Random top tens: Late-flowering debut novelists

1 Mary Wesley Wesley had seen 70 summers before publishing her first novel for adults, the slyly funny Jumping the Queue. During the next 20 years she proved a prolific author, penning such bestsellers as The Camomile Lawn and The Vacillations of Poppy Carew.

2 Marina Lewycka She published A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian when she was 59. The bestselling novel concerns two Ukranian sisters, raised in England, coming to terms with their father's baffling second childhood and pneumatic young bride.

3 Joolz Denby The poet, tattooist, audio book performer and artist was 49 when Stone Baby won the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger award. Her third book, Billie Morgan, was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange prize.

4 Charles Elton The former literary agent and television producer is 55, and set to publish his debut novel in February. Mr Toppit is a black comedy about the downside of sudden wealth and fame.

5 Mary Ann Shaffer Sadly, the 74-year-old didn't live to see the publication of her only novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (finished by her niece, Annie Barrows), earlier this year. The novel depicts life in the Channel Islands under German occupation during the Second World War.

6 Jeff Torrington The Glasgow-born author, who died this year, published his only novel, Swing Hammer Swing!, at age 56. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1992. Like many an overnight success, he'd been slogging away for more than 30 years.

7 Patrick Lane One of Canada's most respected poets, he's now being hailed as that nation's oldest first novelist for Red Dog Red Dog, the story of a troubled family and their shifting loyalties, set in British Columbia. Lane is 69.

8 Lorna Page The nonagenarian, at 93, is making a name for herself as the author of a rather raunchy novel called A Dangerous Weakness. It's a feminist thriller set in the Alps. Not content to rest on her laurels, she's now beavering away at a short-story collection.

9 Paul Torday When Salmon Fishing in Yemen came out at the beginning of last year Torday was 59. Despite studying English at Oxford, he had wound up working as an engineer for 20 years in order to please his widowed father. His first novel concerns a repressed scientist, unhappily married to an economist, who finds love while working in the Middle East.

10 Millard Kaufman The former newspaper copy boy turned screenwriter (Bad Day at Black Rock, anyone?) was 90 when Bowl of Cherries came out in 2007. The novel is a comedy about a guy who winds up in an Iraqi prison in a town famous for turning human excrement into concrete.

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