Hannah Kate

poet, short story writer and editor based in Manchester

February 15, 2018

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 17 February, 2-4pm

Join me on Saturday at 2pm on North Manchester FM for Hannah’s Bookshelf. This week, my guest will be the fantastic Ruta Skudraite.

Ruta is a Manchester-based curator and founder of Art Vanguard. With a background of classical piano, Ruta has been part of various creative projects as a performer – from interactive audiovisual installation on human condition (Vilnius Culture Night, Lithuania) to building a European cabaret show in French Alps (FestiFai Veynes, France). Ruta has launched Art Vanguard in 2013 to provide a platform for artists to explore cross-artform creative collaboration, and this year Art Vanguard will be curating the Free For Arts Festival at Plant Noma in Northern Quarter on Saturday 3 March.

Free For Arts is a community festival passed on to a different art collective each year, and has previously focussed on visual arts. This year, the torch has been passed to a local collaborative arts producer Art Vanguard, building on this tradition to include performance arts to provide a vision of a #lifelessordinary for Manchester residents. Free to attend, audiences can expect captivating and original performances from celebrated artists hailing from Lithuania, Birmingham, and Manchester. Combining an array of visual art, dance, spoken word, theatre and film, the artists explore the thin veil of reality through themes of Fairytale, Dream, and Fantasy.

I’ll be talking to Ruta about this year’s Free For Arts Festival, about Art Vanguard, and about creative collaboration generally. And, of course, Ruta will be sharing her selections for this week’s Apocalypse Books.

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

February 13, 2018

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 13 February, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 on North Manchester FM for another Helping of History. This week, I’m going to be talking about the ‘scandal case’ of George Victor Townley, the son of a wealthy merchant from Hendham Vale. In 1863, Townley was convicted of murdering Bessie Goodwin, his ex-fiancée – but, strangely, this isn’t where the scandal lies. Find out what happened next on Tuesday’s show!

In addition to this, as always, I’ll be reading Yesterday’s Papers. And you can pit your wits against the Who Am I? quiz – just how well do you know North Manchester’s iconic buildings?

Tune in on Tuesday at 12 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:

February 11, 2018

Ex Libris: A Selection of Books About Books

On Saturday’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM, I talked about a selection of novels about books. It was quite a specific theme this week – I wasn’t talking about books that features writers, libraries or a general love of reading. Instead, I was interested in stories where a specific book is of interest (as a material object or as lost/forbidden content).

You can listen to the show on the player at the end of this post, but as promised here are the details of the books I featured. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas (2006)

This is the book that inspired today’s theme, as I finished reading Thomas’s novel a couple of days ago. The End of Mr Y tells to story of Ariel Manto, a sort-of PhD student working on thought experiments, who is researching an obscure nineteenth-century author named Thomas Lumas. Ariel is particularly interested in Lumas’s lost work (the eponymous The End of Mr Y), of which only one copy is believed to exist – and which is rumoured to be cursed. The only person Ariel knows who has read The End of Mr Y is her erstwhile PhD supervisor Saul Burlem… but he disappeared some time ago.

Thomas’s novel begins with Ariel discovering a copy of The End of Mr Y by chance, and being drawn into the strange ‘thought experiment’ of Lumas’s tome. There’s something of a story-within-a-story here, as we read (some) chapters of The End of Mr Y along with Ariel. The ‘present day’ story sees Ariel beset by antagonists keen to get hold of the book, and experimenting with the weird world of Lumas’s work.

This isn’t a huge recommendation, sadly, as I didn’t enjoy The End of Mr Y as much as I was expecting. It’s not quite as deep as it thinks it is, and after a time I got a little tired of the Philosophy 101 mini-lectures. However, I’m happy to accept I’m in the minority here (the novel was very well-received when it came out), and Thomas’s novel definitely inspired me to think more about books-about-books and stories-within-stories… which brings me on to the rest of my list…

The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1993)

Originally published in Spanish under the title El Club Dumas (I read the English translation by Sonia Soto), The Club Dumas tells the story of book dealer Lucas Corso, who is commissioned to authenticate a previously unknown partial draft of The Three Musketeers. While researching the Dumas draft, Corso is approached by Varo Borja, who wants authentication of a very different type of book. Borja has a copy of Of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows, an occultist volume that purportedly contains instructions for summoning the devil. Three copies of Of the Nine Doors exist, but only one is believed to be genuine. Borja wants Corso to tell him which one.

As with his previous novel, Pérez-Reverte’s novel is a very bookish book. Not only is it set in the world of antiquarian book-dealing, but it contains references to all manner of literature (from the works of Alexandre Dumas and Arthur Conan Doyle, to Gone With the Wind and Watership Down). The book was adapted into a film – The Ninth Gate – in 1999, which was directed by Roman Polanski and starred Johnny Depp as Dean Corso. The film focuses on the occult plot, though, and so all references to Dumas’ work are dropped.

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James (2012)

Something a bit different now… James’s 2012 romance novel features Samantha McDonough, an American librarian on holiday in the UK, who discovers a lost letter from Jane Austen in an old book of poetry. In the letter (written to Austen’s sister Cassandra), the author makes mention of an early manuscript that she lost at Greenbriar in Devon. When she discovered that Greenbriar (a mansion house) still exists, Samantha heads off to see if she can track down the priceless missing manuscript. Of course, she discovers a lot more than this, as she meets Anthony Whitaker, the new owner of Greenbriar.

James’s novel really is a story-within-a-story, as Samantha’s burgeoning relationship with Anthony is paralleled by the story-within-a-story of The Stanhopes, Austen’s rediscovered manuscript. Inspired by Austen’s 1816 Plan of a Novel, according to Hints from Various Quarters (which was, admittedly, intended as satire), The Stanhopes is the story of Rebecca Stanhope and her impecunious father. Like a number of other readers, I found The Stanhopes to be a fairly decent imitation of an early, unedited Austen novel (not completely convincing, but engaging enough) – but at times, it did overshadow the ‘present day’ story of Samantha and Anthony. Definitely one for die-hard Janeites.

If on a winter’s night a traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)

First published in Italian under the title Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore (I read the 1981 English translation by William Weaver), Calvino’s experimental novel begins in second person, present tense. ‘You’ are sitting down to read Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveller. You make yourself comfortable, lost in the anticipation of your new book. You start to read…

Calvino’s book seems to begin like a story-within-a-story. The next chapter is the first chapter of a book called If on a winter’s night a traveller. But this is all that’s included, as the second and subsequent chapters are missing. ‘You’ go to the bookstore to track down a correct version of the novel, but when you start to read your new volume, what you actually get is the first chapter of an entirely different novel. Calvino’s book continues in this vein, alternating between the first chapters of ten entirely different novels and a second-person narrative about ‘your’ increasingly desperate attempts to find at least one complete book to read.

If this sounds confusing, it really isn’t. Calvino – a member of Oulipo – has created a book about books that makes complete sense. It’s a very different way of constructing narrative, which builds to an unexpectedly satisfying ending.

Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine (1993)

I have to admit that this next title is one of my favourite books ever, so I’m sorry if I sounded a bit gushing on the show! The Asta’s Book of the novel’s title is the diary of a Danish woman who moves to East London with her husband in 1905. Asta keeps her diary (which is brutally honest and wonderfully acerbic) for over sixty years. After her death, her daughter Swanny has the diaries published, and they become something of a literary sensation.

Asta’s diaries are the story-within-the-story. The ‘present day’ story has Asta’s granddaughter Ann as its protagonist. After Swanny’s death, Ann inherits the diaries (and other effects from her grandmother). She’s contacted by an old (ex-)friend, who is working on a documentary about an unsolved murder, which Asta had made brief mention of in the diaries. Encouraged by her friend’s curiosity – and some unresolved questions about her own family – Ann decides to delve a bit deeper into Asta’s Book, wondering for the first time what her grandmother didn’t write down.

Asta’s Book is a beautifully rich and detailed story, told through the alternating stories of Ann (and her memories of her grandmother and aunt) and Asta’s own narration. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone. A lot.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (2014)

And I ended the show on another strong recommendation. The Silkworm is the second of the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), and I think it’s my favourite of the three published so far.

Galbraith’s private investigator Strike is approached by Leonara Quine, who is concerned about the disappearance of her husband Owen. Owen Quine was once an enfant terrible of the literary world, though his output has been less impressive of late. His disappearance coincided with the leak of an unpublished manuscript entitled Bombyx Mori (named for a type of silkworm that is boiled alive in its own cocoon in order to extract its silk). While not strictly a story-within-a-story, we get enough detail of Bombyx Mori to realise that this book – considered unpublishable by the London literary scene – was intended to be an excoriating satire of the people in Quine’s intimate circle. Naturally, the people featured in Quine’s book are the prime suspects in… whatever has happened to him.

The Silkworm is a real page-turner, full of larger than life characters and with a compelling little puzzle at its heart. The first two of Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike novels were adapted for TV in 2017 as Strike, starring Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger.

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

February 11, 2018

Performers Wanted for Live Poetry Special

Want to perform your poetry on the radio?

On Saturday 17th March, Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM will be hosting a live poetry special. I’d like to invite poets and spoken word performers to come along and perform their work on the show.

The Hannah’s Bookshelf Live Poetry Special will be going out live from the studio in Harpurhey, North Manchester at 2-4pm. It will be broadcast on 106.6FM (in the North Manchester area) and online (for the rest of the world). Performance slots are 6 minutes long.

Whether you’re a veteran performer or new to reading your work, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line via the Contact page, tweet me or message me on Facebook if you’d like to perform. Slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

February 6, 2018

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 6 February, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History on North Manchester FM. This week, I’ll be talking about possibly one of the best known and significant dynasties in our local history, when we Meet the Asshetons!

As always, I’ll also be reading Yesterday’s Papers, and you can pit your wits against the Who Am I? quiz – just how well do you know North Manchester’s landmark buildings?

Tune in on Tuesday at 12 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:

January 29, 2018

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 3 February, 2-4pm

Tune in on Saturday at 2pm for Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. This week, my guest will be the wonderful Catherine Lundoff.

Catherine lives in Minneapolis with her wife and the two cats that own them. She is an award-winning writer and editor whose stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Respectable Horror, My Wandering Uterus, The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty, Renewal, The Cainite Conspiracies: A Vampire the Masquerade V20 Anthology and Nightmare Magazine: Queers Destroy Horror. Her recent books include Silver Moon and Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories. Catherine is also the publisher at Queen of Swords Press, a new genre fiction publisher of tales from out of this world. When not writing or working on Queen of Swords, Catherine is a professional computer geek who enjoys science fiction and fantasy, good books and local theatre.

I’ll be chatting to Catherine about Queen of Swords, werewolves and all things speculative fiction. 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:

January 29, 2018

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 30 January, 12-2pm

Join me on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History on North Manchester FM. This week, our story takes in Hollinwood and Harpurhey (and a little further afield), as I’m going to be talking about Hannah Beswick, also known as the Manchester Mummy. Find out about Hannah’s life, death and afterlife on this week’s show.

As always, I’ll also be reading Yesterday’s Papers. And you can pit your wits against the Who Am I? quiz – just how well do you know North Manchester’s landmark buildings?

Tune in on Tuesday at 12 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:

January 23, 2018

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 23 January, 12-2pm

Tune in to North Manchester FM on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History. This week I’m going to be talking about Tinker’s Gardens – North Manchester’s once-famous pleasure gardens. So there’ll be plenty of talk of hot air balloons, dancing and cucumbers on this week’s show!

And, as always, I’ll be reading Yesterday’s Papers, and you can pit your wits against the Who Am I? quiz – just how well do you know North Manchester’s landmark buildings?

Catch the show at 12 on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield.

Missed the show? You can listen again here:

January 21, 2018

I’ll Be There For You: Some of my Favourite Literary Friendships

This week’s episode of Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM was all about some of my favourite books about friends and friendship. You can listen to the show on the player below but, as promised, here are the details of the books I talked about on Saturday’s show.

Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart (1985)

Probably more familiar to most people from the 1988 film adaptation starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, Dart’s 1985 novel tells the story of the lifelong friendship between Cee Cee Bloom and Bertie White (renamed Hillary Whitney in the film). The two meet when they’re kids in Atlantic City and promise to keep in touch. Despite falling out for a time, the two women always come back to each other in times of crisis – proving that a BF really is F.

I included Beaches on my list today because it’s such an iconic story of female friendship, not because it’s one of my favourite books. To be honest, this is probably one case where the film is a little bit better than the book (or, at least, it’s a good idea to see the film before you read the book). The novel’s characters are not quite as likeable than their film counterparts, and it’s just that little bit harder to imagine why they’ve been friends for so long. Plus, it really adds to the book if you can imagine Cee Cee Bloom belting out her songs in Bette Midler’s voice!

It by Stephen King (1986)

No list of literary friends would be complete without King’s 1986 novel about the power of friendship (though, admittedly, it’s more often considered to be a book about ancient monsters and terrifying clowns). The story is split across two timeframes. In the late 1950s, children the town of Derry (in Maine) are terrorized by a creature they name ‘It’, which manifests as each child’s worst fear. Ben, Eddie, Bill, Richie, Stan and Bev – joined later by Mike – band together as the Losers Club to understand, and hopefully defeat, the monster that stalks them, despite the fact that the monster seems to have gone forgotten and unnoticed by the town’s adults. In the 1980s, Mike (the only member of the Losers Club to stay in his home town) suspects that It has returned to Derry, and he calls up his old friends to remind them of what they did in their childhood – and ask them to do it again.

It has seen two high-profile adaptations since its publication. The 1990 TV adaptation cemented the figure of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (one of It’s most memorable manifestations) in the popular imagination, thanks to Tim Curry’s terrifying portrayal. In 2017, the first of a two-part cinematic adaptation hit the big screen. In this version – directed by Andy Muschietti – the timeframes have been separated and moved closer to the present. Part 1 is set in the 1980s and focuses on the childhood of the Losers Club. In many ways, this adaptation really emphasizes the theme of friendship in King’s work. But, for many King fans this didn’t really need any emphasis, as friendship and its enduring legacy is a theme that crops up a lot in his work.

The Dead Letter Box by Jan Mark (1982)

As a lot of the books that have friendship as a theme are aimed at children and young adults, I thought it would be appropriate to include a kid’s book on my list. And what would be better than my favourite book about friendship from my own childhood? Mark’s novel has always had a very special place in my heart, because I read it at a time when I was in a similar situation to the main character.

The Dead Letter Box is about Louie and her best friend Glenda. When Glenda moves away, Louie hits on an imaginative way for them to keep in touch – they’ll write each other letters and leave them in a book in the local library (their very own ‘dead letter box’). It’ll be their secret, and a very special way to keep in touch with each other. But, sadly, Louie has to deal with the fact that sometimes BFs are not F, as the number of letters she receives begins to dwindle… but maybe there’s something new around the corner… This is a lovely novel about dealing with change, moving on, and finding a new best friend.

A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (1987)

The next book on my list is more about the potential for friendships to turn toxic… but I guess you could still say the characters in Vine’s novel are best friends for a time. The book begins with the new owners of Wyvis Hall, an old manor house in Suffolk, deciding to bury their pet dog in an old animal cemetery they’ve discovered in the grounds. To their horror, this unearths the remains of a woman and child. As news of the discovery hits the press, three people are forced to confront memories they’d been trying to repress.

Much of the book is told in flashbacks to the summer of 1976, when a young man named Adam Verne-Smith inherited Wyvis Hall and decided to turn it into a sort of commune. As Adam remembers that summer – and the friends with which he shared it – the truth about the skeletons in the cemetery starts to come to light. As well as being a gripping thriller, A Fatal Inversion is a great story about the claustrophobia of friendship, and the simmering tensions that can lie beneath the surface.

In the Woods by Tana French (2007)

This week’s show was partly inspired by the book I was reading, Broken Harbour by Tana French, a police procedural thriller with a psychological (almost Gothic) flavour. Like several of French’s other books, Broken Harbour weaves friendships and their legacy through the story of a murder investigation. The clearest example of this is found in her award-winning debut novel, In the Woods.

Twenty-two years before the events of the novel, three best friends – Adam, Peter and Jamie – went into the woods, but didn’t come back. Adam was eventually found, with blood on his clothes and scratchmarks on his skin, but he couldn’t remember anything that had happened. Peter and Jamie were never found. Now, the body of a 12-year-old girl has been found in the same woods, and Adam (now a Murder Squad detective who goes by his middle name Rob) is sent to investigate. Rob works with his partner Cassie Maddox and another detective Sam O’Neill, but their investigation is constantly haunted by the secrets of Rob’s past. In the Woods is an absolute page-turner, and one of those books that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. French has followed up her debut with a series of novels featuring other detectives from the fictional Dublin Murder Squad: The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbour, The Secret Place and The Trespasser.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1955)

Okay… maybe this is an unusual choice for a list of literary friendships, but I’m still going to argue it’s about two men who are BFFs – with heavy emphasis on the second F. After all, haven’t we all got that one friend who we’re just tied to through some quirk of history that we can’t quite remember?

The English language version of Beckett’s play premiered in 1955. It was his own translation of his French work En attendant Godot, which premiered in Paris in 1953. The play begins with two men – Vladimir and Estragon (who call each other by the nicknames Didi and Gogo) – waiting for Godot. It ends like that as well. Who Godot is, and why they’re waiting for his arrival, is never explained. They just know they have to wait for him.

Included by critic Martin Esslin in his work on ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, Beckett’s play is a work that has encouraged numerous interpretations – and defied them all. It’s a play about the absurdity of existence, the futility of language, the pointlessness of the human condition. And it’s also a play about two friends, hanging around, waiting for something to happen.

To find out more about all of these books, and about my reasons for choosing them, you can listen to the show here:

January 16, 2018

North Manchester FM: A Helping of History, Tuesday 16 January, 12-2pm

Tune in to North Manchester FM on Tuesday at 12 for another Helping of History. This week, I’m going to be talking about the strange case of the century-long feud that was eventually solved by a magician! I’ll be talking about Theale Moor, an area of land on the borders of Moston, Middleton, Chadderton and Hollinwood… and about the violent dispute that once raged over it (and the intervention of a very colourful character from Manchester’s history).

As always, I’ll be taking a look at Yesterday’s Papers. And you can pit your wits against the Who Am I? quiz – just how well do you know North Manchester’s iconic buildings?

Catch the show on Tuesday at 12 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: