Novelist Richard Mason’s early success — not a flash in the pan

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, novelist Richard Mason comes from a long line of anti-apartheid and civil rights activists. I knew little of this until I began doing research in order to write a blog post about his first novel published in 1999. What I found is that his personal life is just as interesting and amazing as his literary talent. Check out his website at and to find out about the charitable work he is involved in that helps fund better schooling for disadvantaged South African youth.

The Drowning People, Mason’s first novel, took the literary world by storm. At the time, it was reported that Mason, a 20 year old Oxford student, received a seven figure advance for this exceptional work. Most critics praised his elegant prose and talent, although a few panned his book as being overblown drivel. One critic said he wrote like ‘an octagenarian nun’. I love that Mr. Mason self deprecatingly mentions this on his website!

Mason showed a maturity way beyond his years in writing this psychologically suspenseful story that begins with 70 year old James Farrell announcing that he had just murdered Sarah, his dear and faithful wife of 45 years. In the subsequent pages, he recounts the events leading up to her death. One such event, Farrell’s affair with Sarah’s cousin, Ella, had far reaching effects on a number of the characters in the book, including Sarah who had a deep seated and lifelong rivalry with Ella. Mason weaves a tale of love, envy, betrayal, revenge and murder in a way that more accomplished and older writers would be proud to call their own. Readers of Thomas H. Cook and Josephine Hart may enjoy Mason’s tale as well as those who are fans of Daphne du Maurier’s acclaimed novel, Rebecca.

Until recently getting reacquainted with Mr. Mason through his website and articles in The London Telegraph, he had slipped from my mind. I have now eagerly placed his books at the top of my reading list and intend to read History of A Pleasure Seeker: A Novel (Published as The Lighted Rooms in the UK) and Natural Elements. You should do the same.


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