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A handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a countinghouse door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won't explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money.

About the Author

Francis Spufford

Officially, I've been a writer of non-fiction for the last twenty years. But when I'm excited by what I'm writing about, what I want to do with my excitement is always to tell a story - and every one of my non-fiction books has borrowed techniques from the novel, and contained sections where I came close to behaving like a novelist. The chapter retelling the story of Captain Scott's last Antarctic expedition at the end of "I May Be Some Time", for example, or the thirty-page version of the gospel story in "Unapologetic". "Red Plenty" was a kind of documentary novel all the way through. Now, though, I've completed my shy, crabwise crawl towards fiction, and have a book coming out which is an honest-to-goodness entirely made-up story. No foot-notes, no invisible scaffolding of facts holding it up: "Golden Hill" (Scribner, 27 June 2017) is just a novel. More specifically, it's an eighteenth century novel. It's set in the winter of 1746, in what was then the very small colonial town of New York; but it's also written like a novel from the eighteenth century. So the story of the charming but unreliable-seeming young Mr Smith, who turns up from London with a document in his pocket that may be a fraud or may be worth a fortune, is as hectically stuffed with event as it would have been if Fielding or Smollett had written it. Eighteenth-century readers expected to get their money's worth, and "Golden Hill" contains (among other things) a mystery, a political intrigue, a love story, a ball, a duel, a high-stakes card game, a trial, a dash of horror, a play-within-a-play, some surprisingly graphic sex and a rooftop chase. As a slow writer, I enjoyed working on something that runs fast. It was intricate fun devising and winding up the book's clockwork. But I hope it's also a story that feels alive, and makes the past feel alive too, while Mr Smith runs for his life, and the snow falls on Manhattan Island. There is a tumblr for it at golden-hill.tumblr.com.

(Okay, biography. I was born in 1964, I'm married with an eleven-year-old daughter, and I teach writing at Goldsmiths College, London.)

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