Finest work

Muriel Spark lived and enjoyed life in Rome, at that time home to a considerable number of Britons and Americans. Cultural pursuits and social engagements in the Italian capital contributed much to her lifelong interest in people and places.

It was during her early time in Italy that Muriel wrote what she considered to be some of her finest work.

These include her personal favourite, 'The Driver's Seat', published in 1970 and later filmed starring Elizabeth Taylor, followed by 'The Hothouse by the East River' (1973) — a striking, uneasy tale with a twist. 'The Abbess of Crewe' was published in 1974, and it too was adapted for cinema (Glenda Jackson this time taking the lead role). Highly evident in 'The Abbess' is Muriel Spark's renowned satirical skill: the work, set in a convent, is a send-up of the Watergate political scandal that rocked early-1970s America.

Moving to Italy clearly stimulated Muriel as a writer. Her fictional output during this period also consisted of the novels 'The Public Image' (1968) and 'Not To Disturb' (1971).

During the years 1975-1985, when she divided her time between Tuscany and Rome, she wrote 'The Takeover' (1976), 'Territorial Rights' (1979), 'Loitering with Intent' (1981) and 'The Only Problem'.