Peter Ackroyd (1949- )
The author is mainly associated with London settings (e.g. Hawskmoor), but also wrote a somewhat
satiric SF novel set at a west Dorset scientific facility, where a megalithic tomb has been uncovered,
with unsettling results.
First Light (1989)
Kenneth Allsop (1920-73)
The former BBC 'Tonight' anchorman, Fleet Street journalist and author of The Angry Decade (on
1950s literature), became a nature writer, with his final book (before his suicide) on a year
in the country around his west Dorset (Powerstock) home. His essays were originally weekly columns
for a national newspaper.
In The Country (essays coll. 1972)
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Her two family holidays at Lyme inspired the most famous single sequence in her novels, which
made the Cobb a literary landmark long before John Fowles [qv].
Persuasion (1818) [1969, 1995, 2007 TV versions all part-ph Lyme]
Julian Barnes (1946-
The award-winning novelist (Flaubert's Parrot) went for an Isle of Wight setting when he satirised
the idea of creating a Disneyesque 'England' theme-park there as an escape from a future dystopian
England, England (1998)
William Barnes (1801-66)
Barnes was a schoolmaster and linguist who tried in his poems to preserve the old Dorset Dialect,
his work serving as an inspiration to his young neighbour, Thomas Hardy.
Poems Of Rural Life (1844)
Peter Benson (1956- )
An ex-Lyme resident, PB wrote a realist novel of an urban youth acquiring a new interest in life
when he goes to stay in west Dorset with an elderly socialist aunt dying of cancer, which won
the Somerset Maugham Award.
The Other Occupant (1990)
Sven Berlin (1911-99)
Much-admired painter and sculptor SB abandoned fiction after being sued by fellow members of
the St Ives artistic colony over his 1953 roman-a-clef novel The Dark Monarch. After moving to
the New Forest in his horse-drawn caravan and then to a cottage at Higher Gaunts outside Wimborne
in 1975, he wrote another novel, a libel-proof one - a mystical fable of encounters between a
man, a woman, and a stag in 'the Great Forest in the South'.
Amergin: An Enigma Of The New Forest (1978)
(Sir) John Betjeman (1906-84)
The Poet Laureate became founding chairman of the Bournemouth & District Civic Society after
doing a radio essay on the town, and as editor of the famous Shell Guides series, he edited Paul
Nash's Dorset, 1936. His local-interest poems include his famous 1932 "Dorset", "The
Heart Of Thomas Hardy", and "Youth And Age On The Beaulieu River, Hants".
Collected Poems [various editions]
Trains And Buttered Toast [essays]
(=C. Day Lewis qv, 1904-72)
Poet Laureate C. Day Lewis (now buried next to Thomas Hardy) was schooled at Sherborne, and in
1935 used this as a background for a popular detective novel he wrote to raise funds for his
Cheltenham college. The author's later residence at Lyme led to his using the area in what became
a series of 13 detective novels starring private enquiry agent 'Nigel Strangeways', which he
kept going for three decades, 1935-66.
A Question Of Proof (1935)
There's Trouble Brewing (1937)
The Sad Variety (1964)
Enid Blyton (1898-1968)
The author's summer residence at Swanage led to her using the area for her Famous Five stories,
with the place names fictionalised but identifiable, eg. 'Kirrin Island' = Brownsea.
Famous Five series, 21 books 1942-63: Five On A Treasure Island etc [film and tv versions partly
Arthur Bryant (1899-1985)
Popular historian AB's final home was in Salisbury, and he is buried in the Cathedral. His biographer
was his neighbour in Salisbury, his sometime literary collaborator Pamela Street, daughter of
the rural writer A. G. Street. The prolific biographer and history writer (his 40+ books sold
over two million copies) wrote the sort of 'patrician' ie patriotic romanticised history then
typically given as inspirational school prizes, with poetic titles like Set in A Silver Sea (1984)
and Freedom's Own Island (1986) for his Churchillian 2-volume 'History of Britain and the British
People'. His life of Charles II begins with the romantic 1651 episode of the 'royal escape' through
Dorset and Wiltshire etc.
King Charles The Second (1931)
David Burnett (1946-
The founder of Dovecote Press in Wimborne has also written several historical novels, including
one set at Stonehenge and Avebury in the Neolithic era.
A Priestess Of Henge (1982)
Arthur Cadman (1911-2001)
The Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest from 1959-68 authored a local nature classic.
Dawn, Dusk & Deer (1966)
Tracy Chevalier (1962-
Dorset-resident TC used her familiarity with her neighbourhood to make the protagonists of her
novel Burning Bright a family from the Piddle Valley, who move to London in 1792 next door to
the poet William Blake. She followed that up with a biographical novel set in early 19th-C Lyme
Regis, narrated by fossil collectors Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot.
Remarkable Creatures (2009)
Agatha Christie (1891-1976)
AC's Miss Marple, heroine of 12 novels and various short stories, lived at 'St Mary Mead', a
village apparently on the Hants-Wilts boundary - all the place names are fictitious. (The 1980s
BBC series considered the most authentic adaptation was shot partly-locally, at Nether Wallop
[as 'St Mary Mead'] in Hants, in Bournemouth [The Body In The Library], west Dorset [A Murder
Is Announced] etc.)
Murder At The Vicarage (1930) [first Miss Marple story]
The Body In The Library (1942)
Douglas Clark (1919-?)
The writer used his own business background in pharmaceuticals as a basis of his 28 'Superintendent
Masters' police-procedural novels, one of which is set at 'Chinemouth' and 'Ponde' (read Bournemouth
and Poole) involving an undercover investigation into a drugs-related murder possibly involving
local police collusion.
Dead Letter (1984)
'Bernard Cornwell' (=Bernard
Wiggins, 1944- )
Though best-known for his televised 'Sharpe' novels which got him an OBE, BC has also written
a series of novels largely set in the Wessex region in earlier times, from the Neolithic through
the Arthurian and Alfredian eras.
The "Warlord Chronicles" trilogy: The Winter King (1995); Enemy Of God (1996); Excalibur
Stonehenge: A Novel Of 2000 BC (2000)
The "Saxon Stories" series (2004- ): The Last Kingdom, 2004; The Pale Horseman, 2005;
The Lords of the North, 2006; Sword Song 2007; The Burning Land 2009.
John Creasey (aka "Gordon
Ashe" "JJ Marric" etc) (1908-73)
After WWII, Britain's most prolific crime writer (560 books under 20 pen-names) was a Bournemouth
resident, and he set at least one book locally. During the great blizzard of '46, hero Patrick
Dawlish has to fight a well-armed neo-Nazi gang who have taken over the Dorset village of 'Hurn.'
Here Is Danger [by Creasey writing as "Gordon Ashe"](1946)
'Peter James Davidson'
"Fossil hunter, dinosaur enthusiast, inventor" PJD, the pen name of a London-born,
Glastonbury-resident IT consultant who self-published his illustrated popular-science children's
book before having it picked up by a regular publisher, used a time-travel scenario to bring
alive the denizens of Dorset's fossil-paradise World Heritage Site, recently following it up
with a sequel.
Professor 'P' And The Jurassic Coast (2004)
Professor P And The Jurassic Island (2010)
Juliette de Bairacli Levy
The 'Grandmother of Herbal Medicine' lived in the New Forest (in a pink cob cottage at Frogham
End) and wrote a 'cult' nonfiction book on the Gypsies, flora and fauna of the Forest, based
on her time there.
Wanderers In The New Forest (1958)[Introduction by Augustus John - sometimes listed as co-author]
Jan de Hartog (1914-2002)
The author, a ship's officer and writer, escaped from Occupied Holland in 1943 to serve on the
unarmed tugboats rescuing torpedoed Channel-convoy ships, an experience he characterized as a
study in the nature of fear. After the war he lived for a time on Wight and wrote a novel from
his war experience, set in "Westport", played in Carol Reed's film version mainly by
The Distant Shore [paperback editions are titled The Key, after the 1958 film based on Book I,
Bill Douglas (1937-91)
(Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle
The admired Scots filmmaker whose work is the basis of The Bill Douglas Centre at the U. Of Exeter
made a 3-hour realist drama filmed in Dorset and Australia, on the struggle of the Tolpuddle
Martyrs in 1834, the script published as a book.
Comrades: A Lanternist's Account Of The Tolpuddle Martyrs And What Became Of Them (1986)(BFI/Skreba
ACD's own favourite of his works was not Sherlock Holmes but an idealistic, almost Tolkienesque,
historical romance about a group of 14C adventurers forming up in order to join the war in France.
The setting is the New Forest, as the young heroes travel from Beaulieu Abbey to Christchurch Castle
to The Solent, and then fight sea rovers off Purbeck. ACD later bought a house in the New Forest,
and is buried nearby, at Minstead, home of the novel's young hero.
The White Company (1891)
After squandering his inheritance from his stepfather Lord Curzon, AD became an archaeologist,
and used his training to introduce realism to the historical novel. In his first attempt, he
adopted the political-confessional format with Cerdic, founder of Wessex narrating how he really
rose to power as a sort of "Dark Ages Harry Flashman". Another tells the story of Alfred
hiding out in the Somerset marshes and darkly plotting his comeback.
Conscience Of The King (1951, Cassell Military Paperbacks 2005)
The King Of Athelney (1961, Methuen pbk 1999)
Gerald Durrell (1925-95)
Jim Eldridge (1944- )
When not travelling, GD stayed in Bournemouth and wrote some Thurber-style humorous pieces about
these times - an old girlfriend, a family outing to Lulworth, a stay at the Royal Bath Hotel,
and a maternal intrigue.
"Ursula" in Fillets Of Plaice [sic] (coll. 1972)
"The Picnic" and "The Havoc Of Havelock" in The Picnic & Suchlike Pandemonium
"Ludwig" in Marrying Off Mother (coll. 1991)
The prolific output of JE (90+ books) includes his humorous 'Crosswords' radio trilogy, originally
broadcast on Radio 4 in 2000-4. These plays belong to the genre where an exercise in amateur sleuthing
becomes a tribute to British eccentricity as well as prelude to a romantic involvement. The 3 hour-long
plays feature the teaming-up of a Bournemouth-resident crossword compiler and an amateur historian
[played by Geoffrey Palmer and Wendy Craig] to investigate whether a famous figure had some connection
with the locality - Bournemouth, Lyme Regis, or Southampton.
1/3 Arthur In Bournemouth, or Many Arrived Around (7 Letters) (2000)
2/3 Leonardo In Lyme Regis (2002)
3/3 Shakespeare In Southampton (2004)
Modernist poet (The Waste Land) Eliot was an American who settled in England and named one of
the sections in his famous after a hamlet near Yeovil where his family had roots - East Coker,
where he is now buried.
"East Coker" (1940) in Four Quartets (coll. 1943)
J. Meade Falkner (1858-1932)
JMF's classic children's novel about an orphan involved in the dark days of the smuggling era
is set mainly at Fleet village by Chesil Bank in West Dorset, White Nothe cliff by Lulworth,
and Carisbrooke Castle on the IoW.
John Fowles (1926-2005)
The author of The Collector and The Magus moved at Lyme Regis when successful, and the setting
inspired his 1960s hit which used the novel form to reflect on modern versus period sensibilities.
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1966) [1980 film part-ph Dorset; film script by Harold Pinter
Robert S. P. Fripp (1943-)
RF (not to be confused with the musician) attended Canford School in Poole. His series of 40
short stories covers the human settlement of Dorset from earliest times onward.
Wessex Tales: Eight Thousand Years In The Life Of An English Village (2013-14) [40 tales in 2
David Garnett (1892-1981)
Garnett was a member of the Bloomsbury set whose visits to the Chaldon Herring literary colony
inspired a historical novel, on a sailor who returns to his inn with an African wife, taking
its title from the name of the village pub.
The Sailor's Return (1925) [filmed by ITV 1980]
Maggie Gee (1948- )
The Poole-born author returned to live in Bournemouth when she married RL Stevenson biographer
Nicholas Rankin and used the seaside resort as a part setting in two novels. The first is an
airy romantic-comedy novel, and the second a much darker tale, said to be inspired by the mysterious
death of an elderly anti-nuclear campaigner.
Light Years (1985)
William Gilpin (1724-1804)
Vicar of Boldre 1777-1804, WG was an early promoter of the "cult of the picturesque,"
and authored a hand-crafted 'nature' book on the New Forest, becoming known as "the Gilbert
White of the New Forest."
Remarks On Forest Scenery .... Illustrated By The Scenes Of The New-Forest In Hampshire (1781-
) [various editions, sometimes titled just 'Forest Scenery' or 'Forest Sketches']
(Sir) William Golding (1911-93)
Nobel Prize winning WG 's most famous work, Lord Of The Flies, derived its realistic observation
of boyish nature based on his postwar experience as a Salisbury schoolteacher. He lived most
of his life in Wiltshire, and set one of his novels, about an ambitious cleric, at Salisbury
Cathedral in the Middle Ages.
The Spire (1964)
Marguerite ("John") Radclyffe
Born in Bournemouth, the lesbian novelist and poet set her first novel in a seaside resort based
on Southbourne, about the burden placed on adult daughters to put caring for an ageing mother
ahead of any personal wishes.
The Unlit Lamp (1924; Virago pbk 1981)
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
His 'Wessex Novels' put the region firmly on the literary map of England as "a partly real,
partly dream country".Written 1872-97, the first-published versions were mostly magazine
serials, often censored, TH restoring the originals for the Wessex Edition.
--The "Wessex Novels" series (Macmillan Wessex Edition 1912-13) [revised ed'ns of Under
The Greenwood Tree, Far From The Madding Crowd, The Mayor Of Casterbridge, The Return Of The
Native, Tess Of The D'Urbervilles etc.]
Collected Stories (Macmillan 1928; 1988) [47 short stories]
The Works Of Thomas Hardy (Wordsworth's Poetry Library 1994)[reprint of all 968 poems, from various
More info on Hardy's work onsite here.
James Herbert (1943-2013)
The bestselling horror writer set one of his novels in the New Forest, depicting it as being
charged with magic powers.
The Magic Cottage (1987)
C. Walter Hodges (1909-2004)
An illustrator and author of children’s historical novels, his two novels about King Alfred
are regarded as his best, with episodes set in Dorset and in Somerset.
The Namesake (1964)
The Marsh King (1967)
Geoffrey Household (1900-88)
Bristol-born GH lived for a time in Dorset, and set several novels here, including his most famous,
about a gentleman vigilante who tries to assassinate Hitler and for political reasons is then
unable to turn to the police as British Fascists run him to ground outside Lyme Regis. He also
wrote a post-apocalyptic fantasy about British stoicism and enterprise, with a title from Blake's
Jerusalem, set at Avebury.
Rogue Male (1939)(US title Man Hunt) [filmed 1941 Hollywood; 1976 telefeature ph Dorset]
Arrows Of Desire (1985)
Linden Howard (19??-
) [possibly a pen name - no biographical info available]
Romance writer LH set one of her novels, an example of the popular Mills &Boon style romance,
in 1880 on a fictitious islet off the west Dorset coast.
Enchanted Island (1982; repr 1997)
W.H. Hudson (1841-1922)
Best-known for his jungle romance Green Mansions, the Argentinan-born American ornithologist
lived for a time in the New Forest and near the Hants-Wilts boundary, and wrote several books
on the region's fading pre-Industrial ways, plus a futuristic novel about Wessex as a post-cataclysm
A Crystal Age (1887) [novel]
Hampshire Days (1903)
A Shepherd's Life: Impressions Of The South Wiltshire Downs (1910)
[essays on country life c1840-1900]
Angela Huth (1938- )
The former BBC presenter's wartime novel about the Women's Land Army is set on a Dorset farm
near the fictitious village of 'Hinton Half Moon'.
The Land Girls (1994) [filmed 1998, ph Somerset]
(= Anthony Berkeley Cox, 1893-1971)
His cult crime novel, a psychological study of victimhood set in Dorset and Bournemouth, was
filmed 1941 by Hitchcock as Suspicion, and in 1987 by Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn for ITV,
though in both cases the novel's dark ending proved too controversial to film.
Before The Fact (1932)
Kazuo Ishiguro (1954-
Japanese-English novelist KI's award-winning novel is narrated as the reminsicence of the hidebound
head butler at a Salisbury-area stately home, before and after WWII, as he attempts a sentimental
West Country journey ending at Weymouth Pier.
The Remains Of The Day (1989)
P.D. James (Baroness
Phyllis D. James, 1920-2014)
The author's visits to family in the Purbecks inspired her to use Purbeck's clifftop Clavel Tower
in one of her 'Adam Dalgleish' detective novels, and one of her 'Cordelia Gray' novels has a
setting based on Brownsea (as 'Courcy Island' on the Dorset coast).
The Black Tower (1975) [ITV 1985 serial ext-ph Purbeck]
The Skull Beneath The Skin (1982)
The Private Patient (2008) [Cdr Dalgleish in Dorset again]
Richard Jefferies (1848-87)
Victorian 'Wiltshire countryman' writer RJ wrote essays and futuristic fiction.
After London, Or Wild England (1885) [futuristic novel]
The Life Of The Fields (1884) [essays]
The Toilers Of The Field (1892) [essays]
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
One of DHL's lesser-known novels is set on Wight, which he wrote following a 1909 holiday there
with his mother, and then rewrote while convalescing in Bournemouth in 1912.
The Trespasser (1912)
(=David John Moore Cornwell) (1931- )
The Poole-born author's schooling at Sherborne inspired an early 'George Smiley' novel, where
he is invited back to deal with a potential scandal.
A Murder Of Quality (1962) [ITV 1990 prod'n ph Sherborne]
C. Day Lewis (aka "Nicholas
Blake" qv, 1904-72)
A children's novel by the future Poet Laureate, about members of a boys school engaging in role-playing
'grown-up' adventures, evidently part-inspired by his schooldays in Sherborne.
The Otterbury Incident (1948)
Alexis Lykiard (1940-
Ian McEwan (1948- )
A Greek poet and translator of French Surrealist classics who settled in southwest England, AL's
debut novel concerns a wannabe writer haunted by a tragic affair, with an early-60s Bournemouth
setting amidst the then-budding language-schools 'scene'.
The Summer Ghosts (1964)
The award-winning author of Atonement set his 2007 novel in an (evidently fictitious) large hotel
overlooking Chesil Bank beyond Portland, back in 1962 (ie pre-Sexual Revolution). As the blurb
puts it, “a newlywed couple sit down to dinner in a Dorset hotel, each anxiously contemplating
the wedding night to come.”
On Chesil Beach (2007)
Rosemary Manning (1911-88,
also wrote as "Mary Voyle")
As well as adult fiction, RM also wrote children's novels, including one based on the mediaeval
Poole-based pirate Harry Paye, and another featuring a Cornish dragon in Weymouth Harbour.
The Dragon In The Harbour (1980)
Captain Marryat ( =Frederick
Though mainly a writer of first adult and then children's stories based on his Naval experience,
FM is best remembered for his Cavaliers-vs-Roundheads children's novel set around Sway in the
New Forest, and which he wrote while living nearby, at Lymington, and at his brother's home,
now Chewton Glen Hotel.
Children Of The New Forest (1847)
(Dame) Ngaio Marsh (1899-1982)
The NZ-born NM based at least one of her 32 'Inspector Alleyne' novels (1934-80) in Dorset, set
at a weekend house party for theatrical types, at 'Highfold Manor', cut off by a blizzard.
Death And The Dancing Footman (1942)
Gladys Mitchell (1901-83)
Resident at Corfe Mullen, Dorset from 1961 till her death, a number of this cult author's 'Dame
Adela Beatrice LeStrange' series of 66 books written 1929-83, are based around her amateur-sleuth's
fictitious New Forest home village of 'Wandles Parva', with stories also often set in neighbouring
Uncoffin'd Clay (1980)
(Dame) Iris Murdoch
The late novelist often stayed in Dorset (visiting HG Wells's and Rebecca West's son, novelist
Anthony West), and wrote one novel set at a west Dorset manor house, about a civil servant getting
caught up in the web of adultery and blackmail he is meant to be investigating.
The Nice And The Good (1968)
Paul Nash (1889-1946)
(Dr) Andrew Norman (1943-
The famous artist, who died in Boscombe, was commissioned by Shell Guides editor John Betjeman
[qv] to produce the Dorset guidebook, and he also produced a spinoff book on Swanage.
The Shell Book Of Dorset (1936)
Swanage, Or Seaside Surrealism (1937)
Poole-resident AN was a GP who turned to historical nonfiction writing after a spinal injury in
1983, becoming the area's most prolific biographer, with subjects ranging from Agatha Christie
to Hitler. Many of his books are local-interest, including a history of Corfe Castle in the Civil
War, George Loveless and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a bicentenary book on the founders of Bournemouth
as a health spa, and biographies of Enid Blyton, T.E. Lawrence, and Thomas Hardy. His biographies
utilise his medical knowledge to give explanations as to what for example really killed Jane Austen,
T.E. Lawrence's personality change, Hardy's difficult marriage, and Conan Doyle's spiritualism
and belief in fairies.
Thomas Hardy: Behind The Inscrutable Smile (2004)
Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love (2009)
Enid Blyton And Her Enchantment With Dorset (2010)
Ogilvy (1943- )
The boyish 70s TV actor turned children’s author also wrote a satire of modern societal
divisions, set in Somerset but clearly inspired by Dorset’s Cerne Giant hill-figure and
its associated controversies.
The Polkerton Giant (1997)
C. Northcote Parkinson (1909-93)
A professor of economics best-known for his Parkinson's Law ("work expands to fill the time
available to complete it"), CNP wrote over 50 books on various subjects, including a children's
novel set in the New Forest, and a naval-adventure series in the first of which his hero Richard
Delancey 'combats the smugglers of Poole.'
Ponies' Plot (1965)
Devil To Pay (1972)
Harold Pinter (1930-2008)
The former actor lived and worked in Bournemouth in the 1950s, and is thought to have used material
gathered from staying in local B&Bs in his first major play. He solved the problem of filming
Fowles's Lyme-set literary novel The French Lieutenant's Woman via a film-within-a-film framework.
The Birthday Party (1957) [play]
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1980) [published film script ]
Anthony Powell CBE
The author, who lived for 50 years at a country
house outside Frome in east Somerset, was known as the English Proust for his autobiographical
novel-sequences. Powell’s third novel, From A View To A Death, inspired by Salisbury boyhood
recollections when his faher was in the army, is set on a Wiltshire country estate where the
shooting rights are under dispute.
From A View To A Death (1934)
John Cowper Powys (1872-1963)
The author of lengthy mystical - some say mystifying - novels and literary-philosophical studies
grew up partly at Montacute near Yeovil, had various Dorset family connections, and used the
area in novels written during the Interwar period.
Wolf Solent (1929)
Weymouth Sands (1934)
Maiden Castle (1937)
Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939)
Essayist, lecturer, brother of JC Powys [above] and Theodore [below], who published over 30 books,
including literary and philosophical studies.
Dorset Essays (1935)
Theodore Francis Powys
The reclusive author of pessimist black-comedy fables -- magic-realist novels and short stories
-- used the country villages of Chaldon and Mappowder near where he lived as settings. His most
famous work is a novel where God and his archangel Michael arrive at the village of 'Folly Down'
in the guise of a travelling wine merchant and his assistant.
Mr Weston's Good Wine (1927)
Christopher Priest (1943-
Wiltshire-based CP, a mainly SF author, wrote a pair of works with a local setting. One has initially
has a 'think-tank' under Maiden Castle being taken over by government in 1983 when they 'project'
a model future for test-subjects to try out 150 years ahead in 2137 AD, when the area has been
transformed into a Soviet-bloc island tourist-state. The other is a nuclear conspiracy thriller
set in modern Wiltshire.
A Dream Of Wessex (US: The Perfect Lover) (1977)
The Quiet Woman (1990)
(Sir) Terence Rattigan
TR often stayed in Bournemouth, leading to several plays set in or near the town, most famously
a pair of linked playlets set in a Bournemouth guesthouse, plus his final work, on a 1930s murder
scandal, the Rattenbury case.
Separate Tables (1955) [adapted for film 1958 and ITV 1982]
Cause Celebre (1978) [2-act play, Anglia TV 1987]
Keith Roberts (1935-2000)
KR has been called “the Thomas Hardy of science fiction", one encyclopedia describing
his work as 'permeated with a melancholic, rain-drenched, sometimes enchanted English landscape.'
Using sets of linked stories, his work is set in a post-apocalyptic Wessex. Chosen by Anthony
Burgess as one of his 99 Novels selections, as 'a striking work of the imagination,' his Pavane
is an "alternative history" story, set at 'Durnovaria' in a still-Catholic England
Pavane (coll. 1966)
The Chalk Giants (coll. 1974)
'Mark Ronson' (=Marc
Alexander, 1929- )
The NZ-born horror and fantasy author was the friend and biographer of the Church of England's
chief exorcist, who wrote a 1969 book on Chideock, and MR used his involvement as background
for a series of ghost stories, including a late (final?) novel based on a real Dorset location
(Lytchett Matravers) and its associated legends.
Whispering Corner: A Narration (1989)
'Edward Rutherfurd' (=Francis
Edward Wintle) (1948- )
Salisbury-born ER, the author of massive eon-spanning family sagas, set his first opus in Salisbury
and the Avon Valley, and another in the New Forest.
The Forest (2000)
Anthony Shaffer (1926-2001)
The playwright's best-known work is a twist-in-the-tail murder mystery set at "Cloak Manor"
Sleuth (1970) [play filmed 1972 ext-ph Dorset, and 2007]
Neville Shute (= Neville
Shute Norway, 1899-1960)
Posy Simmonds (1945- )
The aviation designer turned novelist's favourite locale was Australia (as in On The Beach),
but he also drew on his 1940s experience with establishments at Christchurch and in the New Forest.
This sad tale of one of those who lost their way in wartime has a central flashback set in the
Lymington-Beaulieu area around the Navy's shore station at Exbury House, and inspired by a still-unsolved
Requiem For A Wren (1955, US title The Breaking Wave)
PS's satiric graphic-novel Tamara Drewe is set in east Dorset [west Dorset in the 2010 film]. Set
largely at a writers' retreat in 'Hardy Country', it has Tamara returning from a successful journalistic
career in London, following cosmetic surgery, to her home village of 'Ewedown', and as a now more
glamorous figure, becoming involved in a romantic triangle reminscent of Hardy's Far from the Madding
Tamara Drewe [Guardian serial 2005-06; coll. in book form 2007; film version 2010]
E Smith (1922-2012)
A Bournemouth resident since 1980, South African born FES, best known for his 633 Squadron and
sequels, also wrote an adult romance set in the Purbecks.
The Wider Sea Of Love (1969)
Caroline Stickland (1955-
Bridport-resident adult-literacy tutor CS's series of historical novels begun with The Standing
Hills, set in 1860s Dorset, have a background in early Victorian-era local history, such as the
1830s agricultural riots in A House Of Clay.
The Standing Hills 1986)
A House Of Clay (1988)
The Darkness Of Corn (1990)
An Ancient Hope (1993)
The Darkening Leaf (1995)
Julia Strachey (1901-1979)
Lytton Strachey's niece, JS was one of the Bloomsbury literary set, her two novellas admired
for their deft social observation. Set according to the cover blurb in Dorset, Cheerful Weather
For The Wedding has a bride facing her wedding day with mixed feelings as her former beau arrives
at her family home near the seaside town of 'Maldon'. (JS and uncle Lytton stayed in the area
at a friend's house on the edge of the New Forest.) The 2012 film adaptation, shot mainly at
a country house by the Wilts/New Forest boundary, expands what is really an extended vignette
into a fully-worked out story. An Integrated Man, originally titled The Man On The Pier, concerns
the old-fashioned hero's dilemma at the prospect of an affair with a friend's wife.
Cheerful Weather For The Wedding / An Integrated Man [1932/1951; Hogarth Press 1932; 1978 Penguin
pbk; Cheerful Weather republished 2009 by Persephone Modern Classics]
Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92)
RS overcame the handicap of a crippling disease to became a major writer of historical novels
for both children and adults, set in every era from the prehistoric on, including one [classed
as an adult novel - perhaps YA or Young Adult might be better] about Elizabeth I's lady-in-waiting
Bess Throckmorton, who secretly married Sir Walter Raleigh, the pair taking up residence at Sherborne
Castle, he becoming MP for Dorset before losing all when the Queen died. Sketch-maps in her 4
YA novels set at the onset of the Dark Ages show how the stories range across the entire Roman
province, including its last survival, the wealthy Romano-British "villa" society that
will become part of the new Saxon kingdom of Wessex.
Lady In Waiting (1957)
The Lantern Bearers (1959)
Emma Tennant (1937-2017)
Her original family home being Wilsford Manor on the Avon, ET sometimes drew on local material.
Queen Of Stones has a group of schoolgirls on a west Dorset outing disappearing a la Picnic At
Hanging Rock, while her Tess, set in the 1950s, is a feminist reworking of Hardy's Tess Of The
d'Urbervilles as part of a larger canvas in which Hardy himself appears.
Queen Of Stones (1982)
Paul Theroux (1941- )
American travel writer (Kingdom By The Sea) and novelist (Mosquito Coast) PT also wrote a Dorset-set
novel. Here, an anthropologist and his wife discover the natives are no more friendly than they
were in Uganda, and their rented house in West Dorset seems haunted by a commanding female spectre.
The Black House (1974)
Flora Thompson (1876-1947)
The writer on English village life (famous for her recently televised Lark Rise To Candleford
trilogy, an autobiographically-based novelisation of late-Victorian social life in a pair of
country villages) began her writing career while a Bournemouth resident 1903-16, contributing
magazine essays on the New Forest and Wight.
'The Peverel Papers: A Yearbook Of The Countryside', collected in FT anthology A Country Calendar
(=Rosemary Ellerbeck aka 'Katherine Yorke' etc, 193?- )
The now Devon-resident author set a 6-novel romantic historical saga in a mid-Dorset village
1880s-1950s while living there in the 1990s, and despite a serious car accident has begun another
such, a trilogy set 1920s-50s. In between these, she wrote a a work of "faction" recreating
the life of a woman a teenage Thomas Hardy watched hang for murdering her husband, eventually
inspiring his Tess.
The 'People Of This Parish' series, 1991-2000: The People Of This Parish, The Rector's Daughter,
In This Quiet Earth, Past Love, A Time Of Hope, In Time Of War.
The 'Broken Bough' Saga, 2000-: The Broken Bough, The Blackbird's Song, The Water's Edge
My Name Is Martha Brown (2000) [fact-based, set 1856 Dorset]
Michael Tod (1937- )
The former Dorset resident initially self-published the first of his Watership Down style "squirrel
wars" books, now collected as a trilogy, which are set on Brownsea Island and Purbeck's
The 'Woodstock Saga': The Silver Tide (1993); The Second Wave (1994); The Golden Flight (1995);
trilogy also pub. as The Dorset Squirrels (1999)
Louise Tondeur (1972-
Born in Poole and raised in Bournemouth, scriptwriting lecturer LT named her Bournemouth-set
2003 novel after a now-vanished Boscombe hotel, and based a second novel, called a mix of 'homespun
gothic and seaside camp' (Independent), on local sites like Portland and Moreton.
The Water's Edge (2003)
The Haven Home For Delinquent Girls (2005)
Ben Travers (1886-1980)
The founder of the 'Aldwych school' of slapstick sex romps, BT lived in Somerset in the 1920s,
his best-known hit, Rookery Nook, being named after a Somerset house. His first play was published
as a novel, about a couple booked, due to mistaken identity, into a single room at the inn in
“Combe Puddy, Dorsetshire.”
The Dippers (1920) [novel, stage and radio play]
(Sir) Frederick Treves
Though best-known today as the doctor played by Anthony Hopkins in The Elephant Man, the Dorchester-born
Treves was the first president of the Society of Dorset Men and wrote an early guidebook.
Highways And Byways In Dorset (1906)
William Trevor (= William
Trevor Cox, 1928-2016)
After moving to Devon, the multiple award winning Irish author set one of his novels in a run-down
west Dorset seaside town, about a lad on a Council estate who observes and blackmails the hypocritical
adults around him, which won the Whitbread Best Novel prize, was adapted by WT for BBC-TV, and
has been republished by Penguin Decades.
The Children Of Dynmouth (1976) [also BBC-TV 1987 version]
Lynne Truss (1955- )
Before she became a household name with her grammar book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, LT wrote
a humorous novel about the Isle of Wight's Victorian-era literary scene which formed around Tennyon's
home on west Wight.
Tennyson's Gift (1996)
H.A. Vachell (1861-1955)
After returning to England in 1900, HAV settled in a large country house near Bath where he wrote
over 50 books, including a number set in Dorset and the New Forest.
The Other Side (1910) [set Sherborne]
Quinney's (1914; repr 1969) [part-set Weymouth]
Leaves From Arcady (1924) [New Forest]
Peter Vansittart (1920-2008)
Though acclaimed by some critics as "England’s greatest living historical novelist,"
PV himself said his work was not popular "due to my obsession with language and speculation,"
but he has continued to offer an anti-romantic re-interpretation of legends, including Arthurian
Britain in several novels.
Sylvia Townsend Warner
STW was a prolific writer (7 novels and 140 short stories for The New Yorker) who lived much
of her life in west Dorset, together with Valentine Ackland as part of the literary circle (of
TF Powys et al) at Chaldon Herring and later at Maiden Newton.
Dorset Stories (2006)
Alec Waugh (1898-1981)
The older brother of Evelyn, AW based his first novel, about what lay behind some of those close
schoolboy friendships, on his own time at Sherborne, where it was banned.
The Loom Of Youth (1918)
Evelyn Waugh (1903-66)
EW wrote his first novel staying outside Wimborne in 1927, and his prewar and WWII Dorset stays
no doubt helped inspire his most famous novel, though his Brideshead Manor is put somewhere in
Brideshead Revisited (1944, revd 1959)[ITV 1981; filmed 2007]
Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977)
The prolific writer of exotic adventure-fantasy is best remembered for his horror novels of the
occult, one being set in the New Forest where he lived and wrote 18 of his books. DW used the
Georgian house that was his home 1944- as the hero's home in his Napoleonic-era series of 12
novels covering the 1783-1815 career of dashing anti-Republican secret agent Roger Brook.
The Launching Of Roger Brook (1947)[ first in series]
The Ka Of Gifford Hillary (1956)
Ralph Wightman (1901-71)
Countryman broadcaster and writer from Piddletrenthide, whose fame rested on presenting 'the
Dorset dialect to the world.' He did not however write his books of essays on nature and country
life in dialect.
The Seasons (1954)
Rural Rides (1957)
Frances Woodsford (1913-2013)
The young PGW stayed with aristocratic friends near Lyme Regis, set his first novel locally,
and in 1934 set parts of a Jeeves & Wooster novel at the resort of 'Chuffnell Regis' in Dorset.
(The 1992 ITV series shot these scenes in East Devon.) His final Jeeves novel is set in Somerset,
at the Dorset-sounding village of "Maiden Eggesford" near "Bridmouth-On-Sea."
Love Among The Chickens (1906, revd 1920)
Thank You, Jeeves (1934)
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (1974)
The background story behind this collection of long-lost letters from Bournemouth-resident FW to
a man she never met (shades of 84 Charing Cross Road) is a remarkable tale in itself. These Alastair
Cooke style letters to America [1949-61], the basis of a Radio 4 Book Of The Week when it was published,
describe in an insightful style what she calls "the Bournemouth Soap Opera."
Dear Mr Bigelow: A Transatlantic Friendship (2009)
Yates" (=Cecil William Mercer, 1885-1960)
In his 1919-36 "Berry, Adele & Co." series, DY, an expatriate ex-London barrister,
wrote about the smart set with country houses to whom cars had offered a new mobility. His protagonists
'Berry' Pleydell and wife Adele enjoy life at "White Ladies" house in the New Forest
- a place that had impressed DY during a student caravanning holiday. DY used his legal experience
to depict criminal 'low life' and his smart-set actor friends for 'high life' characters.
Berry & Co. (coll. 1919)
And Berry Came Too (coll. 1936)
These are useful for accessing shorter items such as poems or reading samples from longer works
otherwise hard to obtain.
Dorset Bedside Anthology
Editor Margaret Goldsworthy, Arundel Press 1951
The Isle Of Wight Bedside Anthology
Editor Hugh Noyes, IOW County Press 1951
Poet's England series: Dorset
Editor Guy Stapleton, Brentham Press 1996
Wessex: A Literary Celebration
Editor Desmond Hawkins, National Trust 1991