Book Club: Literary City

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Sheffield is a city with more than its fair share of writers, many of whom are born and bred here.

But plenty more have been attracted to the creativity and the lifestyle of the steel city, and made it their home.

Tim Leach, who moved from London to Meersbrook six years ago, is one such writer. His third novel, Smile Of The Wolf, has just been released. Described as “a kind of frozen western”, this is an epic story of exile and revenge set in the snows of Iceland.

Asked what he thinks makes Sheffield such a creative city, Leach’s answer is a mix of the

practical and the passionate. “Part of it is simple economics - the relatively low cost of living means that people can work part time or in low paying jobs, which frees them up to give their time and their energy to creative work.

“But there’s a combination of other factors at play - the sense of a city where things have always been made in one form or another, the beauty of the natural world just within reach beyond the city limits, the intellectual energy of the universities, the music and festival scenes.”

Leach is no stranger to literary acclaim.

His first novel, The Last King of Lydia, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. And he credits life in Sheffield with supporting his creative process.

“The city has taught me a lot about patience and persistence. There’s a frantic energy to somewhere like London, which can be useful in the short term, but ultimately exhausting and unsustainable. Sheffield has a steadier, dare I say steelier, kind of sensibility that it’s been good to feel a part of. A place which keeps you going.”

Smile Of The Wolf is set in tenth-century Iceland, and tells the tale of one night in the dark of

winter when two friends set out on an adventure but end up killing a man. Kjaran, a travelling

poet who trades songs for food and shelter, and Gunnar, a feared warrior, must then make a choice: conceal the deed, or confess to the crime and pay the price to the family.

This long hot summer in Sheffield feels a long way from Iceland, but Leach find plenty of inspiration in life in the steel city.

“My inspiration comes mostly from the people.

“ Everyone seems to have a project they’re working towards, and, crucially, it’s often not a project that is to do with their job.

“Sheffield’ is the city of the side project, I think, where people work to live and create rather than living to work.”