Guilty pleasure page turners

Updated: 27 Dec 2012

Nervous about pitching up to the pool with a copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’? Don’t be. As David Clack discovers, even highly respected authors have their weaknesses… Photography Rob Greig

Just as you’ll never see Heston Blumenthal stumbling down the street with a Big Mac, you won’t catch a lauded author with his nose in a trashy novel. That’s not to say they don’t read them, of course – they’re just better than most at keeping their guilty pleasure paperbacks under wraps. Until now, that is…

Guardian First Book Award nominee Ned Beauman recommends ‘Gossip Girl'
‘It’s such a big deal now, you can justify reading the books as cultural research. I’m kind of fascinated by the characters – the rich prep school teenagers of Manhattan. And it is quite funny. There are loads of [‘Gossip Girl’] books now, but I’ve never got past the first one; psychologically there’s a big difference between reading just one and reading a few. I didn’t try to hide that I was reading it – I think I just carried around the paperback – but it’s so short you can get through it in three days. I no longer have my copy, sadly, I think I gave it to Oxfam.’
Beauman’s new novel ‘The Teleportation Accident’ is out now. RM69.90

New York Times best-selling author Daniel H Wilson recommends ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’
‘It’s a series of novels by a writer called Jean M Auel, and it’s something that I’ve always read. They’re ostensibly an alternate prehistory, but in reality it’s kind of soft core pornography. It’s the story of this girl, Ayla, who’s living in a world where there are various ancient humans – Neanderthals and so on – all in competition with each other. But it’s when the cavemen start having sex that you find yourself questioning why you’re reading the book. I must have read half a dozen of them, but they don’t hang out on my bookshelf; they’re all in boxes now. They made a movie out of it in 1986, but it doesn’t compare to the early stuff, when Ayla gets kidnapped by Neanderthals and has to fight to survive.’
Wilson’s new novel ‘Amped’ is out now. RM95.

Laura Lippman, winner of multiple crime-writing awards, recommends ‘Peyton Place’
‘It was the first novel by young housewife Grace Metalious and – in terms of how sensational it was – it was the “Fifty Shades of Grey” of its time. It was scandalous because the characters corresponded to real-life people and everybody knew who she was talking about. It was inspired by a local girl who murdered her abusive father, but for legal reasons the editor changed the character to a stepdaughter, which the author felt ruined the book. When I was young I just liked that she seemed to have a really dark, nasty imagination. It’s the classic trashy novel, but I also admire it, so I re-read every two years or so.’
Lippman’s new novel ‘The Innocents’ is out now. RM34.90

Don’t fancy our authors’ picks? Write your own trash fiction! You will need…

A sympathetic lead character
The world loved Bridget Jones because she personified the anxieties and eccentricities of her demographic. Consider making your main character a new-media bell end with debt and an addiction to social networking sites.

Bucketfuls of adjectives/adverbs
Did he take her in his arms and gaze into her eyes, or did he boldly take her in his turgid, barrel-like arms and gaze dreamily into her moist, dilated eyes; eyes that seemed to suggest intense sexual curiosity stirring within her heavily pounding heart?

The right title
Writing a romance? Go for a groansome double-entendre etched in wispy pastels. Planning a thriller? Any two-word combination of ‘dead’, ‘darkness’, ‘bones’, ‘witness’, ‘never’, ‘angel’ and ‘storm’ will do.

Ironic appeal
Why write a novel that’s simply bad when you can write one that’s so bad it’s good? Swapping out all superlatives of more than five characters with the word ‘nice’ should do the trick.

Tags: Features