C is for Carter

Continuing my A-Z of (my bookshelf greats.

Choosing an author whose surname begins with the letter ‘C’ wasn’t straightforward. A was always going to be for Atwood and B for Banks, but C? Orson Scott Card wrote one of my favourite books (Ender’s Game) and Arthur C Clarke takes most of a shelf, but both are flawed and neither is truly great.  Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is surely one of the best fantasy novels of recent times (though her back catalogue is too sparse for this selection) and Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler (from very different perspectives) have filled many of my hours with gripping tales of crime and detection (though I prefer my writers to take themselves – and their characters – a little more seriously). Lewis Carrol’s there, as are Jack L Chalker and Edmund Cooper (relatively obscure hidden pleasures), but again they’re too light for my selection. James A Corey (author of the Expanse series) would have been there, and probably would have been my choice if he actually existed, but the two people who actually write the books, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, haven’t done enough on their own to demand a place on this list.

For style and substance, there’s only one real choice. Angela Carter. Read her 1979 short story collection, The Bloody Chamber for a profoundly unsettling experience (particularly the title story), or pick up one of her layered novels such as Nights at the Circus (1984) or The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972).


Magic realism? Fantasy? Horror? All of these and more. Here tales are feminist gothic mixed with the fantastic and sinister, and her ideas are challenging and subversive, making her one of the great writers of the 20th century. She died when only 52 in 1992. C is for Carter and The Bloody Chamber is my book choice.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories: Amazon.co.uk: Carter, Angela,  Simpson, Helen: 9780099588115: Books