Welcome to Fiona Cummins, author of The Collector.
Life, by its very nature, is often in a state of flux, but there is always one constant: brilliant books.
During life-changing periods of sadness and joy, heartbreak and hope, I have often turned to old favourites to comfort and sustain me.
Choosing my favourite ten novels is like being asked to pick between my children, so the criteria I used was quite strict. I wanted to share the books that have had the most profound impact on me during a particular time in my life. It doesn’t mean they’re the best examples of their genre, or the most important works of literary fiction, but all these books mean something to me..
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I have mixed feelings about this novella because of its negative depiction of women, but I have included it because it was one of the first novels that blew me away with the tragedy of its story-telling, namely the fate of Lennie. Steinbeck was a master in conjuring time and place, and this rich character-study of male friendship, loneliness, and the opposing faces of strength and weakness in Depression-era America impressed upon me the importance of bringing characters wholly to life.
- The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
What a profound impact this book had on me. I stumbled across it in a charity shop, drawn by its cover of a naked woman reflected in a mirror, wearing a tiger mask, and it changed the way I read. In some ways, it was my first foray into literary fiction, but I was captivated by the sexual awakening of a young woman forced to live with an abusive patriarch.
- The Collector by John Fowles
For a while, I was obsessed with the work of Fowles. Although he is better known – and fêted – for The French Lieutenant’s Woman, for me, this startling début represents a writer at his creepiest best. I loved the dual perspectives – the insight into both captor and captive – and the bleak conclusion. It’s a long time since I have read this book, and it’s only just dawned on me quite what an influence it’s had on my own writing, not least the title of my second novel.
- Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
This story about a young girl brought up in an oppressive religious household who falls in love with Melanie, one of her ‘converts’, is a darkly comic coming-of-age story. It was an early – and revelatory – lesson in love and its differing forms, and how others might, wrongly, try to censor how one feels.
- The Stand by Stephen King
I’m a devoted fan of Mr. King. He is a genius at making his characters live and breathe on the page, and is blessed with an imagination that frequently tackles the opposing forces of darkness and humanity. This sprawling novel is a masterclass in plot and character. So many strands, so many stories, and yet the reader always knows from the start of each chapter which character is in the spotlight, and the motivations that propel their behaviour. Randall Flagg is one of the scariest creations in fiction.
- Crooked House by Agatha Christie
This novel started my love affair with crime fiction. Christie’s plots are just so devilishly clever, so cunningly constructed. When I first read Crooked House, I did not guess the identity of the murderer, and can still remember my sense of shock at the denouement. I love this book so much that I bought a first edition of it with my some of my advance from Rattle.
- The Butcher by Alina Reyes
This novel, a translation from the French bestseller, was a birthday gift from a boyfriend. It opened my eyes to the way words could be used in a richly provocative manner to suggest one thing but mean another. As a teenager, this shocking mixture of eroticism and poetry was a gateway into a world I didn’t know existed.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I first read The Secret History around the time it was published in 1992, a year before I started university. This menacing door-stopper of a novel was the perfect way to whet my appetite for the life ahead of me, and I remember being transfixed by this story of a tight-knit group of classic students who turn to murder to cover up a secret. Donna Tartt created a bold and intelligent page-turner, hitting that sweet spot of brilliantly written fiction that is impossible to put down.
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Patrick Bateman, how I love thee. Not for the faint-hearted, this brilliant satire on the shallowness of the human condition remains one of my most loved books. With a stream-of-consciousness narrative, American Psycho tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker by day, sadistic serial killer by night. Trapped in a loveless engagement, and fuelled by a bitter hatred of his colleagues, the novel cleverly plays with our perceptions until we’re not sure whether Bateman is in the grip of psychosis or the murders are a product of his warped imagination. One of the greatest fictional creations.
- The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
And finally, one of favourite novels of all time. Thomas Harris does not put a foot wrong in this modern classic about a jailed sociopath with a taste for human flesh who helps a female FBI agent track a killer. His writing is stunning, and the relationship between Clarice Starling and the intellectually brilliant Dr Hannibal Lecter is one of the most enduring in fiction. Lecter himself is unforgettable.
The Collector is published by Macmillan on 22 February 2018:
Jakey escaped with his life and moved to a new town.
His rescue was a miracle but his parents know that the Collector is still out there, watching, waiting . . .
Clara, the girl he left behind, dreams of being found.
Her mother is falling apart but she will not give up hope.
The Collector has found an apprentice to take over his family’s legacy.
But he can’t forget the one who got away and the detective who destroyed his dreams.
DS Etta Fitzroy must hunt him down before his obsession destroys them all.
Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror show business journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course.
Rattle, her bestselling debut novel, received international critical acclaim when it was published last year. It is also in development as a six-part TV series by the producers of Kick-Ass and Miss Sloane.
Her second novel The Collector was described by David Baldacci as ‘a crime novel of the very first order’.
Fiona lives in Essex with her family.