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Weekly Roundup: Jim Crace puts down the pen, the return of The Woman in Black and Mantel on Oliver Sacks

Weekly Roundup: Jim Crace puts down the pen, the return of The Woman in Black and Mantel on Oliver Sacks

Sad news for lovers of fine fiction: following Philip Roth's withdrawal from the writing game, Jim Crace, whose Quarantine was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 1997, is also putting the cap on his pen for good. In an interview in The Independent he claimed that: “Retiring from writing is not to retire from life”, rather it is “to avoid the inevitable bitterness which a writing career is bound to deliver as its end product, in almost every case.” Many would argue to the contrary. Crace is only 66 and one hopes he can be talked round. After all, when a posse of academics studied the prose of Quarantine they found, apparently, that it “fulfilled a mathematical formula for poetry”. That is too rare a gift to lose.

The Woman in Black is back. The chiller by Susan Hill, a MB judge in 1975 and again in 2011, was first published in 1983 and turned into a film last year starring post-Potter Daniel Radcliffe. Hill has now given over the book to the crime-writer Martyn Waites for a second haunting. The idea for the sequel, set during the Blitz, was Hill's own but she says she has always been open “to someone else taking my books and recreating them in another medium … or taking the stories forward into 'another life'. I think this is one way literature can be flexible. I have finished with them but why not allow someone else to enjoy working with them?” And anyway, she says, “I have so many other fish to fry I'm buying another chip shop.” Hopefully the standard of writing won't come back to haunt her.

When asked about her heroes, serial Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel plumped not for Thomas Cromwell, her literary leading man, but for the neurologist Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. Her reasons? He once wrote a book about migraine which helped her understand her own sufferings with the ailment but perhaps more pertinently: “He doesn't love humanity in the abstract, but admires and learns from each individual, however damaged.” It is a trait that is easy to recognise in her novels.