Local History Resources

Books with Brighton settings

By David Fisher

This list includes only novels and plays with a specific Brighton location. It does not include works that may be based on Brighton but are not clearly identified as such. Nor does it include works by authors living in Brighton but set elsewhere.

In some of the fantasy novels Brighton is transformed (see, for example, Phillip Reeve and John Hart) and may not be recognisable.
[G] Text available for free download from Gutenberg.org

William Harrison Ainsworth: Ovingdean Grange: A tale of the South Downs (1860) King Charles II escapes to France. Ainsworth lived at 5 Arundel Terrace, KempTown 1853-1867
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813) Much talk about going to Brighton while the military camps are on the Downs. . . [G]
Jane Austen: MansfieldPark (1814). . . and here . [G]
Nick Alexander: 50 Reasons to Say Goodbye (2004)
Nick Alexander: Sottopassaggio (2005)
Val Andrews: Sherlock Holmes and the Brighton Pavilion Mystery (1989)
Marion Babson: The Cat Who Wasn't a Dog (2003)
Emily Barr: Cuban Heels (aka Cuba, 2003)
Emily Barr: Plan B (2005)
K I H Barratt: The Whitest Woman on the Beach (2006) Self-published
Samuel Beazley: The Boarding House, or Five hours at Brighton (1814) A farce in two acts
Arnold Bennett: Hilda Lessways (1911). Second part of the Clayhanger trilogy. Hilda runs a boarding house in Preston Street. Bennett started writing Clayhanger while staying at the Royal Albion Hotel in 1910. [G]
E F Benson: The Blotting Book (1908) [G]
Steven Berkoff: Brighton Beach Scumbags (play, 1994) Youth corrupted by 'rotten sub-culture, cheap tabloids'
William Black: Prince Fortunatus (1890) Black lived at 1 Paston Place, Brighton from 1879 until his death in 1898 [G]
Julie Burchill: Sugar Rush (2004)
Glenn Chandler: Savage Tide (2003). Crime, Inspector Steve Madden mystery
Glenn Chandler: Dead Sight (2003). Crime, Inspector Steve Madden mystery
G. K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy (1908) An English explorer slightly miscalculates his course and plants the British flag on that barbaric temple, the Royal Pavilion [G]
Arthur Conan Doyle: Rodney Stone (1896) [G]
Elizabeth and Deirdre Counihan & Liz Williams (eds): Fabulous Brighton (2000) Collection of short pieces
Charles Dickens: Dombey and Son (1846-48) Written while Dickens was staying at the Bedford Hotel [G]
Sarah Dykins: Lessons from an Angel (2001)
Peggy Eaton: Brighton Belle (1994)
J S Fletcher: The Great Brighton Mystery (1926) By a prolific crime writer
Katy Gardner: Mermaid's Purse (2003)
George Gissing: New Grub Street (1891) [G]
Robert Goddard: Play to the End (2004)
Amanda Grange: Lord Deverill's Secret (2005) Regency romance
Graham Greene: Brighton Rock (1938)
Graham Greene: The End of the Affair (1951)
Peter Gutteridge: Ghost of a chance (1998) A Nick Madrid mystery
Patrick Hamilton: Slaves of Solitude (1947)
Patrick Hamilton: West Pier (1952) First part of the Gorse trilogy
Patrick Hamilton: Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse (1953) Second part of the Gorse trilogy
Patrick Hamilton: Unknown Assailant (1955) Third part of the Gorse trilogy
Pamela Hansford Johnson: The Last Resort (1956) US title: The Sea and the Wedding.
John Hart: Jizz (1992). Fantasy
Derek Heater: Murders in Brighton, Crisis in Britain (November 2008) Set in Napoleonic era
James Herbert: The Others (1999)
Georgette Heyer: Regency Buck (1935) Regency romance, which spawned a massive genre (see below)
Henry James: The Golden Bowl (1904) [G]
Peter James: Dead Simple (2006) An Inspector Grace crime story
Peter James: Looking Good Dead (2006) An Inspector Grace crime story
Peter James: Not Dead Enough (November 2007) An Inspector Grace crime story
Peter James: Dead Man's Footsteps  (June 2008) An Inspector Grace crime story
Alanna Knight: Stuart Sapphire: Murder in Regency Brighton (2005) Regency crime
Arthur La Bern: Brighton Belle (1963) 'The sensational novel of a vicious back street world of pimps, prostitutes and racketeers.' also described as ' Murder by a small-time gangster involves racecourse tipsters, the landlady of a pub, three blind St Dunstan's men and the Brighton police.'
Toby Litt: Beatniks (2004)
Peter Lovesey: Mad Hatter's Holiday (1973) Fourth Inspector Cribb mystery
Clare McIntyre: My Heart's a Suitcase (play, 1990) Won McIntyre the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright
Julian Maclaren-Ross: Of Love and Hunger (1947)
Edward Marston: Murder on the Brighton Express (2008) An Inspector Robert Colbeck mystery
Roland Pertwee: Pink String and Sealing Wax (play, 1945) Filmed in 1946
John Ramster: Ladies Man (1999)
Robert Rankin: The Brightonomicon (2005) Fantasy
Phillip Reeve: Infernal Devices (2005) Brighton is afloat in the Atlantic, running a slave trade
Nigel Scott: Criminal Capers (2002)
Andy Secombe: Limbo (2003) Fantasy
Andy Secombe: Limbo II: The Final Chapter (2004) Fantasy
Will Self: My Idea of Fun (1993)
Nancy Spain: Poison for Teacher (1949)
William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair (1847-48) Partly written at the Old Ship Hotel. [G]
William Makepeace Thackeray: The Newcomes (1853-55) Source of the term 'Doctor Brighton'. [G]
Mark Tournoff: Nightmare in Paradise (2003)
Various: The Brighton Book (2005)
Keith Waterhouse: Palace Pier (2003)
Helen Zahavi: Dirty Weekend (1991) Filmed by Michael Winner with the tagline 'Bella has decided to take out a few men'.

There are a lot (really, a lot!) of romantic novels set wholly or partly in Brighton during the Regency, including the following, some by authors who manage to write four or five books a year.
See thenonesuch.com

Susan Carroll: Brighton Road (1988)
Cleo Chadwick: Midsummer Night's Kiss (1991)
Marion Chesney: Beatrice Goes to Brighton (1992)
Deborah Chester: A Love so Wild (1980)
Marilyn Clay: Brighton Beauty (1996)
Rachelle Edwards: Brighton Beau (1994)
Georgina Grey: The Belle of Brighton (1981)
Sandra Heath: Lady Jane's Ribbons (1987)
Valerie King: A Brighton Flirtation (2000)
Martha Kirkland: Three for Brighton (1998)
Emma Lange: Brighton Intrigue (1989)
Alice Chetwynd Ley: A Season at Brighton (1971)
Elizabeth Lyle: Claire (1983)
Maggie MacKeever: Cupid's Dart (2003)
Kasey Michaels: The Chaotic Miss Crispino (1991)
Petra Nash: Brighton Masquerade (1991)
Dawn Aldridge  Poore: The Brighton Burglar (Miss Sydney Regency Mystery) (1993)
Sheri Cobb South: Brighton Honeymoon (2000)

Do you know of any more?

This page was added on 19/11/2008.
Comments about this page

Breakfast in Brighton, by Nigel Richardson, published in 1999. I read it a few years ago and couldn't make up my mind whether it was fiction or not...

By John Wilkin (21/11/2008)

What a star effort. Two? are missing. Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square with a big chunk set in central Brighton and Portslade [yes..really] and Regency by DL Murray 1938[?] with four chapters set around a group of people at four different periods of 19/20th century Brighton history. The final chapter is titled Ferro-Concrete and set in the 1930s with lots of local detail.

By Geoffrey Mead (21/11/2008)

Die Reise nach Brighton by Caspar von Poser.

By Brian Dungate (21/11/2008)

Julie Burchill: Made in Brighton.

By Brian Dungate (21/11/2008)

Gonzague Saint-Bris: Les vieillards de Brighton

By Brian Dungate (21/11/2008)

One more I've been told about (thanks, Tim): Peter Hayden: The Great Premium Bond Swizzle (1994). Partly set during the 1983 FA Cup Final (Albion v Manchester Utd). Republished 1999 as And Smith Must Score.... I hadn't included foreign language stuff so these two are useful additions. Die Reise nach Brighton has the intriguing subtitle A turbulent holiday novel about a house swap. The Julie Burchill and Nigel Richardson books were not included because they are not novels. There are literally thousands of non-fiction books about the city.

By David Fisher (28/11/2008)

Rosemary Stevens: The Tainted Snuff Box (2002), the second Beau Brummell mystery. The dandy comes to the Marine Pavilion when 'Prinny's' life is threatened.

By David Fisher (08/12/2008)

I have found the following, mostly by accident when looking for other things. Palace Pier by Robert Eton (aka Laurence Meynell.) Published by Nicholson and Watson. 1940s?
Laurence Meynell wrote many books, both fiction and non-fiction from the 1930s until the 1980s. He wrote under several pseudonyms, including children's books and stories under the name of A. Stephen Tring and even girls' career novels such as "Jane: Young Author" and "Elizabeth: Young Policewoman", under the name of Valerie Baxter! He was originally from Wolverhampton, later lived in Buckinghamshire, finally retiring to Brighton. There is a very interesting web page about him here: http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/genealogy/meynell/meynell01.htmThe Servants by Michael Marshall Smith. 2007 (paperback 2008.)
A modern day ghost story. I can't make out if it's meant for children or adults but it sounds as though (like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) it's a good read for either. 11-year-old boy comes from London to live in Brunswick Square with his ill mother and the new stepfather he resents. He becomes involved with an old lady who lives in the basement, who introduces him to a ghostly world of the servants who used to inhabit the basement. The Long Passage by Malcolm Saville. Newnes c1956.
A children's book partly set in Brighton. Includes Preston Manor (although it is not named as such), Chanctonbury Ring and a village below it, which I assume must be based on Washington. Has some nice black and white illustrations, which include the Lanes, Preston Manor, a room in the Pavilion and the Downs. The dustwrapper shows a view of the Pavilion in the background. Fear and Favour by Judy Cornwell. Simon and Schuster 1996. Judy Cornwell is an actress but has written novels, including this one. About a Catholic Priest who remembers back to when he almost lost his faith. Panic by Colin Spencer. Came out in hardback in 1971, paperback in 1973. Possibly a gay novel but I'm not sure, as I can't find out anything else about it. As Good as it Gets by Simon Nolan. Quartet 1999. Sounds like a Brighton version of Trainspotting: 4 flatmates who come across a load of cocaine. A web page with a booklist of books about Brighton or by Brighton authors:
www.citylibraries.info/services/documents/made_in_brighton_booklist.doc

By Honor (01/01/2009)

Sorry, the spacing on the previous entry didn't come out as I expected. To make it clearer, here are the six book titles again. (I also put Newnes in error as the publisher of The Long Passage. It should be Evans.) 1. Palace Pier by Robert Eton (aka Laurence Meynell) published by Nicholson and Watson, 1940s? 2. The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith, 2007 (paperback 2008). 3. The Long Passage by Malcolm Saville, Evans c1956. 4. Fear and Favour by Judy Cornwell, Simon and Schuster 1996. 5. Panic by Colin Spencer, early 1970s. 6. As Good as it Gets by Simon Nolan, Quartet, 1999.

By Honor (09/01/2009)

Angela Carter: Wise Children (1991). Her last novel

By David Fisher (25/10/2009)

The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgewick (fiction) is set in Clifton Terrace and surrounding areas, including Brighton and Hove VI form college.

By Hayley (29/12/2009)

I've remembered there's a book by Fay Weldon that's partly set in Brighton. It might be Praxis, but I'm not sure, it's a long time since I read it. Not very convincing - she talked about Brighton Pier - in the days when it was still the Palace Pier and the West Pier, said you could hear the sound of the sea from anywhere in the town and that the London train went to Waterloo Station.

By Honor (06/01/2010)

Another title to add by Simon Nolan. This book is set on the Whitehawk Estate in Brighton: Whitehawk, published by Revengeink.com.

By Bill Hunt (06/05/2010)

Does anyone know of a book written in the 1960s main character called Sundy? Many thanks if you can help.

By Charlotte (05/09/2010)

I'm trying to find a book I read ages ago - I think it's set in Brighton. I remember a punk girl called Becky (?) and think it was part of a trilogy horror fantasy type. Very little to go on, but you never know!

By Kate (17/11/2010)

A book set in Brighton. Early 60's. One of the main characters a girl called Sundy. Main action around the seafront area. Any information would be warmly welcomed! Thank you.

By Verity Cooper (08/07/2011)

The book referred to with a character called Sundy was Anarchists in Love by Colin Spencer published in 1963.

By Derek Lake (09/07/2011)

Re Anarchists in Love. Thank you very much Derek Lake! Very kind of you. Kind regards, Verity.

By Verity (12/07/2011)

Two more: Winston Graham: The Japanese Girl (1971). A chance encounter on the London to Brighton line, adultery, crime and disillusion in this downbeat novella by the Poldark novelist. Francis King: Brighton Belle (1968). Furtive encounters and fraud in the shabby-genteel backstreets and bedsits of 1960's Brighton. And another contender: Sue Roe: Estella: Her Expecations (1983). Hermetic, inward-looking novel about an artist living in an unnamed suburb. Distantly (very distantly) related to Dickens' Great Expectations, written by a Brighton art historian, but can't vouch for the setting.

By Paul O (04/08/2012)

Diazepam for Sale by Hayley Sherman. A weird time-travel book set between the present and the mods and rockers riots of 1964.

By Tessa (04/11/2012)

I'm trying to find a book I read ages ago, it was about a girl at boarding school and I think she runs away to Brighton. I remember something about a suicide in the sea and reference to the Salvation Army? Also she meets a guy who knows someone who drives a large car through the town and they all live together in the same house. These are just key things I remember - ring any bells with anyone? Thanks

By Diane (02/02/2013)

Erik Orsenna: Loyola's Blues (French-language novel). A refugee from occupied France spends the wartime years in Brighton, preparing for a life of political intrigue.

By Paul O (29/04/2013)

Dorothy Koomson: The Ice Cream Girls (2010) and The Rose Petal Beach (2012).

By Paul O (08/06/2013)

Just read the big hit Dominion by Sussex writer C. J. Sampson - the latter part of the book is set in Brighton and Rottingdean.

By Tony W (04/03/2014)

Unexploded by Alison Macleod - set in wartime Brighton and centres on Park Crescent.

By Sarah Duthie (14/04/2014)

Justin Cornelius: Clairvoyante on the Brighton Train (1991). Convoluted crime novel about people trafficking and unsolved murders, with the intrigue seeded by a not-so-chance meeting with a stage mind-reader on the Brighton Belle in the 1950s.

By Paul O (29/07/2014)

The crime thriller novel, Pagan Justice includes a large section set in Brighton - including an horrific murder just off Upper Lewes Road.

By John Smith (07/09/2014)

Bruce Carter: The Children Who Stayed Behind (1958). Children's novel. Reissued in 2015. In 1940, two feuding families of children from Lewes Crescent are stranded in a deserted Brighton when the Germans invade southern England. Lynne Truss': Inspector Steine, Casebook of Inspector Steine and Adventures of Inspector Steine. Comedy detective drama set in 1950's Brighton. Available as audio books - not sure if they are also in print.

By Paul O (15/04/2015)

Will's War in Brighton, by Nisse Visser. A mid-grade novel covering the summer in 1940. 

By Nils Visser (17/06/2015)

Flowers in my Sunlit Garden by William Henry. Set in bohemian Bungalow Town when Shoreham was the home to the fledgling British film industry. Available on AmazonKDP.

By Tricia Perkes (01/09/2016)

Jade Nomad by American author James Orlando. Has several chapters set in 1950s/60s Brighton & Hove. Also his Asia-Pacific thriller Lunalilo Freeway is about a Brighton photographer with Preston Street a key to the ending. Several other of his novels have flashbacks to Brighton & Hove - Google James Orlando, author.

By Peter Mitchell (08/01/2017)

The Many Faces of Love - Memoirs of growing up on Trafalgar Terrace (the lane) by Joan Malek, 95 year old resident of Brighton, and her book of poetry, "Stimuli and Response of the Soul", both published in the last four years.

By Jenny Skulski (15/07/2017)

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