From rat-infested basement to Washington Heat to the gorillas of Rwanda
Sally Emerson is just completing her seventh novel which returns to some of the wilder frontiers of her earlier novels – good and evil, the dangers and glories of lust, the strangeness that loneliness can create. Victoria Glendinning wrote that Fire Child 'pulsates with lust, grief and revenge. In spite of the contemporary setting it has the immoderate quality of myth.'
The novel Heat set in a brooding summer of Washington DC examines with comedy as well as intensity the return of an old lover into the life of the settled heroine, and how her life and her state of mind unravels. ‘Emerson is a writer who excels in portraying the darkness beneath polished surfaces….’ wrote Christina Patterson. ‘In Heat Emerson has restored passion to the serious English novel,’ wrote the Scotsman. From her first novel Second Sight which won a Yorkshire Post First Novel Award to her latest novel her books explore obsession and the dark side of love. 'Sally Emerson’s bonfire of a book demands to be read in one gulp from its deadpan beginning to its demonic end. This is a bravura performance,’ wrote Philip Oakes about Fire Child.
Since 2003 she has been travelling all over the world for The Sunday Times, writing about the adventures of travel - to the Galapagos, to the gorillas of Rwanda, to the dead craters of Tanzania, and has won various awards for her work.
Emerson’s three recent anthologies of great poetry and some prose are about the three great subjects, birth, love and death: New Life, Be Mine and In Loving Memory. She has also compiled the hugely successful collection of poetry and rhymes for young children, The Nursery Treasury, and it is the dark wit and danger of so many of these rhymes which draws her attention. Jack and Jill may go happily up the hill but as in Emerson novels --note the theme of nursery rhymes in Separation - something bad can be about to happen at any moment. There is nothing bland about nursery rhymes.
Editor and journalist
Emerson was editor of the literary magazine Books and Bookmen. She began her career there as an editorial assistant in a rat-infested basement in London’s Victoria Street. At Oxford she edited Isis and continued her reviewing work and wrote for The Times. She won prizes including a Catherine Pakenham Award, the Vogue Talent Contest and the Radio Times Young Journalist of the Year. After university she was assistant editor of Plays and Players then editor of Books and Bookmen publishing early journalism by such future greats as Ian Hislop and Sebastian Faulks, while writing her first novel Second Sight.
After the success of Second Sight she mostly concentrated on novels and screenplays. She has also written poetry which have appeared in various anthologies, including Richard Adams’s Occasional Poets and Daisy Goodwin’s Poems to keep you Sane.
Daughter of a doctor and English teacher (who had worked in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park) who met at Cambridge, Sally Emerson is married and has two children, a journalist and a novelist. She spent three years in Washington DC 1989-1992, the inspiration for Heat and now lives mostly in London.