Anthony Quinn

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Anthony Quinn was born in Liverpool in 1964. Until recently he was the film critic of the Independent. His debut novel, THE RESCUE MAN, won the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. His second novel, HALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, was released in spring 2011. THE STREETS was published by Jonathan Cape in October 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2013 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. CURTAIN CALL, was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2015 and was selected for the Waterstones Summer Book Club 2015, followed by his next novel, FREYA, in March 2016. His latest novel, EUREKA, was published by Jonathan Cape in July 2017.

OUR FRIENDS IN BERLIN, a new novel, will be published by Jonathan Cape in July 2018. 

Praise for OUR FRIENDS IN BERLIN (2018):

‘An eye for a plot, a profound gift for character and a faultless sense of period and place: Anthony Quinn was always going to write first-rate thrillers, and Our Friends in Berlin is pure pleasure.’ David Hare

Praise for EUREKA (2017):

'Eureka is the third in Quinn’s 20th-century trilogy and, though Freya returns, it is Nat’s turn this time to take centre stage... Powered by a satisfactorily pacy plot and oiled by Quinn’s effortless prose, this is a book that slips down as easily as a gin-and-it, but larger questions lurk beneath its polished surface... As for answers, Quinn leaves that up to us. While he mocks Nat’s dilatoriness and reserves the novel’s tenderest moments for those who work with integrity, it is the artists like Billie’s self-involved boyfriend Jeff who take themselves and their work too seriously who draw his strongest fire. His own position is perhaps best intuited from the sheer verve of this novel, the delight it takes in its capacity to entertain. Joey, having listened to Nat’s explanation, curls his lip in disgust. “You’re sure,” he asks, “this film isn’t in black and white?” Eureka, on the other hand, is in glorious Technicolor.' Guardian 

'Quinn's immersive approach to his historical fiction means we're soon woozy with the sounds and sights of [1967] when the Beatles changed music history, homosexuality was decriminalised and cinema was playing with our minds... [Eureka] is a breezy, saucy saunter through the (often inextricably tangled) glamour and seediness of the late Sixties. Gangsters and their molls, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and the mystery of a serial arsonist are all thrown into the mix to keep the novel ticking over. Quinn's continued ability to make inherently unappealing characters such as Freya and Nat strangely captivating suggests there could be more to come from them in subsequent books.' The Times 

'In Eureka, [Quinn] takes another step on his journey through the 20th century to arrive in London in the summer of 1967, swinging to the soundtrack of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper. Some of the same characters [Curtain Call and Freya] return, but for those yet to discover this former film critic, don’t be put off joining the party for part three of this loosely linked and hugely enjoyable trilogy. You require no prior knowledge. Eureka works just as well as a stand-alone... Quinn has shown a particular penchant in all his six novels to date for incorporating pitch- and period-perfect diary entries and/or letters into the narrative. In Eureka he seamlessly weaves in an entire film script as it emerges hot off Nat’s typewriter, complete with dialogue and stage directions... If Eureka is beginning to sound too clever by half, rather like a 60s counterculture film, what brings it all delightfully together is Quinn’s flawless, easy-going prose. He never once puts a foot wrong either in the wealth of period detail or in giving each welldrawn character their distinctive voice. Clever, certainly, but in just the right measure.' Observer

Praise for FREYA (2016):

'She's an attractive creation, Freya Wylie... [she] impulsively hooks up with naive Nancy Holdaway, and it is the ups and downs of their friendship, at Oxford and beyond, which keeps the narrative bouncing along over the years. But really it is Freya all the way... Here is a modern woman to be celebrated in all her contradictions and complexity. It's fun to be in her company... Quinn's easy style and Freya's verve carry you along happily to the end' Evening Standard 

'Quinn is the literary equivalent of Houdini, a novelist who has a particular talent for absenting himself and letting his characters come to life... [He] explores the big issues of the century - feminism, homosexuality, immigration, the individual versus society - but does so with a deceptively light touch. He draws us into the consciousness of his protagonists in an utterly compelling way [and] he makes the reader fall in love with Freya... There is a certain quality of deliciousness that is missing from a great deal of English prose. But Quinn has oodles of it... [His] characters, particularly the vivid, maddening, wilful, foul-mouthed and frequently funny Freya, will continue to live on long after reaching the final line of this wonderful novel' Andrew Wilson, Independent 

'Great dollops of old-master stagecraft grease the cogs of Anthony Quinn's prize-winning period fiction... [In Freya] the language sews a thread of unstated desire that supplies steady tension... Quinn's themes and scope - from affairs of the heart to party politics - made me half wonder if, like more or less everyone else these past couple of years, he'd been inhaling Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and had decided to try his hand at a home-brewed version. Certainly there's enough left hanging by the end to make you think the story of Freya and Nancy could use another volume; here's hoping' Observer

'Immensely enjoyable... There aren't many novelists who can get away with using 'withal', not to mention 'phocine', and not raise eyebrows. Then again, there aren't many novelists with smoother, more elegant prose styles than Anthony Quinn. His sentences practically purr on the page... Moving from post-war austerity to 1960s swing-time, this is a novel alive to the smallest of generation gaps... Such grand narratives aren’t so much imposed as slipped in your breast pocket thanks to a plot that is effortlessly entertaining and gracefully thought-provoking. In this, Quinn meets his own description of the quietly devastating V-2 rockets that Hitler fired from Holland: ‘bombs with slippers on.’ Sometimes it really is the quiet ones you have to look out for' James Kidd, Independent

'It's a neat innovation to find yourself rooting for a friendship rather than a love story. The beautiful Freya is no elegant, period-drama cliche: she swears, she drinks, she pops Benzedrine, she sleeps with the wrong people, she betrays her friends. One of the novel's strengths is that Quinn allows his heroine to behave so badly. The historical backdrop is rendered, as always, with meticulous attention to detail... Freya herself is an impression creation, and Quinn's audacity in the final chapter pays off. "It's funny how some characters, mere figments on the page, never really die in our heads, or hearts," he has one character say. "We think about them even after we've clapped shut the book." Freya is one of those characters - and an achievement that few writers can boast' Sunday Times  

'An engaging costume drama... [Freya] is full of delicious little lexical clevernesses: ‘the room was mutterish with conversation’, ‘faces harassed with boredom’, ‘an affably rumpled sofa’... It is a big but nuanced work, combining social history, acute characterisation and meditation on the need for personal truth-telling and public diplomacy' Spectator

'A new novel by Anthony Quinn is a prospect to be savoured... Told from Freya's point of view, the novel fluently pits a determinedly feminised consciousness against a rapidly changing England divided over immigration, gay rights and a burgeoning youth culture. It's Freya though, who dominates - and dazzles: brilliant, modern, wilful and fascinatingly unreliable witness to her own flawed character' Daily Mail

Praise for CURTAIN CALL (2015):

‘All the characters in [Curtain Call] are complex and surprising… There is something of Waugh in the acute observation, of Maugham in the sophistication of the world, a dash of John Buchan in the pace and action, and the comedy is a delight. Neither pastiche nor melodrama, the novel is simply itself… utterly pleasing from the first page to the last’ Sadie Jones, Guardian

‘This is an utterly delightful read, made to appear easy, effortless and brilliantly suspenseful, while never becoming predictable or cosy... There’s plenty here, too, for aficionados of Sarah Waters: the same lightness of touch, rich historical detail and carefully calculated suspense… [It is] in a class all of its own. I can’t recommend this book highly enough’ Viv Groskop, Guardian

‘Quinn's refined narrative voice [is] crisp, melodious and sure-footed… The novel tilts at entertainment, but is also intent on graver moral questions… Curtain Call is a beautifully written, absorbing work of historical fiction… A distinguished thing indeed’ Independent

‘Quinn’s genius as a novelist is that he works so much into a story and makes it so much more than the sum of its parts… There is never a dud scene, or a poorly drawn character. And scattered throughout Curtain Call are passages of lyricism that lodge in your memory…  It had me on the edge of my seat. The only disappointment, as Jimmy Erskine might have remarked in one of his reviews, is when the curtain finally has to come down’ Telegraph

‘With Orwell-clear prose and a Trollope-sized cast, Curtain Call makes the 1930s glitter… Night after night for a happy week, Quinn filled my dreams with glossy surfaces and hidden vices, silk stockings and champagne and intellectual snobberies and long walks home on hard London pavements’ New Statesman

‘An entertaining murder mystery… What distinguishes Curtain Call and makes it such an enjoyable novel is the vigour with which Quinn summons up 1930s London. The theatreland in which Nina is forging her career, the rackety clubs in which Erskine seeks his forbidden pleasures and the dining rooms in which people flirt foolishly with fascism all come to life in a story that seizes the reader’s attention in the first few pages and seldom lets it slip’ Sunday Times

Praise for HALF OF THE HUMAN RACE (2011):

'Quinn's grasp of history is acute, but it is his ambition - and his ability to deliver on it - that impresses most. The Rescue Man won prizes. HALF OF THE HUMAN RACE should follow in its footsteps and establish its author as one of our most impressive novelists' Independent

'A thoroughly absorbing and moving novel and it is testament to the author's adaptability and energy' Sunday Times

'This is only Quinn's second novel, but you would never guess it from the expert way he marshals his material, telling a human story in a literate, intelligent way... Half of the Human Race is not just an exhilarating love story, bur a thoughtful, well-crafted novel that can be recommended to lovers of cricket, smoking or Jane Austen - not necessarily in that order'  Daily Telegraph

 

Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes

OUR FRIENDS IN BERLIN

2018

Jonathan Cape

London, 1941. The city is under nightly attack. Two strangers are about to meet during the blackout. Between them they may alter the course of the war.

While the Blitz has united the nation, there is an enemy hiding in plain sight. A group of British citizens is gathering secret information to aid Hitler’s war machine. Jack Hoste has become entangled in this treachery, but he also has a special mission: to locate the most dangerous Nazi agent in the country.

Hoste soon receives a promising lead. Amy Strallen, who works in a Mayfair marriage bureau, was once close to this elusive figure. Her life is a world away from the machinations of Nazi sympathisers, yet when Hoste pays a visit to Amy’s office, everything changes in a heartbeat.

Breathtakingly tense and trip-wired with surprises, OUR FRIENDS IN BERLIN is inspired by true events. It is a story about deception and loyalty. Is love actually possible in a world where nothing is what it seems?

2017

Jonathan Cape

Summer, 1967. As London shimmers in a heat haze and swoons to the sound of Sergeant Pepper, a mystery film – Eureka – is being shot by German wunderkind Reiner Werther Kloss. The screenwriter, Nat Fane, would do anything for a hit but can’t see straight for all the acid he’s dropping. Fledgling actress Billie Cantrip is hoping for her big break but can’t find a way out of her troubled relationship with an older man. And journalist Freya Wyley wants to know why so much of what Kloss touches turns to ash in his wake. Meanwhile, the parallel drama of Nat’s screenplay starts unfurling its own deep secrets.

Sexy, funny, nasty, Eureka probes the dark side of creativity, the elusiveness of art and the torment of love.

FREYA

2016

Jonathan Cape

London, May 1945. Freya Wyley, twenty, meets Nancy Holdaway, eighteen, amid the wild celebrations of VE Day, the prelude to a devoted and competitive friendship that will endure on and off for the next two decades. Freya, wilful, ambitious, outspoken, pursues a career in newspapers which the chauvinism of Fleet Street and her own impatience conspire to thwart, while Nancy, gentler, less self-confident, struggles to get her first novel published. Both friends become entangled at university with Robert Cosway, a charismatic young man whose own ambition will have a momentous bearing on their lives.

Flitting from war-haunted Oxford to the bright new shallows of the 1960s, Freya plots the unpredictable course of a woman’s life and loves against a backdrop of Soho pornographers, theatrical peacocks, willowy models, priapic painters, homophobic blackmailers, political careerists.

Beneath the relentless thrum of changing times and a city being reshaped, we glimpse the eternal: the battles fought by women in pursuit of independence, the intimate mysteries of the human heart, and the search for love. Stretching from the Nuremberg war trials to the advent of the TV celebrity, from innocence abroad to bitter experience at home, Freya presents the portrait of an extraordinary woman taking arms against a sea of political and personal tumult.

2015

Jonathan Cape

On a sultry afternoon in the summer of 1936 a woman accidentally interrupts an attempted murder in a London hotel room. Nina Land, a West End actress, faces a dilemma: she’s not supposed to be at the hotel in the first place, and certainly not with a married man. But once it becomes apparent that she may have seen the face of the man the newspapers have dubbed ‘the Tie-Pin Killer’ she realises that another woman's life could be at stake.

Jimmy Erskine is the raffish doyen of theatre critics who fears that his star is fading: age and drink are catching up with him, and in his late-night escapades with young men he walks a tightrope that may snap at any moment. He has depended for years on his loyal and longsuffering secretary Tom, who has a secret of his own to protect. Tom’s chance encounter with Madeleine Farewell, a lost young woman haunted by premonitions of catastrophe, closes the circle: it was Madeleine who narrowly escaped the killer’s stranglehold that afternoon, and now walks the streets in terror of his finding her again.

Curtain Call is a comedy of manners, and a tragedy of mistaken intentions. From the glittering murk of Soho’s demi-monde to the grease paint and ghost-lights of theatreland, the story plunges on through smoky clubrooms, tawdry hotels and drag balls towards a denouement in which two women are stalked by the same killer. As bracing as a cold Martini and as bright as a new tie-pin, it is a poignant and gripping story about love and death and a society dancing towards the abyss.

2012

Jonathan Cape

In 1882, David Wildeblood, a 21-year-old from rural Norfolk, arrives in London to start work at the offices of a famous man. As an 'inspector' for Henry Marchmont's hugely successful weekly The Labouring Classes of London, his job is to investigate the notorious slum of Somers Town, near the new St Pancras Station, recording house by house the number of inhabitants, their occupations and standard of living. By mapping the streets in this way, Marchmont intends to show the world the stark realities of poverty in its greatest city. Befriended by Jo, a young coster, and his sister Roma, David comes to learn the slang of the hawkers and traders, sharpers and scavengers, magsmen and mobsmen, who throng the teeming byways of Somers Town. It is the place of a Darwinian struggle for survival. And the deeper he penetrates the everyday squalor and destitution the more appalled he is by mounting evidence that someone is making a profit from people's suffering. A dinner at the Kensington home of his godfather Sir Martin Elder introduces him to Kitty, Elder's only daughter, and to a cabal of prominent citizens who have been plotting a radical solution to the problem of London's poor. David belatedly realises that a conspiracy is afoot. Passionate but reckless in his urge to uncover it he finds his life in danger, sustained only by the faithfulness of a friend and, ultimately, the love of a woman. In The Streets Anthony Quinn reconstructs an unforgettable picture of Victorian London, encompassing the extremes of privilege and privation, from the baronial mansions of the rich to the 'whited tombs' of the slums. With shocking poignancy and pin-sharp detail he brings to life a world of terrible degradation, yet one redeemed by dark comedy, profound fellow-feeling and the enduring possibility of love.

2011

Vintage

In the Sumer of 1911, Connie Callaway is at the heart of the rapidly intensifying Suffragette movement. Will Maitland, a rising star of county cricket, is a man of traditional opinions. He is both intrigued and appalled by Connie's outspokenness and quest for self-fulfilment. Their unlikely love is further tested as war drives these protagonists further apart.

2010

Vintage

Set in Liverpool, THE RESCUE MAN follows the changing fortunes of the once lonely and directionless Tom Baines. With the outbreak of the second World War, Tom finds both purpose and love when serving as one of the rescue men that retrieve the wounded from bombed buildings. A powerful tale of love found and lost.