Hannah Kate

poet, short story writer and editor based in Manchester

July 1, 2022

North Manchester FM: The Festival Show, Friday 1 July, 4-5pm

Join me on Friday at 4pm for The Festival Show on North Manchester FM. This week’s episode will be taking a look at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe Festival (which runs throughout July), and here’s what’s coming up on Friday…

A preview of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing I’ll be hearing from Time & Again Theatre Company about two of their productions on this year’s festival programme.

Fringe Venues… I’m going to be talking about some of the venues that are hosting shows for this year’s festival, including a couple of excellent North Manchester venues.

What’s On… There’s a lot coming up this month on the GM Fringe programme, so I’m going to be sharing the shows that you can see over the coming week in an extended What’s On guide.

Catch the show on Friday at 4pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

June 29, 2022

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 2 July, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM for more News and Reviews from the World of Words on Hannah’s Bookshelf. Here’s what’s coming up on this week’s show…

A review of a new book by Rob Hargreaves I’ll be talking about Clem Beckett: Motorcycle Legend and War Hero (out now from Pen and Sword Books).

A review of a short story collection by Jesse Falzoi I’ll be reviewing A Place to Be by Jesse Falzoi (out now from Bridge House Publishing).

Library Haul!… A new occasional feature on the show! I’ll be talking about the exciting selection of books I checked out on my recent trip to the Avenue Library in Blackley.

And What Are You Reading?… the section of the show where I ask writers about the books they’re reading at the moment. This week I’ve got another selection of reviews and recommendations. And if you’re a writer who’d like to take part, check out this post with details of how to join in!

Plus… you can hear my round-up of news from the World of Words. If you’ve got a news story you’d like to share, please use the News Form to submit it to the show.

Catch the show on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

June 27, 2022

Literary Nostalgia: Back to 1980!

On Saturday’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM, I decided to indulge in a bit of literary nostalgia (as I do, from time to time). As I said on the show, I chose the year 1980 for a number of reasons, and I decided to take a look at a little selection of the books published that year.

If you missed the show, you can catch it again on the player at the bottom of this post. But, as promised, here’s a list of the titles featured on this week’s episode…

Innocent Blood by P.D. James

The first book on today’s list is by one of the Baronesses of Crime. Innocent Blood is a standalone novel about a young woman called Philippa Palfrey. Philippa was adopted, and while she was raised by a loving (and solidly middle class) couple, she becomes curious about her birth parents and decides to find out who they were. What she discovers throws her sense of self and identity into question and, it has to be said, leads her to some very dark places. Although Innocent Blood is – as you might expect for a novel by P.D. James – published as a crime novel, it’s not a straightforward mystery/detection story. There is undoubtedly crime here, but it’s not presented as a puzzle to be solved. The puzzle in this one is more the protagonist herself. It’s a compelling story, though you may (like me) finding the ending rather uncomfortably ambiguous.

Firestarter by Stephen King

The next book on my list is a different kettle of fish to Innocent Blood (aside from the accidental theme that links a few of the books, which I discussed on the show!) Firestarter is a horror novel, as you might expect, but it combines this with science fiction and thriller elements as well. It’s the story of Andy McGee and his young daughter Charlie, who find themselves on the run from a sinister government agency. Prior to Charlie’s birth, Andy and Vicky (Charlie’s mother) took part in an experiment involving ‘Lot 6’, a powerful hallucinogenic drug that left its test subjects with altered abilities of various kinds. Andy and Vicky’s daughter has been born with abilities of her own, particularly pyrokinesis (she’s the firestarter of the book’s title), and now the government want to track her down. The book begins with Andy and Charlie fleeing The Shop following Vicky’s murder and the attempted abduction of Charlie – it’s a very ‘thriller’ opening, but the book soon starts to develop its science fiction and horror themes.

The Twits by Roald Dahl

The next book on the list probably needs very little introduction. Roald Dahl’s anti-beard story is pretty well-known! The Twits of the title are a married couple who don’t seem to like each other – but don’t seem to like anyone else either. They spend their days playing mean-spirited pranks on one another and tormenting the animals and birds that live with them. Dahl’s fiction isn’t exactly renowned for being soft and gentle, but this is an especially dark example. Mr and Mrs Twit’s lives are filled with cruelty and nastiness, and readers almost universally cry out for them to get their comeuppance. And boy – that comeuppance is as horrible as you might expect.

The Lake of Darkness by Ruth Rendell

And now a book by the other Baroness of Crime (as apparently I can’t have one without the other!). Again, this is a standalone, and again it’s not a straightforward story of crime and detection. The protagonist here is a mild-mannered, rather dull young accountant called Martin Urban. When Martin has a substantial win on the football pools, he decides to give half of his winning away to worthy causes. However, this doesn’t work out the way he planned it, as his win brings him into the orbit of some characters who change the way he sees life. In particular, it brings him into the world of Finn, the son of Martin’s mother’s cleaner, a rather sinister character who works for a dodgy landlord. As with much of Rendell’s fiction (written under the names Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine), there’s a dark heart to this one. No spoilers – obviously – but suffice to say that the naive protagonist doesn’t keep his naivety at the end of the book.

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Next up, I turned to a science fiction novel by Octavia E. Butler. Wild Seed is the first (in terms of chronology) of Butler’s Patternist series. It tells the story of two immortals with extra-human powers – Doro, a sort of ‘bodysnatcher’ who can prolong his lifespan by taking the bodies of others, and Anyanwu, a woman who can shapeshift into other forms and has healing powers. Doro wants to take Anyanwu to his ‘seed village’, a breeding camp in which he is attempting to create a superhuman race, and she agrees to go with him. After she is married off to Doro’s son, Anyanwu becomes disillusioned with the barbarity of Doro’s scheme. I won’t give too much more away about the plot, but I will say that the book engages with questions of eugenics, power (even ‘supremacy’) and Blackness – which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you’re familiar with Butler’s fiction! Wild Seed has been read as a key example of Afrofuturism, particularly as it serves as the origin text of the Patternist series.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

And finally, I turned to one of the best-selling books of 1980. I must confess to not realizing Ludlum’s book was published so long ago! But I imagine there are quite a few other people who associate the character of Jason Bourne so strongly with the 2002 film adaptation that they will also be surprised at finding out the initial publication date. In case you’re not familiar with it, though, The Bourne Identity is a spy thriller in which a man with amnesia finds himself on the run from various groups, including government agencies and hired hitmen. He discovers that his name is Jason Bourne, but that doesn’t quite answer the question of his identity. Think murky conspiracies, international chases, and lots and lots of double-crossing. And, of course, Carlos the Jackal. It’s a classic of the genre, and like the other books on today’s list, it’s definitely one that’s stood the test of time.

To hear more about all of these books, and about my reasons for choosing them, you can catch the show again here:

June 23, 2022

North Manchester FM: The Festival Show, Friday 24 June, 4-5pm

Join me on Friday at 4pm for The Festival Show on North Manchester FM. This week’s episode will be taking a look back at Manchester City of Literature Festival of Libraries, and here’s what’s coming up on Friday…

Inspired by Libraries: Mike Sweeney… On Friday 17th June, I was at Eccles Library to host an event with Mike Sweeney as part of this year’s festival.

The Great Miss Lydia Becker… On Saturday 18th June, I was at Manchester Central Library to hear a talk by Joanna M. Williams about her book The Great Miss Lydia Becker (which you may remember I reviewed on Hannah’s Bookshelf back in April).

North City Library Fun Day… And also on Saturday 18th June, I was at North City Library for their Family Fun Day. I spoke to some of the libraries staff and artist Mandy Beck-McKim about the activities on offer at the library.

Bonus! A preview of Pill (Blue Balloon Theatre)… The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival will be on throughout July. I’ll be hearing from Rebecca Phythian about one of the shows on at this year’s festival: Pill (on at Salford Arts Theatre on 1st and 2nd July).

What’s On… I’ll be taking a look at what’s coming up in July and August as well.

Catch the show on Friday at 4pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

June 20, 2022

Read a Rainbow: Indigo

On this week’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM, I was talking about all things indigo in the sixth and penultimate episode of my semi-regular series of colour-themed shows. I’m nearly finished with the colours of the rainbow with this series, so it’ll be violet next time!

In case you’re interested, here are the links to my previous Read a Rainbow book lists: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue.

You can listen to the show on the player below, but as promised, here’s a list of the books I talked about on the show…

The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd (2017)

This week’s show was a weird instalment of the Read a Rainbow series, because I ended up talking more about the colour itself than the books. Of course, this is because indigo is a pretty weird colour, in that it doesn’t quite ‘fit’ with the rest of the rainbow. I could’ve done a whole reading list of non-fiction books about the colour indigo and indigo dye. I decided instead to stick to fiction today, but to include books inspired by the fascinating history and science of the strangest colour of the rainbow.

Natasha Boyd’s novel is a good example of this. The Indigo Girl draws on the true story of Eliza Lucas, an eighteenth-century plantation heiress who developed commercial indigo-growing in South Carolina and, thus, introduced indigo as a significant cash crop for the US. Drawing on historical documents about Lucas’s life and business, Boyd creates a story of betrayal, deceit and drama. One of the interesting things for the purposes of today’s show – and this is a theme that will come up again in other books on the list – is the idea of ‘indigo’ as secret or arcane knowledge. In the case of The Indigo Girl, it’s specifically the knowledge of how to grow and produce valuable indigo dye, a process known by some enslaved people and desired by the white plantation owner who sees the commercial potential. Boyd explores the ways that her Eliza Lucas might have gone about building trust and finding out the ‘secret’ of indigo in the novel.

Indigo by Charlaine Harris et al (2017)

As well as the history of indigo, I was also quite interested in the connotations of the colour, which are partly a result of the history, and partly a result of its uncertain status as part of the rainbow (it’s not universally accepted by any means that indigo should be included in the spectrum of visible light).  The next book on today’s list is definitely inspired by these connotations.

Indigo is a collaborative novel by Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James A. Moore and Mark Morris. By day, Nora Hesper is an investigative journalist; by night, she’s Indigo, a super-powered vigilante, fighting crime and trying to work out the origin of her powers and identity. There’s a lot of superhero action here, but also a story about secrets, arcane knowledge and (and this isn’t the last time this will appear on today’s list) cults.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

Now, this one isn’t quite inspired by the same history as the other books on today’s list. But I was determined to include The Color Purple on one of my colour-themed lists – and it could really only be this one, couldn’t it? (It doesn’t quite fit with ‘violet’.)

I’m sure Walker’s epistolary novel needs no introduction, but I was interested in exploring some the ways in which it relates to some of the same themes as the other books on today’s list. Unlike the others, The Color Purple doesn’t engage with the history and ideas of ‘indigo’, but there is some common ground nevertheless. In particular, all three of the books in the first half of today’s list engage with ideas of American national identity/identities – with all the darkness that goes along with that. Slavery and its aftermath loom large – and we’ll return to that in one of the books in the second half of the list – which is hardly surprising given the history of indigo production in the States.

Indigo by Graham Joyce (2001)

Time to turn to a British author now. Indigo is a bit (though not a complete) genre break for Joyce, as it’s a thriller rather than dark fantasy or horror. However, it does have suggestions of the darkly paranormal about it, and it does put its protagonist in some ‘horror-esque’ situations.

Jack Chambers travels to Chicago for the reading of his estranged father’s will. Tim Chambers was an eccentric, but his son is about to find out just how dark and strange his world was. Among the bequests in the will is an instruction for Jack to publish a manuscript Tim was working on before he died. It claims to be a manual for invisibility, but it’s actually a treatise on ‘seeing indigo’. The book uses the idea that scientists have questioned whether indigo is, in fact, a colour that can be perceived by the human eye. And yet, artists and writers have long understood what indigo is. As Jack tries to work out how to fulfil his father’s request, he’s drawn into a world of (once again) arcane knowledge, secrets and cultic ritual.

Indigo by Marina Warner (1992)

And we continue with some familiar themes in the next book. Warner’s Indigo is, in part, a ‘speaking back’ to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which seeks to reimagine the play and give voice to those who were kept silent in the earlier work (particularly Sycorax, who doesn’t even appear on stage in Shakespeare’s story). Indigo also draws out the themes of colonization and slavery that underlie (in embryonic form) the story of The Tempest, weaving them into a piece of historical, but also fantastical, fiction.

We return, then, to indigo production and the material value of indigo dye (once known as ‘blue gold’). As in Boyd’s The Indigo Girl, the process of growing and producing indigo is presented here as a secret knowledge held by the enslaved and colonized, and desired by the invaders. And, once again, we find people willing to steal, betray and deceive to obtain its secrets. The use of indigo – rather than some of the other cash crops that developed as a result of the slave trade – allows Warner to incorporate some of the mystery and poetry of this most unusual of colours, as well as to draw on the darker side of its history.

To Indigo by Tanith Lee (2011)

I finished today’s show with a writer who has been woefully neglected in recent years. But also, as with Joyce’s Indigo, this book is something of a genre break (thriller, again, rather than dark fantasy or horror).

Tanith Lee’s novel is the story of Roy Phipps, a rather nondescript author of formulaic crime novels, who lives an unremarkable life. The only bit of excitement in Phipps’s life is a manuscript he’s been working on in secret (of course there’d be secrets in an indigo-themed book!). This secret side-project is a wild and sprawling story that takes in alchemy, murder, madness and poetry. Things get weird when Phipps meets Joseph Traskul, a man who appears to be the double of the protagonist of his secret novel. Traskul drags Phipps into a whirling series of mind games that threatens to destroy the mild-mannered author’s sanity. One of the great things about this book is that its structure and plot allowed Lee to showcase her ability to switch between writing styles, from the florid Gothic of Phipps’s manuscript to the more ‘real-world’ thriller elements of his relationship with Traskul. And, wrapping up today’s journey through the world of indigo, it’s got all the secrets, deceptions, uncertain identities and arcane knowledge you’d expect from the most controversial colour of the rainbow!

To hear more about all of these books, and my reasons for choosing them, you can catch the show again here:

June 13, 2022

North Manchester FM: The Festival Show, Friday 17 June, 4-5pm

Join me on Friday at 4pm for The Festival Show on North Manchester FM. This week’s episode will be taking a last look at Manchester Histories Festival before turning to this year’s Manchester City of Literature Festival of Libraries, and here’s what’s coming up on Friday…

GHOORNI – A Disastrous Cycle… On Friday 10th June, I was at Manchester Central Library to see GHOORNI – A Disastrous Cycle by Ayna Arts (part of the Crossing Footprints collaboration on the festival programme).

Manchester Histories Celebration Day… The final day of Manchester Histories Festival was the Celebration Day at Manchester Monastery. Among the local history groups who I spoke to at the event were Clayton Hall, Heaton Park Tramway, Manchester Jewish Museum, the International Brigade Memorial Trust and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

Manchester City of Literature Festival of Libraries… This year’s Festival of Libraries began on Wednesday 15th June. I spoke to Reece Williams from Manchester City of Literature, Lemn Sissay (the festival ambassador) and theatre group Malandra Jacks to find out more about this year’s programme.

The Palmer Crime Lecture Series: The Life of Crime… On Wednesday 15th June, I was at the Portico Library to hear Martin Edwards talk about his latest book, The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and their Creators.

What’s On… I’ll be giving you a round-up of the final weekend of the Festival of Libraries and looking ahead to what’s coming up next this month.

Catch the show on Friday at 4pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

June 8, 2022

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 11 June, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm for more Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. This week, my guest will be the awesome Julia Wolfendale.

Julia is the author of Five Ways to Focus, an Accredited Executive Coach, qualified to masters level in leadership and founder and Director of On The Up Consulting Ltd. She has coached and trained hundreds of people how to be their best selves and get things on the up. She runs a Lean In coaching network and is a quality assured executive coach for the NHS, and University MBA programmes. Her clients range from CEOs, directors, and senior managers in the public, private and voluntary sector. Specialising in strengths-based coaching, Julia has developed a number of tools, training courses and programmes to help organisations get the best out of their people with coaching conversations. The workforce development programme Julia designed and delivered for Cumbria Constabulary won Gold – for Best Employee Engagement Programme and Silver – for Best Coaching and Mentoring Programme at the prestigious International Training Journal Awards 2019.

Julia has also written another book, a children’s story about Belle Vue Zoo called The Trouble with Elephants, which she began when she was 12 and published during lockdown.

I’ll be talking to Julia about her writing and coaching work – and about the elephants! And, of course, she’ll be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

Catch the show on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

June 8, 2022

North Manchester FM: The Festival Show, Friday 10 June, 4-5pm

Join me on Friday at 4pm for The Festival Show on North Manchester FM. This week’s episode will be taking a look at the Manchester Histories Festival, and here’s what’s coming up on Friday…

Opening Night… On Wednesday 8th June I was at Manchester Monastery for the opening night of this year’s Manchester Histories festival, talking to people about what’s coming up on the programme.

Author Event – Jonathan Purkis… On Thursday 9th June I was at Manchester Central Library for a talk by Jonathan Purkis on his book, Driving With Strangers.

Author Event – Brian Groom… And also on Thursday 9th June I was at an illustrated talk by Brian Groom on his book, Northerners: A History from the Ice Age to the Present Day.

The Wicked Problem… I’ll be reviewing The Wicked Problem, an interactive theatre piece from Ergon Theatre, which was staged at Manchester Central Library on Thursday 9th June.

What’s On… I’ll be giving you a round-up of the final events at the Manchester Histories Festival, plus looking forward to what’s coming up next week.

Catch the show on Friday at 4pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

June 2, 2022

North Manchester FM: The Festival Show, Friday 3 June, 4-5pm

Join me on Friday at 4pm for The Festival Show on North Manchester FM. This week’s episode will be taking a last look at this year’s SICK! Festival and a first look (for me) at the Manchester Flower Show, and here’s what’s coming up on Friday…

Witness This… I’ll be reviewing Company Chameleon‘s dance performance, Witness This, which was staged as part of SICK! Festival on Saturday 28th May.

Manchester Flower Show Festival Zone Displays… On Thursday 2nd June, I was out in Manchester City Centre to visit the Manchester Flower Show displays.

Manchester Flower Show Queen’s Jubilee Trail… And also on Thursday, I checked out the Jubilee Trail, part of this year’s Manchester Flower Show.

Manchester Flower Show Cocktail Trail… As part of this year’s Flower Show, a number of bars and restaurants around town are serving themed cocktails. I visited some of them on Thursday to find out more about their floral creations.

What’s On… I’ll be giving you a round-up of the festival events you can catch this week at Manchester Flower Show and Manchester Histories Festival.

Catch the show on Friday at 4pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here:

June 1, 2022

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 4th June, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM for more News, Reviews and Short Interviews on Hannah’s Bookshelf. Here’s what’s coming up on this week’s show…

An interview with RJ Dark Back in August 2017, I interviewed fantasy writer RJ Barker. Today I’ll be talking to a crime writer who bears a strange resemblance to Barker! RJ Dark is the author of the Mal & Jackie crime series. His debut novel A Numbers Game and its sequel Incy Wincy are both published by Wavesback. He lives in a crumbling ancient mansion somewhere in Yorkshire and is surrounded by books, music, animals and his family. And in case you’re interested, here are the books RJ’s evil twin selected for Apocalypse Books: Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks, and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

A review of a book by Anita Sethi I’ll be talking about I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain (out now from Bloomsbury).

A review of a book by Simon Bestwick I’ll be reviewing Black Mountain, a novel by Simon Bestwick (out now from Independent Legions Publishing).

And What Are You Reading?… the section of the show where I ask writers about the books they’re reading at the moment. This week I’ve got another selection of reviews and recommendations. And if you’re a writer who’d like to take part, check out this post with details of how to join in!

Plus… you can hear my round-up of news from the World of Words. If you’ve got a news story you’d like to share, please use the News Form to submit it to the show.

Catch the show on Saturday at 2pm on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).

Missed the show? You can catch it again here: