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Cambridge author Chris Beckett's new novel endorsed by BBC Radio 2

Chris Beckett with his new book America City. Picture: Keith Heppell
Chris Beckett with his new book America City. Picture: Keith Heppell

The writer's latest book America City has enjoyed instant success since it was released last month.

Glowing reviews and book club status from BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo have helped promote Chris’ work to the public.

“It’s a bit different from my other books, in the sense that I consciously wanted to write about a current issue that we’re all facing right now – and I think a lot of people find that more engaging,” Chris, 61, told the Cambridge Independent.

“As the title suggests, it’s set in North America and it’s set about 100 years in the future. The premise of the book is that global warming has reached the stage where it’s causing a lot of problems round the world, but it’s also causing problems within America – in the sense that a number of the southern states in America are badly affected by climate change, for example in the south-west there’s a lot of drought.

“So there’s an internal flow of ‘refugees’ from the southern part of America to the northern part of America, and that’s creating political tension to the point where it might actually divide the country.

“The story is about an American politician called Senator Slaymaker who has a plan to unite the country.”

A recipient of the prestigious Arthur C Clarke award for his 2012 novel Dark Eden, as well as various other awards and nominations, Chris is a former lecturer and social worker. He has now published six novels – the first of which, The Holy Machine, came out in 2004 – specialising in speculative fiction.

The idea for America City initially manifested itself in a short story in 2012 and Chris, who taught social work at Anglia Ruskin for about 10 years, began writing the book “in earnest” towards the end of last year.

He believes that speculative fiction is just as much about the present as it is about the future, noting: “Why it appeals to me is it gives you the chance to play around with ideas, experiment with different kinds of societies and how societies grow and change and develop – and how people relate to the societies they’re in.”

Chris is both optimistic and pessimistic about the future. “I think at the moment, the human race is putting the planet under a huge strain,” he said, “which makes me feel very pessimistic because I think it’s quite possible that we may make our planet much less inhabitable than it already is, and this will have huge consequences.

“But on the other side, human beings have solved equally difficult problems. We certainly have the capacity to solve these problems, it’s just a question of having the will to do so.”

Chris, a Cambridge resident for more than 30 years who grew up in ‘the other place’, will publish a new collection of short stories in January, entitled Spring Tide. He admits to being “very chuffed” that his book was selected for the BBC Radio 2 book club list, concluding:

“When you write, you write because you want people to read what you wrote; that’s what it’s about, so obviously it’s great when you can reach out to a wider number of people.”



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