Visiting English professor Valerie Martin has just been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to support work on her latest novel, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, which she plans to finish in spring 2012.
“The novel concerns a famous nineteenth-century mystery ship, the Mary Celeste, which was discovered derelict off the Azores on 1872,” says Martin. “As the ship was in a perfectly seaworthy condition, the ‘mystery’ was why the crew had left it. Ten years later, before he created Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story which purported to solve the mystery. It was his first real success as a writer.”
As a novelist and short story writer, Martin has already garnered acclaim with her writing. Her book The Confessions of Edward Day was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book for 2009 and received stellar reviews in the media. Martin won Britain's Orange Prize in 2003 and was short-listed for France's Prix Femina Etranger for her book Property. Her 1990 novel Mary Reilly, which purports to be the diary of Dr. Jekyll's housemaid, won the Kafka prize and was translated into 16 languages. In 1996, the novel was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and directed by Stephen Frears.
Martin is the author of nine novels in total, including Italian Fever, The Great Divorce, and Trespass. She has also published three collections of short stories and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. At Mount Holyoke, she teaches introduction to creative writing, short story writing, and contemporary women's short fiction.