Top 5 Fictional Neighbours, by author Cass Green

Category: Author Post

They say everybody needs good neighbours…

The Woman Next Door by Cass Green

My character Hester in THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR thinks she is the perfect example of neighbourly friendship. After all, who wouldn’t want to live next door to someone like her, a woman prepared to give up everything in your darkest hour? And Hester really is prepared to go that extra mile.

But sometimes, as her neighbour Melissa discovers, this kind of assistance comes at a price.

Dodgy neighbours are something most of us have experienced at one time or another. Mine have included the menacing couple who yelled at us for walking around on our floor ‘inconsiderately’, to the man whose frenzied screaming at his wife and kids had me itching to call 999 on several occasions. We never really know what we’re walking into when we move into a new property. Thankfully, I’ve never lived next door to anyone quite like Hester. Or, in fact, Melissa…

So in celebration of all the monsters who might be living next door, here are the books and movies featuring my all-time favourite fictional neighbours.

 

A KIND OF INTIMACY by Jenn Ashworth

Lonely, odd Annie, with her self-help books and cow-shaped milk jugs, is a deliciously twisted character and I devoured this book in one sitting. If you like Hester, you’ll definitely take to Annie.

 

THE KILLER NEXT DOOR by Alex Marwood

Stephen King called this ‘scary as hell’ and he’s right. But the incredible thing about this story of murderous dealings at 23 Beulah Grove is that somehow it manages to be grimly funny too. It’s something I was hoping to pull off in my own way in THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR.

 

THE MAGPIES by Mark Edwards

I listened to this on audiobook and was riveted by the story of Jamie and Kirsty, a young couple who are full of optimism as they move into their new flat. The future looks bright, but then they star receiving prank ‘gifts’ and calls and things turn very dark indeed.

 

PACIFIC HEIGHTS

I’m a huge fan of actor Michael Keaton and this movie, set in the exclusive, eponymous area of San Francisco is a quiet gem. He plays a psychopath called Carter Hayes who moves into the basement of a house a couple are renovating without their permission and won’t move out. It never descends into schlocky violence and retains a pervading sense of menace throughout.

 

ROSEMARY’S BABY

This has to be the ultimate ‘neighbours from hell’ story.  I first saw this movie at a rather tender age and it utterly terrified me (Thanks for the lax 1970s parenting, Mum and Dad!). Remember when the Mia Farrow character eats the raw liver? And when she’s given the creepy necklace with the funny smell? The shadowy cinematography gives this film the feel of a genuine nightmare and Polanski’s 1968 movie is a horror classic.

 

What a deliciously nightmarish collection. So next time your neighbour parks ‘in your spot’ or puts the bins back in an annoying way, be grateful you don’t live next door to this lot.

Or indeed, Hester.

But then … you never really know. Do you?

 


 

Cass Green is the pseudonym of Caroline Green, an award-winning author of fiction for young people. Her first novel, Dark Ride, won the Rona Young Adult Book of the Year and the Waverton Good Read Award. Cracks and Hold Your Breath garnered rave reviews and were shortlisted for eleven awards between them. She is the Writer in Residence at East Barnet School and teaches Writing for Children at City University. Caroline has been a journalist for over twenty years and has written for many broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines. The Woman Next Door is her first novel for adults.

 

Torn Books and Other Secrets by Alexandra Burt

Category: Author Post

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With all the bookstores, Kindles, and wireless downloads, it’s almost impossible to imagine books were hard to come by in the small town in Germany where I grew up. I devoured them all; the hardcovers with their pages stuck together, the bent paperbacks covered in dust, most of them tucked away in trunks and dark attic spaces. But sometimes my mother would go into town and return with a new book, still heavy with the scent of paper, ink, and glue. Those days were a blessing in disguise because that’s when the waiting began.

I’d watch my mother turn page by page, wanting her to finish the book, close its covers, letting out a sigh and handing me the book. I tried to pass that time with homework, chores, and friends, but she would never read quite fast enough. I barely knew the title of the book, hadn’t even read the back cover, but I didn’t care. The fact that she never commented on the plot or characters as she read made the books even more mysterious.

One day I was particularly impatient.

‘Hurry up,’ I said.

No answer.

‘Is it any good?’

Silence.

‘What’s it about?’

She looked up at me, stern, unwavering.

‘Are you going to be much longer? I really want to—‘

I could tell that she was torn between wanting to be left alone and understanding my dilemma and suddenly, without warning, she shut the book with her finger positioned bookmark-like where I had so rudely interrupted her, and tore its spine. Just like that she ripped the book in half. We both sat in silence for we adored books and treated them with kindness and her action seemed wrong to both of us in so many ways.

‘Here you go,’ she said and handed me the first half of the book.

I stared at the torn book, mesmerized, then I grabbed it and I sank into the next chair and began reading.

It turned into a ritual then and we repeated it with every book she bought and afterwards we’d place the torn books on a shelf, halfheartedly matching them.

But people began questioning us.

‘What’s with the torn books?’ they’d ask, imagining a feral child ripping them apart or a dog using them as chew toys. We just shrugged but eventually moved them to the attic where they would remain unquestioned. We somehow longed to keep this secret between us, maybe because we had other secrets we didn’t divulge and so keeping another one was second nature to us.

My mother passed of a sudden illness when I was in college. Eventually I moved to the U.S. and on a visit home I searched the attic for our torn books but they were nowhere to be found. I grabbed whatever books had remained and hauled them through Heathrow all the way to Texas.

Undisturbed they sat on a shelf for years before I realized they contained a few secrets of their own; flipping through Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, I discovered a four-leaf clover; a brittle Edelweiss blossom was pressed between the pages of Jacob Roth’s Job; and a typed and undated letter was tucked away in Jules Verne’s The Courier of the Czar in which my grandmother scolded my teenage mother for not putting her education first and spending all her time with ‘that boy.’

I wanted to believe she hid those things just for me to discover one day but I can’t be sure. The mysteries remain unsolved—did the four-leaf clover bestow any luck upon her? How did she manage to pluck a flower that can only be found climbing a steep Alpine rock face? Or did someone pick it for her? Who was the boy she was seeing? The letter was undated so it might have been my father, but I can’t be sure of that either.

The torn books have vanished and all that remains is a memory but I know with certainty that she wouldn’t mind that I shared the secret of the torn books with the world. She was generous that way.

Little Girl Gone is out now in eBook and paperback. For the latest from the author, be sure to follow her on Twitter @alexandraburt.

Author of SOMEONE OUT THERE, Catherine Hunt shares her Top 10 Books

Category: Author Post

  

Strangers on a Train/Patricia Highsmith.

A clever and simple idea for the perfect murder. Excellent portrayal of the relationship between the two main characters; the psychopath Bruno and his alter ego, Guy, who is the target of his corruption.

To Kill a Mockingbird/Harper Lee.

I love this for its focus on having the courage to stand up for what you believe in and for Atticus Finch with his burning sense of justice.

  

The Woman in White/Wilkie Collins.

Full of suspense, a twisting plot and great characterisation, especially the sinister Count Fosco. Chilling and very dramatic.

My Cousin Rachel/Daphne Du Maurier.

This tale of two men’s obsession with a mysterious woman they want to control keeps you guessing until the very end about whether Rachel is guilty or not … and then it keeps you guessing some more.

  

Rubbernecker/Belinda Bauer.

Original and with a terrific lead character, Patrick, who suffers from Asperger’s. I love the way the author switches from grimly bleak to darkly funny; a wonderful mix of darkness and light.

A Fatal Inversion/Barbara Vine.

A haunting story of how past sins cast long shadows.  Very atmospheric as it moves between a long hot summer of lost youth when murder was committed, and ten years later when those involved fear revelation.

  

Engleby/Sebastian Faulks.

A delightfully creepy book and a great character study of a sociopath. All is very definitely not what it seems.

Catch 22/Joseph Heller.

Very funny and very sad. Great use of satire and black humour to highlight the insanity of war, the mendacity of political and military leaders, and the madness of human behaviour.

  

Apple Tree Yard/Louise Doughty.

Riveting tale of a successful, smart woman who makes one bad judgement which leads to terrible consequences.

The Mermaids Singing/Val McDermid.

Fast paced, tense and exciting. A compelling exploration of the tormented mind of a killer.

 

Catherine Hunt’s debut thriller Someone Out There is out now. For the latest from the author, you can follow her on Twitter @CHWrites, Like her on Facebook, and visit her website catherinehunt.com.