Exciting news! Local author Helen Smith, who lives on the border of Brixton and Clapham, has just had her two novels based in the area republished ten years after their original release. The first, Alison Wonderland, is about a woman who joins an all-female detective agency in Brixton – it includes a scene on Clapham Common and another in Battersea Park . The second, Being Light, is about a man who flies away on a freak gust of wind while setting up a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park. Love Clapham has managed to get our grubby paws on two signed copies of the books to give away to two Clappers. If you’d like to win them, email in the answer to this question: what other famous female author spent some time living in Clapham? Winner to be announced on Friday 16th July. Learn more about the two books below.
Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith
When Alison joins Mrs Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation as a private detective, her new job takes her on a series of loosely linked adventures involving an abandoned baby, a transgenic animal and secret tunnels under The Thames. She travels from London to the seaside town of Weymouth and back again with her new best friend Taron, a girl with a hundred candle smile. But someone is betraying her. Is it Taron? Is it Jeff, the sweet-natured inventor who writes her poetry? Or are there darker forces at play?
- Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one. The Times
- Made me sigh and throw it to the floor in a fit of envious pique. Julie Burchill, Guardian
- A fantastical Thelma and Louise meets Agatha Christie adventure story. The dialogue is smart and the deadpan humour is perfectly judged. The List
Being Light by Helen Smith
Roy Travers is swept away by a freak gust of wind while trying to install a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park , south London . Sheila, his wife, can’t understand why he hasn’t found his way back home. She begins to suspect that Roy has been abducted by aliens and enlists the help of Mrs Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation to find him. Sheila travels to Kent with Alison, a private detective. Together they build a missing persons advertisement out of pebbles on a beach, hoping it will be seen by the aliens who have taken Roy . But Roy was not taken by aliens. The truth is far stranger.
- Smith has a keen eye for material details, but her prose is lucid and uncluttered by heavy description. Imagine a satire on Cool Britannia made by the Coen Brothers… very funny. Times Literary Supplement
- This is a novel in which the ordinary and the unusual are constantly juxtaposed in various idiosyncratic characters… Its airy quirkiness is a delight. The Times
- A screwball comedy that really works. The Independent
Helen Smith writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays. She travelled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both – from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant – before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel, Alison Wonderland. She’s a long-term supporter of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture and mentors members of an exiled writers group to help them tell their stories. Visit her blog.