This article is from 2006.
Fiction fans can be unforgiving when authors bring to an end a successful literary
franchise. Arthur Conan Doyle's readers and publisher put so much pressure on
the scribbler when he sent Sherlock Holmes spiralling from the Reichenbach Falls
that he brought the sleuth back from the dead. And let's hope JK Rowling
doesn't ever have a Misery-style encounter with a disgruntled fan when she
finally gets around to bumping off Harry Potter.
With this in mind, Sarah Waters must have been thrilled at the response to her
fourth novel, The Night Watch. Having beguiled and titillated legions of readers
with her trilogy, Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith, her decision to
depart from the (self-created) oeuvre of sensual, Victorian lesbian fiction
was a brave one. Waters must therefore feel vindicated at the hugely
positive critical and popular success of the book, which brings to life the
London of the Blitz. The novel, which relates the emotional plight of three
women and one man, during and immediately after the war, is stunning for its
characterisation as well as its evocative attention to period detail.
'The research process was a great pleasure to me,' says Waters, who
found her way into fiction through research for her PhD on Victorian
pornography. 'I usually wrote this book in the morning, so I could settle
down to watch a 1940s film in the afternoon, to sort of immerse myself in
the wartime vernacular.' Waters says she hasn't ruled out the possibility
of embarking down the road of fiction with a contemporary setting. For the
moment though, she continues to relish the exotic allure of the past. 'My
interest in fiction, the confidence and the discipline of writing came about
through my interest in history, so the two tend to go hand in hand for me.'
Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888, 19 Aug, 6.30pm, £8 (£6).