A regular monthly feature by Elaine Henderson featuring noteworthy authors born in this month.
Who? Anne Rice (née Howard Allen Frances O’Brien), American author of Gothic fiction.
When? 4 October 1941
Where? New Orleans
Why should I read her work? : Rice’s compelling and influential vampire stories have sold over 100 million copies worldwide, and she has created an entirely new, richly complex and seductive version of the conventional, simplistic ‘Hammer horror film’ vampire image.
Try: Interview with the Vampire (1976), The Queen of the Damned (1988), Prince Lestat (2014)
Interesting fact: Always self-conscious about her given Christian name, Rice told teachers on her first day at school that her name was Anne, and she has been addressed as Anne ever since.
Who? Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist and short story writer
When? 27 October 1932
Why should I read her work? Plath’s powerful work is intensely autobiographical, detailing her struggle to come to terms with life’s difficulties and conflicts; Joyce Carol Oates described her poems as being ‘…chiselled, with a fine surgical instrument, out of arctic ice.’
Try:The Colossus and Other Poems (1960), The Bell Jar (1963), Ariel (1965)
Interesting fact: Plath suffered from lifelong clinical depression and described her despair as ‘like owl’s talons clenching my heart’.
Who? Katherine Mansfield (née Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp), New Zealand short story writer
When? 14 October 1888
Why should I read her work? Mansfield’s outstanding short stories were the first in English to be written in the ‘modernist’ style, without a conventional plot; her stories concentrate on one moment – a crisis or turning point – rather than a linear sequence of events.
Try: In a German Pension (1911), The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922), Something Childish and Other Stories (1924)
Interesting fact: Mansfield was an accomplished cellist and originally planned to become a professional musician.
Who? [Henry] Graham Greene, English novelist
When? 2 October 1904
Where? Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
Why should I read his work? Greene enjoyed both literary acclaim and widespread popularity and his novels, many of which explore ambivalent moral or political issues of the modern world, are still widely read today.
Try: Brighton Rock (1938), The Heart of the Matter (1948), The Quiet American (1955), Our Man in Havana (1958)
Interesting fact: Greene was recruited into MI6 during the Second World War and sent to Sierra Leone; his supervisor and friend at the agency was Kim Philby, later revealed as a Soviet agent.
Who? PG Wodehouse (Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse), English novelist
When? 15 October 1881
Where? Guildford, Surrey
Why should I read his work? To this day, Wodehouse is still one of the most widely-read English humourists, with his iconic creations such as Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves and the pig-loving Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle.
Try: Summer Lightning (1929), Right Ho, Jeeves (1934), Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963)
Interesting fact: Wodehouse was living in France when war broke out in 1939 and was subsequently interned by the Germans. In 1941, after being moved to a luxurious hotel in Berlin, he made five humorous broadcasts to the USA and Britain and, as a result, was reviled as a ‘traitor, collaborator, Nazi propagandist and a coward’ although he was never formally charged. He never returned to the country of his birth.
Who? [Fingal O’Flahertie Wills] Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, poet and essayist
When? 16 October 1854
Why should I read his work? From sparkling, witty society comedies to the dark imaginings of his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the bitter and heartfelt poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Wilde’s intellectual brilliance and versatility has no equal.
Try: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), An Ideal Husband (1895), The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898).
Interesting fact: Wilde, a homosexual, was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labour, which fatally damaged his health. He was one of 50,000 men pardoned for his offence under the Policing and Crime Act 2017.