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Slovo, Gillian

kate novels south radical

(South African, 1952– )

Slovo was born in South Africa, daughter of anti-apartheid activists Ruth First and Joe Slovo. She has written a painfully honest and illuminating autobiographical memoir of her childhood with her journalist mother (later assassinated for her political beliefs) and her Communist Party leader father, Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country (1997). A family saga, Ties of Blood (1989), also draws on her own experience. Her series of feminist crime novels featuring journalist and detective Kate Baeier has been hailed as one of the best depictions of the collision between radical and establishment worlds in contemporary British fiction. Begin with Kate's debut in Morbid Symptoms (1984) where the sudden death of a left-wing playboy pushes Kate into investigating the radical circles that have formerly nourished her. Four further novels, culminating in Close Call (1996) which deals with the politics of policing, continue Kate's progress in a series of well-plotted investigations that allow this engaging protagonist to develop in consistently interesting directions.

In 2004 Slovo's historical novel Ice Road was Orange shortlisted. Irina Davydovna survives the sinking of an ice ship in the Arctic circle and returns to 1933 Leningrad, a city Stalin is turning against. Slovo movingly explores individual lives caught up in a devastating moment in history.

Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid  VM/JR

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