The Ballard of Brum


I’m very excited about this week’s launch of Catherine O’Flynn’s second novel, The News Where You Are, published by Penguin. To say I’m a rubbish reader feels like an understatement – I feel proud of myself if I can get through more than one novel a year. The long-haul journey to/from Oz last month would’ve been the perfect opportunity for me to catch up but I got as far as chapter 3 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and then gave up, favouring a string of in-flight movies that I hadn’t yet got round to seeing. So what joy and relief when your pals come out with novels that are not only intelligent and gripping but also highly entertaining (as also did Nick Walker – his debut, Blackbox, made all-the-easier for me as it was written in idiot-proof, bite-sized chapters (840 of them).

This week I bumped into Catherine in town as she was fretting over the search for a ‘back-up’ dress for friday’s official launch event. One might surmise that life ain’t so bad for the author who rose to prominence with her first novel, What Was Lost (published by Birmingham’s own Tindal Street Press) winner of the Costa First Novel Prize, 2007) but soon realised that the retail therapy was a thin veneer disguising abject fear. Apparently, a local news team from BBC Midlands Today had been sniffing around the story of the book and had invited her to appear on the programme, confronting satirist with her inspiration on an uncomfortably squishy TV sofa. I believe Cath declined the offer, admitting cowardice. There are plenty of other opportunities for her to promote the book, though, following a string of reviews in this week’s press. Here’s Fay Weldon in The Guardian, in which she likens O’Flynn to being the J.G.Ballard of Birmingham.

catherine reads an extract at IKON 2 july 2010

I haven’t even picked up a copy yet, but if my experience of What Was Lost (3 belly laughs on the first page) is anything to go by I feel sure we’re in for a treat.


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