Six of the Best: Yorkshire novels

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Yorkshire has produced numerous great writers over the years including Alan Bennett, Joanne Harris, JB Priestley and, of course, the Brontes. As Chris Bond points out, it has also provided the backdrop to some memorable novels.

Wuthering Heights

HEATHCLIFF, Cathy, the moors ... these names and places are famous all over the world, even to those who have never read this book.

Wuthering Heights is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Emily Bronte’s haunting tale about the doomed love between Cathy and the tormented Heathcliff, whose heartbreak propels him into a quest for revenge that reaches across generations, still grips readers nearly 170 years after it was first published. Emily, like her famous sisters, wrote the majority of her work at their home in Haworth.

Billy Liar

IT’s not just because the late Keith Waterhouse worked as a journalist on the YEP that he gets a mention here.

His celebrated novel, written in 1959, introduced an instantly recognisable character to the reading public. Waterhouse’s semi-comical story revolves around a working-class 19-year-old living with his parents in the fictional town of Stradhoughton in Yorkshire. It’s a novel full of regional accents and a host of working-class characters. The world he described may have changed but the hero of his book is a character we can all still recognise.

God’s Own Country

ROSS Raisin’s 2008 debut announced the arrival of a new kid on the literary block.

God’s Own Country put the spotlight firmly on the former Bradford Grammar School pupil. His brilliant, but unsettling, novel follows the intense inner life of Sam Marsdyke, a bright but disturbed rural adolescent, tracing his journey from oddball isolation to an altogether more disturbing place. The Keighley-born writer also took the picture-postcard image of the Yorkshire Moors and turned it into something darker.

A Kestrel for a Knave

IT’s often said that great books don’t make great films. But this is one of the few exceptions. Ken Loach’s film, Kes, is rightly regarded as one of the greatest British films ever made, but I’m sure Loach would be the first to heap praise on the brilliant book that inspired it.

A Kestrel for a Knave was written by Barry Hines, from Hoyland Common near Barnsley. Barry and his brother would watch kestrels nesting every year in a wall close to their home, although he has always insisted that the character of Billy Casper wasn’t based on himself.

The Damned United

DAVID Peace has never been afraid of tackling controversial topics and when it comes to Leeds United, few chapters in the club’s long and illustrious history provoke such debate among fans as Brian Clough’s ill-fated spell in charge.

Put the two together and the combination was always likely to be explosive. The main plot depicts a fictionalised account of Clough’s brief spell as manager of the Elland Road club in 1974, told from his point of view after he took over from his bitter rival and Leeds United legend, Don Revie.

The Good Companions

YOU can’t talk about great Yorkshire novelists without mentioning JB Priestley in the same sentence.

The Bradford-born novelist, playwright and broadcaster was an important 20th century literary figure in this country and The Good Companions, which starts off in the fictional Yorkshire town of Bruddersford, was one of the first books that helped bring his work to a wider audience. Priestley was another former grammar school boy who found literary success and he drew on his memories of Bradford throughout his career, even after he had moved down south.

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