Browse books in this series
New Penguin Essentials edition of the heartbreaking classic of the roaring twenties, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
'I don't ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there'll always be the person I am tonight.'
American psychoanalyst Dick Diver and his wife Nicole live in a villa on the French Riviera, surrounded by a circle of glamorous friends. When beautiful film star Rosemary Hoyt arrives she is drawn to the couple - Dick contemplates an affair, while Nicole believes she's found a new best friend. But a dark secret lies at the centre of the Divers' marriage. A secret which could destroy Dick and Nicole and those close to them . . .
On the Road by Jack Kerouac is the exhilarating novel that defined the Beat Generation and is a 2012 major motion picture starring Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Riley, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'What's your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.'
Sal Paradise, young and innocent, joins the slightly crazed Dean Moriarty on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American Dream.
A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac's exhilarating novel defined the new 'Beat' generation and became the bible of the counter culture.
'On the Road sold a trillion Levis and a million espresso machines, and also sent countless kids on the road. The alienation, the restlessness, the dissatisfaction were already there waiting when Kerouac pointed out the road' William Burroughs
'Pop writing at its best. It changed the way I saw the world, making me yearn for fresh experience' Hanif Kureishi, Independent on Sunday
Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. Educated by Jesuit brothers in Lowell, he decided to become a writer at age seventeen and developed his own writing style, which he called 'spontaneous prose'. He used this technique to record the life of the American 'traveler' and the experiences of the Beat Generation, most memorably in On the Road and also in The Subterraneans and The Dharma Bums. His other works include Big Sur, Desolation Angels, Lonesome Traveler, Visions of Gerard, Tristessa, and a book of poetry called Mexico City Blues. Jack Kerouac died in 1969.
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle is an irreverent and highly entertaining fantasy about the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.'
Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of Ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness.
Will Felix Hoenikker's death wish come true? Will his last, fatal gift to humankind bring about the end that, for all of us, is nigh?
Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global apocalypse preys on our deepest fears of witnessing the end and, worse still, surviving it . . .
'The time to read Vonnegut is just when you begin to suspect that the world is not what it appears to be. He is not only entertaining, he is electrocuting. You read him with enormous pleasure because he makes your hair stand on end' New York Times
'One of the warmest, wisest, funniest voices to be found anywhere in fiction' Daily Telegraph
'Vonnegut has looked the world straight in the eye and never flinched' J. G. Ballard
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and was followed by The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House (1968); a collection of short stories, Slaughterhouse Five (1969), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988), Hocus Pocus (1990) and Timequake (1997). He is also the author of a number of collections of short stories and essays. Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007.
'There has been a lot of fighting hereabouts. The trenches have made themselves rather than been made, and run inconsequently in and out of the big thirty-foot high stacks of bricks; it is most confusing. The parapet of a trench which we don't occupy is built up with ammunition boxes and corpses . . .'
In one of the most honest and candid self-portraits ever committed to paper, Robert Graves tells the extraordinary story of his experiences as a young officer in the First World War. He describes life in the trenches in vivid, raw detail, how the dehumanizing horrors he witnessed left him shell-shocked. They were to haunt him for the rest of his life.
'The unhappiness that I need and long for . . . is of the kind that will let me suffer with eagerness and die with lust. That is the unhappiness, or happiness, that I am waiting for.'
Alienated from society, Harry Haller is the Steppenwolf, wild, strange and shy. His despair and desire for death draw him into an enchanted, Faust-like underworld. Through a series of shadowy encounters, romantic, freakish and savage by turn, Haller begins to rediscover the lost dreams of his youth.
Adopted by the Sixties counterculture, Steppenwolf captured the mood of a disaffected generation that was beginning to question everything.
Journalist, maverick, rebel and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson offers another novel of American counterculture in Hell's Angels, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'A phalanx of motorcycles came roaring over the hill from the west... the noise was like a landslide, or a wing of bombers passing over. Even knowing the Angels I couldn't quite handle what I was seeing. It was like Genghis Khan, Morgan's Raiders, the Wild One and the Rape of Nanking all at once.'
In September, 1964 a cavalcade of motorbikes ripped through the city of Monterey, California. It was a trip destined to make Hell's Angels household names across America, infamous for their violent, drunken rampages and feared for the destruction left in their wake.
Enter Hunter S. Thompson, the master of counter-culture journalism who alone had the ability and stature to ride with the Angels on their terms. In this brilliant and hair-raising expose, he journeys with the last outlaws of the American frontier.
A mixture of journalism, story-telling and sheer bravado, Hell's Angels is Hunter S. Thompson at full throttle.
'Excellent documentary non-fiction' Time Out
'The maverick voice of American counterculture' Guardian
'There are only two adjectives writers care about any more - "brilliant" and "outrageous" - and Hunter has a freehold on both of them' Tom Wolfe
'The book that made Thompson's name' Loaded
Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937. He began his writing career as a sports columnist in Florida and went on to work on newspapers and magazines in New York, San Juan and Rio de Janeiro. His articles appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the author of a number of books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Great Shark Hunt, Generation of Swine, The Curse of Lono, Songs of the Doomed, Better Than Sex, The Proud Highway and The Rum Diary. Hunter S. Thompson died in 2005.
'My name is Eva, which means "life", according to a book of names my mother consulted. I was born in the back room of a shadowy house, and grew up amidst ancient furniture, books in Latin, and human mummies, but none of those things made me melancholy, because I came into the world with a breath of the jungle in my memory.'
Isabel Allende tells the sweet and sinister story of an orphan who beguiles the world with her astonishing visions, triumphing over the worst of adversity and bringing light to a dark place.
The Great Gatsby is a dazzling social satire, F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece and a milestone in twentieth-century literature, now beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'There was music from my neighbour's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.'
Everybody who is anybody is seen at the glittering parties held in millionaire Jay Gatsby's mansion in West Egg, east of New York. The riotous throng congregates in his sumptuous garden, coolly debating Gatsby's origins and mysterious past. None of the frivolous socialites understands him and among various rumours is the conviction that 'he killed a man'. A detached onlooker, Gatsby is oblivious to the speculation he creates, but always seems to be watching and waiting, though no one knows what for.
As the tragic story unfolds, Gatsby's destructive dreams and passions are revealed, leading to disturbing consequences. A brilliant evocation of 1920s high society, The Great Gatsby peels away the layers of this glamorous world to display the coldness and cruelty at its heart.
'Not only a page-turner and a heartbreaker, it's one of the most quintessentially American novels
ever written' Time
'He (F Scott Fitzgerald) was better than he knew, for in fact and in the literary sense he invented a
"generation"' New York Times
'The most perfectly crafted work of fiction to have come out of America' Professor Tony Tanner
'The American masterwork, the finest work of fiction by any of this country's writers' Washington Post
'Connie was aware, however, of a growing restlessness...It thrilled inside her body, in her womb, somewhere, till she felt she must jump into water and swim to get away from it; a mad restlessness. It made her heart beat violently for no reason...'
Lady Constance Chatterley is trapped in a loveless marriage to a man who is impotent. Oppressed by her dreary life, she is drawn to Mellors the gamekeeper. Breaking out against the constraints of society she yields to her instinctive desire for him and discovers the transforming power of physical love which leads them both towards fulfilment.
Banned for many years for its frank depiction of sex, Lady Chatterley's Lover was first published by Penguin in 1960 and was at the centre of a sensational obscenity trial at the Old Bailey. D. H. Lawrence himself called it 'the most improper novel in the world'.
Meet the fat, flatulent and eloquent Ignatius J. Reilly in John Kennedy Toole's light and pithy comic tale A Confederacy of Dunces, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians . . . don't make the mistake of bothering me.'
Ignatius J. Reilly: fat, flatulent, eloquent and almost unemployable. By the standards of ordinary folk he is pretty much unhinged, too. But is he bothered by this?
No. For this misanthropic crusader against an America fallen into vice and ignorance has a mission: to rescue a naked female philosopher in distress. And he has a pirate costume and hot-dog cart to do it with . . .
'I succumbed, stunned and seduced, page after page, vocal with delight. A masterwork of comedy' New York Times
'A fine funny novel. This is the kind of book one wants to keep quoting from' Anthony Burgess
John Kennedy Toole was born in New Orleans in 1937. He received a master's degree in English from Columbia University and taught at Hunter College and at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early sixties and tried unsuccessfully to get the novel published; depressed, at least in part by his failure to place the book, he committed suicide in 1969. It was only through the tenacity of his mother that her son's book was eventually published and went on to win the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His long-suppressed novel The Neon Bible, written when he was only sixteen, has also been published.
Jean Rhys's spell-binding novel Wide Sargasso Sea, inspired by Jane Eyre and winner the Royal Society of Literature Award is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'There is no looking glass here and I don't know what I am like now... Now they have taken everything away. What am I doing in this place and who am I?'
If Antoinette Cosway, a spirited Creole heiress, could have foreseen the terrible future that awaited her, she would not have married the young Englishman. Initially drawn to her beauty and sensuality, he becomes increasingly frustrated by his inability to reach into her soul. He forces Antoinette to conform to his rigid Victorian ideals, unaware that in taking away her identity he is destroying a part of himself as well as pushing her towards madness.
Set against the lush backdrop of 1830s Jamaica, Jean Rhys's powerful, haunting masterpiece was inspired by her fascination with the first Mrs Rochester, the mad wife in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.
'Compelling, painful and exquisite' Guardian
'Brilliant. A tale of dislocation and dispossession, which Rhys writes with a kind of romantic cynicism, desperate and pungent' The Times
'Rhys turns a menacing cipher into a grieving, plausible young woman, and one whose story says whole worlds about global mixtures, about the misunderstandings between the colonized, the colonizers and the people who can't easily say which they are' Time
Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in 1890, the daughter of a Welsh doctor and a white Creole mother, and came to England when she was sixteen. Her first book, a collection of stories called The Left Bank, was published in 1927. This was followed by Quartet (originally Postures, 1928), After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930), Voyage in the Dark (1934) and Good Morning, Midnight (1939). None of these books was particularly successful and with the outbreak of war they went out of print. Jean Rhys dropped from sight until nearly twenty years later she was discovered living reclusively in Cornwall. During those years she had accumulated the stories collected in Tigers are Better-Looking. In 1966 she made a sensational reappearance with Wide Sargasso Sea, which won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the W. H. Smith Award. Her final collection of stories, Sleep It Off Lady, appeared in 1976 and Smile Please, her unfinished autobiography, was published posthumously in 1979. Jean Rhys died in 1979.
Truman Capote's dazzling New York novel Breakfast at Tiffany's that inspired the classic 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'What I've found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits...'
Meet Holly Golightly - a free spirited, lop-sided romantic girl about town. With her tousled blond hair and upturned nose, dark glasses and chic black dresses, Holly is a style sensation wherever she goes. Her apartment rocks to Martini-soaked parties and she plays hostess to millionaires and gangsters alike. Yet Holly never loses sight of her ultimate dream - to find a real life place like Tiffany's that makes her feel at home.
Full of sharp wit and exuberant, larger-than-life characters which vividly capture the restless, madcap era of 1940s New York, Breakfast at Tiffany's will make you fall in love, perhaps for the first time, with a book.
'A master writer ... makes the heart sing and the narrative fly' The New York Times
'The most romantic story ever written' Alex James, Guardian
'One of the century's greatest storytellers' Independent on Sunday
Truman Capote was born in New Orleans in 1925. By the age of fourteen he had already started writing short stories, some of which were published. After leaving school at fifteen he worked for the New Yorker, his first - and last - regular job. Following this Capote spent two years on a Louisiana farm where he wrote Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). He lived, at one time or another, in Greece, Italy, Africa and the West Indies, and travelled in Russia and the Orient. Capote is the author of many highly acclaimed books, including A Tree of Night and Other Stories (1949), The Grass Harp (1951), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), In Cold Blood (1965), which immediately became the centre of a storm of controversy on its publication, Music for Chameleons (1980) and Answered Prayers (1986). Truman Capote died in 1984.
A Clockwork Orange is the daring and electrifying book by Anthony Burgess that inspired one of the most notorious films ever made, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'What's it going to be then, eh?'
In this nightmare vision of youth in revolt, fifteen-year-old Alex and his friends set out on a diabolical orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex is jailed for his teenage delinquency and the State tries to reform him - but at what cost?
Social prophecy? Black comedy? Study of freewill? A Clockwork Orange is all of these. It is also a dazzling experiment in language, as Burgess creates a new language - 'nadsat', the teenage slang of a not-too-distant future.
'Every generation should discover this book' Time Out
'A gruesomely witty cautionary tale' Time
'Not only about man's violent nature and his capacity to choose between good and evil. It is about the excitements and intoxicating effects of language' Daily Telegraph
'I do not know of any other writer who has done as much with language...a very funny book' William S. Burroughs
'One of the cleverest and most original writers of his generation' The Times
Anthony Burgess was born in Manchester in 1917. He studied English at Manchester University and joined the army in 1940 where he spent six years in the Education Corps. After demobilization, he worked first as a college lecturer in Speech and Drama and then as a grammar-school master before becoming an education officer in the Colonial Service, stationed in Malay and Borneo. In 1959 Burgess was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and decided to become a full-time writer. Despite being given less than a year to live, Burgess went on to write at least a book a year - including A Clockwork Orange (1962), M/F (1971), Man of Nazareth (1979), Earthly Powers (1980) and The Kingdom of the Wicked (1985) - and hundreds of book reviews right up until his death. He was also a prolific composer and produced many full-scale works for orchestra and other media during his lifetime. Anthony Burgess died in 1993.
E.M.Forster's delightfully satiric comedy of manners A Room with a View is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'You love the boy body and soul, plainly, directly, as he loves you . . .'
Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance.
Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Pertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George.
Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Victorian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart?
A Room with a View is a sunny, brilliantly witty comedy of manners.
'He says, and even more implies, things that no other novelist does, and we can go on reading Forster indefinitely' The Times
'I loved it. My first intimation of the possibilities of fiction' Zadie Smith
Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879. He studied at King's College, Cambridge. He wrote six novels, four of which appeared before the First World War, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908) and Howard's End (1910). An interval of fourteen years elapsed before he published A Passage to India. It won both the Prix Femina Vie Heuruse and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He last novel, Maurice, was published posthumously in 1971. He also published two volumes of short stories and a number of non-fiction books. E. M. Forster died in 1970.
A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas and one of the best-loved comic novels of all time, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'We are not like other folk, maybe, but there have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm...'
Sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste has been expensively educated to do everything but earn a living. When she is orphaned at twenty, she decides her only option is to descend on relatives - the doomed Starkadders at the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm.
There is Judith in a scarlet shawl, heaving with remorse for an unspoken wickedness; raving old Ada Doom, who once saw something nasty in the woodshed; lustful Seth and despairing Reuben, Judith's two sons; and there is Amos, preaching fire and damnation to one and all.
As the sukebind flowers, Flora takes each of the family in hand and brings order to their chaos.
Cold Comfort Farm is a sharp and clever parody of the melodramatic and rural novel.
'Very probably the funniest book ever written' Sunday Times
'Screamingly funny and wildly subversive' Marian Keyes, Guardian
'Delicious ... Cold Comfort Farm has the sunniness of a P. G. Wodehouse and the comic aplomb of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop' Independent
'One of the finest parodies written in English...a wickedly brilliant skit' Robert Macfarlane, Guardian
Stella Gibbons was born in London in 1902. She went to North London Collegiate School and studied journalism at University College, London. She then worked for ten years on various papers, including the Evening Standard. Her first publication was a book of poems, The Mountain Beast (1930), and her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm (1932), won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize. Amongst her other novels are Miss Linsey and Pa (1936), Nightingale Wood (1938), Westwood (1946), Conference at Cold Comfort Farm (1949) and Beside the Pearly Water (1954). Stella Gibbons died in 1989.
'I knew Sebastian by sight long before I met him. That was unavoidable for, from his first week, he was the most conspicuous man of his year by reason of his beauty, which was arresting, and his eccentricities of behaviour, which seemed to know no bounds.'
Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and exquisitely beautiful Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants. But he also discovers a world where duty and desire, faith and earthly happiness are in conflict; a world which threatens to destroy his beloved Sebastian.
A scintillating depiction of the decadent, privileged aristocracy prior to the Second World War, Brideshead Revisited is widely regarded as Evelyn Waugh's finest work.
Karen Blixen's Out of Africa is the lyrical and luminous memoir of Kenya that launched a million tourist trails, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills . . . Up in this high air you breathed easily . . . you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.'
From the moment Karen Blixen arrived in Kenya in 1914 to manage a coffee plantation, her heart belonged to Africa. Drawn to the intense colours and ravishing landscapes, Blixen spent her happiest years on the farm, and her experiences and friendships with the people around her are vividly recalled in these memoirs.
Out of Africa is the story of a remarkable and unconventional woman, and of a way of life that has vanished for ever.
'With its lyrical and luminous picture of Kenya, it launched a million tourist trails' Guardian
'A compelling story of passion and a movingly poetic tribute to a lost land' The Times
A work of sincere power ... a fine lyrical study of life in East Africa - Harold Nicolson, Daily Telegraph
Karen Blixen was born in Rungsted, Denmark, in 1885. After studying art at Copenhagen, Paris and Rome, she married her cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, in 1914. Together they managed a coffee plantation in Kenya until they divorced in 1925. She continued on the farm until a collapse in the coffee market forced her back to Rungsted in 1931.
Although she had written occasional contributions to Danish periodicals since 1905 (under the nom de plume of Osceola), her real debut took place in 1934 with the publication of Seven Gothic Tales, written in English under the pen name, Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa (1937) is an autobiographical account of the years she spent in Kenya. All of her subsequent books were published in both English and Danish, including Winter's Tales (1942) and The Angelic Avengers (1936). Among her other collections of stories are Last Tales (1957), Anecdotes of Destiny (1958), Shadows on the Grass (1960) and posthumously Ehrengard (1963). In the 1950s she was mentioned several times as a candidate to receive the Noble Prize in Literature.
Baroness Blixen died in Rungsted in 1962. In 1991 her house was opened as The Karen Blixen Museum.
'Late into the night we talked of love, of its complications. In my father's eyes they were imaginary. . . This conception of rapid, violent and passing love affairs appealed to my imagination. I was not at the age when fidelity is attractive. I knew very little about love.'
The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cécile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures. But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cécile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences.
Bonjour Tristesse scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cécile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.
'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.'
Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor. In love with his landlady's twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he'll do anything to possess her. Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.
Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?
Muriel Spark's classic The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie features a schoolmistress you'll never forget, in this beautifully repackaged Penguin Essentials edition.
'Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life . . .'
Passionate, free-thinking and unconventional, Miss Brodie is a teacher who exerts a powerful influence over her group of 'special girls' at Marcia Blaine School. They are the Brodie set, the crème de la crème, each famous for something - Monica for mathematics, Eunice for swimming, Rose for sex - who are initiated into a world of adult games and extracurricular activities they will never forget. But the price they pay is their undivided loyalty . . .
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a brilliantly comic novel featuring one of the most unforgettable characters in all literature.
'Muriel Spark's novels linger in the mind as brilliant shards' John Updike
'Spark's most celebrated novel' Independent
'There is no question about the quality and distinctiveness of her writing, with its quirky concern with human nature, and its comedy' William Boyd
'A brilliant psychological figure' Observer
Muriel Spark was born and educated in Edinburgh. She was active in the field of creative writing since 1950, when she won a short-story writing competition in the Observer, and her many subsequent novels include Memento Mori (1959), The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), The Girls of Slender Means (1963) and Aiding and Abetting (2000). She also wrote plays, poems, children's books and biographies. She became Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993, and died in 2006.