James Clarke and Luke Brown at Blackwell’s

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Author James Clarke. Photo: Ingrid Turner Photography
James Clarke. Photo: © Ingrid Turner Photography

James Clarke and Luke Brown at Blackwell’s Manchester, Manchester 26 July 2023 Tickets from £3.00 — Book now

Join author James Clarke as he launches his latest release, Sanderson’s Isle, reading from the book and chatting all things novels and northern with his editor Luke Brown.

Manchester-based James Clarke’s third book came out with independent publishing house Serpent’s Tail on 13 July, so it’s hot off the press and garnering rave reviews. The Irish Times calls it “freewheeling, vivid, and intensely imagined” while Bookmunch says “Sanderson’s Isle is a triumph in various ways”, calling James “one of the best British novelists under 40”.

Setting off from a London of the Swinging Sixties to an off-grid hippie commune in the Lake District, protagonist Thomas Speake – a drifter who belongs nowhere – is embarking on a life-changing quest, searching for his lost father, teaming up with a famous TV personality and finding everything taking a turn for the psychedelic. The publisher’s blurb says: “…filled with gorgeous nature writing of the urban and the rural, Sanderson’s Isle is an electrifying novel portraying the moment when British society was unsettled and transformed by the counterculture.”

Wendy Erskine, author of Dance Move, calls it “a magnificent experience […] in its rendering of isolation and belonging, its precise evocation of place and time”, and says, “Speake is a terrific narrator and Clarke a compelling writer.” Rachael Allen, poet and author of Kingdomland, describes it as “Extraordinarily mapped and cinematic in its sense of place, character and time through a powerful narrative voice” with “Gorgeous, luxurious language”.

James Clarke was born in Manchester in 1985, and grew up in Lancashire, where he located his second book – a “dazzling” set of interlinked short stories. Hollow In The Land – the “hollow” refers to Lancashire’s Rossendale Valley – is described as “a compound eye view of a post-industrial community in East Lancashire … A journey through the rich, interconnected lives of the locals” “from its neglected high streets to the isolated wilderness of the surrounding moors, this Lancashire valley bursts with unforgettable characters, minor intrigues and all the rich strangeness of life in England today”. The book came out in April 2020 and M John Harrison said in The Guardian that Hollow In The Land is “full of insight, empathy and wry laughter”.

James studied English at Manchester Metropolitan University then graduated from The Manchester Writing School in 2017 with an MA in Creative Writing. His debut novel, The Litten Path, about the Miner’s Strike, was written while studying here and was published by Salt – it won the 2019 Betty Trask Prize, which is awarded to first novels written by authors under the age of 35.

Joining James Clarke for this event is Luke Brown, publishing director of Serpent’s Tail, lecturer in creative writing at University of Manchester, and a novelist in his own right. Like James, Luke grew up in Lancashire – Fleetwood on the coast to the north of Blackpool. Part of his second novel, Theft, is based in the down-at-heel fishing town, offering another, quite different snapshot of life in Lancashire. Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize, Theft came out in February 2020 with Sheffield publisher And Other Stories and Luke’s debut novel, My Biggest Lie, was published in 2014, and his fiction has appeared in The White Review and elsewhere.

Hollow In The Land James Clarke cover
Hollow In The Land James Clarke
Sanderson's Isle by James Clarke
Sanderson’s Isle  James Clarke

James Clarke and Luke Brown at Blackwell’s Manchester, Manchester 26 July 2023 Tickets from £3.00 Book now

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