You have to hand it to Miranda Cowley Heller. Barely a dramatic life event goes unchecked in her debut novel. Assault, incest, pedophilia, drownings and steamy affairs where underpants are left tucked behind the family bread bin: all are there for the reading in The Paper Palace. None of this was planned. “When I started to write, horrifying things just happened,” Heller, 59, explains over coffee in Fitzrovia in central London.

This compulsion makes sense when you put it together with Heller’s decade-long career at HBO overseeing mini drama series in the Noughties. This was the golden age of television. Sex and violence on-screen had never been better — and it was all down to HBO. Think The Wire, Deadwood, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.

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