Who? Angela (Olive) Carter (nee Stalker), English novelist, short story writer, journalist
When? 7 May 1940
Where? Eastbourne, Sussex
Why should I read her work? One of the most distinctive literary voices of the 20th century, Carter boldly used ‘magical realism’ to reinvent traditional fairy and folk tales, challenging the way women were commonly represented as weak and helpless.
Try: The Magic Toyshop (1967), The Bloody Chamber (1979), Nights at the Circus (1984)
Interesting fact: In 2012, Nights at the Circus was selected as the best ever winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
Who? Ruth Prawer Jhabvala CBE (nee Prawer), German-born British and American novelist, short story writer and screenwriter
When? 7 May 1927
Where? Cologne, Germany
Why should I read her work? Prawer Jhabvala moved to India becoming a perceptive and acute commentator on, and observer of, the nuances of Indian life, often dealing with western characters that are in search of spiritual enlightenment.
Try: Heat and Dust (1975), Out of India (1986)
Interesting fact: Prawer Jhabvala is the only writer ever to have won the Booker Prize (for Heat and Dust) and two Oscars (for her film adaptations of A Room with a View and Howards End).
Who? Daphne du Maurier OBE, (Lady Browning), English novelist
When? 13 May 1907
Why should I read her work? A bestselling author, long disregarded by critics but now recognised for her skilful storytelling and the subtle interweaving of often ambivalent and sinister overtones.
Try: Rebecca (1938), Jamaica Inn (1939), Frenchman’s Creek (1941), The King’s General (1946), The House on the Strand (1969)
Interesting fact: Rebecca was an immediate success and has never been out of print (still selling around 4000 copies worldwide a month); it has been adapted for the stage and screen countless times.
Who? Edward Lear, English artist, illustrator, musician, author, poet
When? 12 May 1812
Where? Holloway, Middlesex
Why should I read his work? His ‘nonsense’ verses reveal considerable verbal dexterity, a poet’s delight in the sound of words and a quirky sense of humour.
Try: The Complete Nonsense and Other Verse (Penguin Classics), ed V Noakes, The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear (illustrated by JV Lord), both modern publications.
Interesting fact: Lear was a serious and well-respected ornithological draughtsman and painter of landscapes – one of which is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Who? Arnold (Enoch) Bennett, English novelist
When? 27 May 1867
Where? Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Why should I read his work? Bennett’s work is an important link between the English novel and mainstream European realism; he portrayed the lives of people living and working in the Potteries, describing their ambitions and frustrations and the restrictions of provincial life.
Try: Anna of the Five Towns (1902), The Old Wives’ Tale (1908), Clayhanger (1910)
Interesting fact: Bennett is possibly the only writer to have had an omelette named after him! Omelette Arnold Bennett is a fluffy, open omelette made with smoked haddock, parmesan and cream; it is still served daily at the Savoy Hotel in London where it was created for him.
Who? Ian (Lancaster) Fleming, English novelist
When? 28 May 1908
Why should I read his work? Fleming created the archetypal high-living, stylish and clever secret agent playboy hero, James Bond, now intrinsically woven into popular culture.
Try: Casino Royale (1953), Live and Let Die (1954), From Russia with Love (1957), Goldfinger (1959)
Interesting fact: The James Bond film franchise is one of the longest-running franchises in film history and has to date grossed more than $1 billion.