has been a library stalwart for the past two decades, writing both mainstream fiction and science fiction, the latter under the name Iain M Banks. 

Born in 1954 in Scotland, Iain started writing at an early age, writing his first book, The Hungarian Lift-Jet, at age 16. He found mainstream fame at the age of 30 when The Wasp Factory was published in 1984. The deal with his publisher was to write a book a year, enabling him to become a full-time writer.

Iain’s work has found outlets in  TV and radio, and Iain himself has appeared as a guest on the occasional celebrity talk show.

Iain was also prolific in his political commentary and opinion, having been a major contributor the the public outcry against the British involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  He went as far as cutting up his passport and posting it to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Iain published 27 novels, the last, The Quarry is set to be released next week. He died from cancer of the gallbladder at the age of 59.

Spotlight on: Bryce Courtenay

2012 seems to be replicating last year with the loss of some prolific Aussie authors.  Bryce Courtenay, well know for his popular and lengthy prose died last week on November 22 at the age of 79.

Arthur Bryce Courtenay was originally from South Africa, born in Johannesburg in 1933, but living in Lebombo until 1955. He met and married Benita whilst studying in London and then emigrated to Australia living in Sydney where he raised three children.

Hi first and possibly most famous novel, The Power of One, was published in 1989, shortly after being made into a film, and cementing Courtenay as a worldwide name. Each follow up book was met with great success, including Jessica, Tandia, Tommo and Hawk and others. His last book, Jack of Diamonds was published this year. Courtenay died from gastric cancer at home in Canberra.

Spotlight on: Joe Kubert

Comic book legend Joe Kubert died over the weekend following a long life as an industry great.  Kubert is best known as the founder of The Kubert School – a school of cartoon and graphic art that has been an industry leader since the 1970’s, and for the creation of iconic comic heroes including Sgt Rock, Hawkman,  and Tor.

Kubert’s family left Poland in the 1920’s settling in Brooklyn NY,  and was already being paid for cartoon illustrations when he was eleven years old. He was inking the famous Archie comics the very next year.

Kubert steadily found work freelancing and in steady employ over the next few decades, founding the Kubert School in 1972 in Dover New Jersey where he now resided. He still taught at the school one day a week in his later years. His school is well regarded as the ‘must attend’ school for aspiring comic book artists.
Joe died at the age of 85 from a variety of health issues.

Ireland mourns a ‘National Treasure’

Maeve Binchy, author of numerous works including Circle of Friends, Tara Road and Heart and Soul passed away last Tuesday (Australian Time) aged 72. The Irish novelist was the author of seventeen novels with her final work, A Week in Winter to see print towards the end of this year. Most of Binchy’s stories are set in Ireland, and are based around the tensions between urban and rural life, the differences between England and Ireland, and the changes in Ireland since the Second World War. A number of her novels are also interrelated, with characters from The Copper Beech appearing in Silver Wedding, The Lilac Bus, Evening Class, and Heart and Soul.

Maeve died on 30 July 2012 in a hospital in Dublin after a short illness. According to Enda Kenny, Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Ireland has “lost a national treasure”. Maeve was featured in our spotlight series in 2009.

Spotlight on Ray Bradbury

It’s been a bad year for the passing of authors, another literary great, Ray Bradbury died on Tuesday.

Bradbury was born August 22, 1920, and much of his early years were spent in the Carnegie Library in Illinois reading classic authors such as Verne, Poe, and Burroughs. He starting writing during this time, but states that meeting carnival performer ‘Mr Electrico‘  in 1932 changed him somehow and that he has written everyday since that encounter.

In 1938 he started publishing sci-fi stories in a variety of fanzines, publishing many collections of short stories in magazines during the 1940’s. His first major breakthrough and still possibly his most famous, was the Dystopian story, Farenheit 451 published, originally in Playboy magazine, but then as a novel in 1953. This story features a future where books are illegal, with ‘firemen’ tasked to destroy the written word. This title is required reading in most literary and librarian university courses. He went on to publish 27 novels and dozens of collections, essays  and contributions.

Bradbury died at the age of 91 from a lengthy illness.