Fiction: THE COAL BOAT, by Sam Kirk. Available on Amazon. £7.99. Softback.

THE author is a granddaughter of coal miners who grew up in Morpeth and, while living there, she became fascinated by the colliery rows and was deeply affected by family tales of personal frustration and hardship, told with customary Geordie humour and a noticeable absence of self-pity.

This debut, coming-of-age novel is divided between locations – the coal mining community in the north-east of England and 1930s bohemian society in London – as the main character, Nancy, fights for her freedom from family, traditions and her past.

A-Z OF NEWCASTLE: PLACES, PEOPLE, HISTORY, by Ken Hutchinson. Published by Amberley Publishing ( £14.99. Softback.

ONE of England’s greatest cities, Newcastle has a proud heritage dating back to Roman times. It grew as an important centre for the wool trade in the 14th century, later becoming a major coal mining hub and a centre for shipbuilding and ship repair work.

The author takes readers on their own A to Z tour around the city’s history, exploring the nooks and crannies and relating fascinating tales about the most interesting people and places.

THE FRIARY, ALNMOUTH, by Patricia Jones, John and Stephanie Yearnshire. Available from outlets in Alnmouth, the Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick, and St Francis Friary. £4. Softback.

THIS brief illustrated history of the Friary of St Francis begins by telling the story of Lint Close, a grand Edwardian house built in Alnmouth between 1902 and 1916 by shipping magnate Arthur Scholefield.

While still in his family’s ownership, the 30-room house overlooking Alnmouth beach was used to accommodate evacuees and as a canteen for soldiers during the Second World War. Purchased by the Society of St Francis, the house was opened as a friary in August 1961. Today it is the home of seven Franciscan brothers who run and maintain the house and gardens, and provide a resource for parishes, lay groups and individuals to use it for conferences, retreats, holidays and a space for spiritual refreshment and renewal.v