In The Attic

Harry Bingham chooses his literary heroine

Inspired? I never know how to answer that question. Everything I read informs everything I do. I don’t know how to untangle that knot.

Other questions are easier to answer. Best recent female character in fiction? Got to be the brilliantly awful Amy from Gone Girl.

But it doesn’t feel right to talk only of women characters, when we should really be celebrating women writers. And a (shamefully recent) find has been delighting me these past months: Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train, the book which Hitchcock would turn into a movie.

Highsmith is, really, a psychological novelist with an interest in what happens to characters under the strain of guilt, or fear of capture, or other kinds of pressure. In that sense, she sits more easily with European authors in the Dostoyevsky tradition than she does with most writers in the anglo-American one. But Highsmith’s genius is to take that psychological acuity and set it loose in the wonderfully twisty, brilliantly set-up plots of classic crime. The plotting grabs you, the characters keep you. If you haven’t yet read Highsmith, then do. Oh, and forget the movies: these books are better.

Read our previous #WonderWomen posts from Fearne Cotton, Kate Williams and Veronica Henry or visit our Pinterest board for more!

Harry Bingham’s latest novel, This Thing of Darkness, is out now in paperback, ebook and audio.