Anita Mason was a novelist who was drawn to ideas but also enjoyed telling a good story. Her books range widely in subject-matter and setting but have in common an interest in history, religion and the compromises imposed by politics. Her first novel Bethany ambiguously probes a high-minded commune in 1970s Cornwall; her second The Illusionist, shortlisted for the 1983 Booker prize, tracks the spectacular and scurrilous career of Simon Magus and the divisions among the early Christians. The War Against Chaos pursues the logic of the Cold War to its insane conclusion. Speculations about Germany and its partition which surfaced while she was writing this third book were explored in Angel, whose protagonist is a female German pilot.
A visit to Brazil kindled an enduring interest in Latin America and was responsible for The Racket. Subsequently, Anita wrote The Yellow Cathedral, about the Zapatista rebellion of 1994 in Chiapas, and The Right Hand of the Sun, which deals with the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The latter plumbs the complex character of Hernán Cortés, while reserving most of its sympathy for the defeated Aztecs.
Vodou, Haitian politics and an apparent kidnapping provided the subject for Chuichui, after which Anita turned her attention to a book about the relationship between humans and animals. She also wrote short fiction, journalism and book reviews.