The London Book Fair starts on Monday, but a less-well known contemporary annual event is the Kingston Readers' Festival, taking place in venues including the Rose Theatre, Kingston University, Borders bookshop and, as regular readers know, my favourite, John Lewis. Full details are available here. Crime-fiction events include "Behind a mask: the unknown thrillers of Louisa May Alcott", a talk by Dr Meg Jensen (Saturday 16 May). Apparently the author of "Little Women" et al. had another life as "sensationalist short-story writer A. M. Barnard", who wrote tales of passion, murder, incest and drug addiction in a nineteenth century United States of America "where the puritanical dogma of the founding fathers is giving way to the salacious literary appetites of the growing republic".
On Friday 22 May, "internationally bestselling author" Mariana Fiorato will talk about her first two novels "The Glassblower of Murano" and "The Madonna of the Almonds", and why she loves to uncover mysteries buried deep in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of Italy's famous artistic traditions.
Local authors Chris Cleave and Melissa Benn have written novels dealing with terrorism, asylum seeking, and political meltdown. In a talk on Wednesday 13 May entitled "Here today, gone tomorrow?" they will discuss whether their books are likely to survive the test of time.
Other highlights include Dr Jane Jordan's reassessment of "East Lynne", the Victorian melodrama in which Lady Isabel returns to her marital home disguised as a governess to care for her dying son – a daring act because as a divorcee found guilty of adultery, she is forbidden access to her children by law. (Saturday 9 May.) And a family favourite, historian and historical novelist Alison Weir, will be talking on Tuesday 19 May about the six wives of Henry VIII – a "colourful overview" of this turbulent story.