And to mark World Book Day, on March 4, 2021, we’ve rounded up some Sunderland authors who’ve made their mark in the literary world.
1. James Herriot
The most famous modern author from Sunderland is James Herriot; born Alf Wight in Brandling Street, Roker in 1916. Alf re-named himself after a Scottish goalkeeper who played for Birmingham City in the 1960s. He simply liked the name. At three weeks old he moved to Glasgow where he qualified as a vet at the age of 23: “Just when the profession was emerging from a long night of ignorance, into the scientific era” he said. The world’s most famous vet began his career back in his native Sunderland, where he practised in 1940. But he soon transferred to Thirsk where he would live for the rest of his days. Yet Wearside was never far from his thoughts. Herriot always saw himself as vet first and author second. He didn’t seriously take up writing until he was 50. His first novel, If Only They Could Talk, was published in 1970 and became a hit the UK and USA. In 1975 his work was adapted into the film All Creatures Great and Small starring Anthony Hopkins. Then in 1978 it became a BBC series which ran for 89 episodes over 12 years. His books were translated into over 20 languages, including Japanese, selling over 60 million copies. He loved Sunderland and was a fanatical supporter of its football team. He is most associated with Thirsk, but Wearside never left him.
2. Nancy Revell
Inspired by the real women who took on the back-breaking work of Sunderland's shipyards whilst their husbands and fathers were at war, The Shipyard Girls series by Nancy Revell regularly sails into The Sunday Times Bestseller list. Amanda Revell-Walton, who writes under the pen name Nancy Revell, pens her novels from her Roker home and her own family once worked in the shipyards. She often uses Echo archives to research her novels, which feature fictional characters but real events and bombings.
3. Terry Deary
Terry Deary is one of Britain’s top selling authors, with more than 200 books published since the 1970s. Sales exceed 33 million, have been printed in 45 languages and adapted for television and film. By far his most successful books are his Horrible Histories for children, starting in the 1993 with The Terrible Tudors, then on to Groovy Greeks, Awful Egyptians, Rotten Romans and many more. Deary was born in Sunderland in 1946. His father Bill Deary ran a butcher shop in Hendon. Terry worked there too as a boy and still likes to tell gruesome stories about the place.
Photo: JPI Media
4. Jessica Andrews
Saltwater by Jessica Andrews was last year named as the winner of The Portico Prize for Literature. The Newbottle-born author's debut novel is a story of self-discovery by a girl from Sunderland who heads to university in London, taking her northern roots with her. It is a critical and commercial hit.