A regular monthly feature by Elaine Henderson featuring noteworthy authors born in this month.
Who? [Dame] Agatha [Mary Clarissa] Christie, Lady Mallowan (née Miller), English crime novelist, short story writer and playwright
When? 15 September 1890
Where? Torquay, Devon
Why should I read her work? The ‘Queen of Crime’, Christie introduced many of the now classic motifs of the detective story genre and wove them together into a satisfying ‘puzzle’.
Try: The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
Interesting fact: Christie was suspected of being a spy during the Second World War; she had named one of her characters Major Bletchley and it was feared that she had a contact at the top secret code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park!
Who? Mary Renault (née Eileen Mary Challans), English writer
When? 4 September 1905
Where? Forest Gate, Essex (now Greater London)
Why should I read her work? Although she was not a Classicist by training, Renault was widely praised for her scrupulous recreation of the world of Ancient Greece; she was a global best-seller by 1970.
Try: The King Must Die (1958), The Bull from the Sea (1962), Fire from Heaven (1969), The Persian Boy (1972)
Interesting fact: Renault trained as a nurse and specialised in treating casualties of the Second World War, lending a sharp-edged realism to the depiction of war wounds in her novels.
Who? Fay Weldon (née Franklin Birkinshaw), English author, essayist and playwright
When? 22 September 1931
Why should I read her work? Weldon’s strong, feisty heroines reflect the conflicting emotions and desires of contemporary women reaching for greater independence for themselves, whilst balancing the claims of husbands, lovers, children, parents, friends..
Try: Down Among the Women (1971), Praxis (1978), The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983), Growing Rich (1992)
Interesting fact: In the 1950s, Weldon worked for 18 months in the Foreign Office writing Cold War propaganda.
Who? Upton (Beall) Sinclair, American novelist, journalist, political activist
When? 20 September 1878
Where? Baltimore, Maryland
Why should I read his work? Castigated as a ‘muck raker’, Sinclair fearlessly exposed corruption and dangerous practices, challenging American industrial capitalism at its very core.
Try: The Jungle (1906), King Coal (1917), Oil! (1927)
Interesting fact: The Jungle exposed appalling labour and sanitary conditions in the US meat packing industry and caused such outrage that the laws governing hygiene in the industry were changed a few months after its publication.
Who? H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells, English writer
When? 21 September 1866
Where? Bromley, Kent
Why should I read his work? Acknowledged as ‘a father of science fiction’, Wells is best remembered today for his futuristic novels about time travel, alien invasion, experimental science and warfare.
Try: The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897), War of the Worlds (1898), The War in the Air (1908), The Shape of Things to Come (1933)
Interesting fact: Wells said that his epitaph should read: You damned fools! I told you so.
Who? T(homas) S(tearns) Eliot, American-born English poet, essayist, playwright
When? 26 September 1888
Where? St Louis, Missouri
Why should I read his work? Eliot’s Nobel citation recognised his ‘outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry’.
Try: Poems: The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), Four Quartets (1943). Plays: Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Cocktail Party (1949)
Interesting fact:One of Eliot’s ancestors, Sir Thomas Elyot, is credited with the first recorded use of the words ‘education’ and ‘democracy’.