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  • Published: 16 July 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784706630
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $22.99

Black Car Burning

The debut novel from the brilliant and award-winning poet Helen Mort

The debut novel from the brilliant and award-winning poet Helen Mort

Alexa is a police community support officer whose world feels unstable.

Caron, Alexa's girlfriend, is pushing her away and pushing herself even harder. A climber, she fixates on a brutal route. Leigh, who works at a local gear shop, watches Caron climb and feels complicit.

Meanwhile, an ex-police officer compulsively revisits the April day in 1989 that changed his life forever. Trapped in his memories of the disaster, he tracks the Hillsborough inquests, questioning everything.

As the young women negotiate Sheffield's violent inheritance, the rock faces of Stanage and their relationships with each other, Mort stunningly grounds these journeys of trust and trauma, fear and falling, in the texture of the urban and natural terrain underfoot.

'A beautifully accomplished debut...a deeply felt work of loss, time and healing' Guardian

'Helen Mort is unmistakably one of the most brilliant poets of her generation; Black Car Burning shows her to be a remarkable novelist' Robert Macfarlane

  • Published: 16 July 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784706630
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Helen Mort

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985, and grew up in nearby Chesterfield. Five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award, she received an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. Her first collection, Division Street (2013), was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Costa Poetry Award, and won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. In 2014, she was named as a ‘Next Generation Poet’, the prestigious accolade announced only once every ten years, recognising the 20 most exciting new poets from the UK and Ireland. No Map Could Show Them (2016), her second collection, about women and mountaineering, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Helen has been the Wordsworth Trust Poet in Residence and the Derbyshire Poet Laureate and was named one of the RSL’s 40 under 40 Fellows in 2018. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in Sheffield. Black Car Burning is her first novel.

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Praise for Black Car Burning

A love letter to [Mort's] home city of Sheffield... Politics and landscape are fiercely intertwined in the history of South Yorkshire, and Mort now demonstrates that she can write as assuredly on both subjects in novel form as in her poetry... Mort, in a beautifully accomplished debut, has blended a rich alloy: a deeply felt work of loss, time and healing

Catherine Taylor, The Guardian

Black Car Burning explores the ties that bind us: literally, while strung across a cliff face in high winds, or figuratively in the tenuous bonds that hold both relationships and communities together, and which we are all responsible for maintaining. It's especially gratifying to inhabit a female-focused world within a climbing scene still party defined by machismo and male bravado. Helen Mort's writing is confident and compassionate and this is a mature and evocative debut

Ben Myers, New Statesman

Mort has reined in the poetry to write a gritty northern novel in a lean, unflashy prose, only letting herself go in lyrical interludes spoken by the landscape itself

Phil Baker, Sunday Times

Bold, imaginative…intensely realistic, swarming with minute physical and social detail… Mort writes brilliantly about the physical presence of the city, and she deals just as well with the tight focus of the climb... [Black Car Burning] is frequently exhilarating in its accurate sympathy, with some inch-perfect dialogue and astute observation throughout… Poet writes gripping novel: now there’s something you don’t hear every day

Sean O'Brien, Times Literary Supplement

An impressive, Sheffield-set tale… the disparate voices are held together by short passages in which the landscape itself is given voice. These act as welcome poetic rocks in the stream of the narrative… [and] are startling reminders of Mort’s considerable poetic skill

Jude Cook, Spectator

A book that deals empathetically and movingly with [Sheffield's] ongoing legacy

Yvette Huddleston, Yorkshire Post

Helen Mort is unmistakably one of the most brilliant poets of her generation; Black Car Burning shows her to be a remarkable novelist, too. Here the landscape itself is given presence – a deep-time gritstone witness to the hearts and hates of humans. Violence, trauma, trust and hope twine together in this novel of many voices, ancient and modern. As you're drawn on through – up into – the book, you begin to realize that beneath the bright surface is a profound patterning, slowly disclosing itself to the reader

Robert Macfarlane

This agile, softly-spoken novel isn’t so much about rock climbing as about being alive. Helen Mort tracks her characters from the gritty pleasures of the Sheffield crags to the traumas of Hillsborough. Meanwhile, the very rocks and rivers speak, defining a landscape of use, mystery and change, hope. Brilliant

M. John Harrison

Black Car Burning does what surprisingly few books even attempt: it gives a voice to the lyric landscapes of South Yorkshire, it looks beyond binary clichés to consider the real lives of real people in streets and suburbs that are often forgotten; Mort handles trauma, lust and loss so tenderly and deftly, it is hard to believe that this is a first novel

Andrew McMillan, author of Physical

This book is a symphony of voices: of lovers and the land they grasp in strong but scar-lined hands. Black Car Burning channels the soul of a city and its surrounds. Helen Mort shifts with deftness and empathy from the sensuous to the dark, communing with slandered neighbourhoods, the shadow of a disaster, and a generation's complex ascents through love. A hymn to a special city and an unforgettable book

Damian Le Bas, author of The Stopping Places

Smart, touching and beautiful. Helen Mort's gorgeous prose and her understanding of people and the places they inhabit are just spot-on

Anneliese Mackintosh

Mort has an exceptional talent for entwining outdoor literature with gritty reality to create works that conjure up a multitude of emotions, and will most certainly inspire a generation of climbers

Outdoors Magic

A deeply internalised tale about love and yearning, trauma and loss, and springs from a place where the whispered thoughts of both people and places intersect in unsettling fashion

Helen Nugent, Northern Soul, *Books of the Year*

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