In my last post I outlined some of the books I’ve enjoyed over the years, and named The Hobbit as one of my all time favourites (including Lord of the Rings), and mentioned that it is a very rare night that I don’t fall asleep with a book in my hand.
It was a book that started me writing novels several years ago. After being blown away by LOR, I started devouring works from other authors: Douglas Adams, Harry Harrison, John O’Grady, Westerns (Larry and Stretch in particular), Harold Robbins, Wilbur Smith, Jack Whyte, Tom Sharpes’ wickedly funny novels, hundreds of joke books, books on magic, how to books, building model aircraft, boats, tanks etc. Bicycle repair books, folklore from all countries, Dreamtime yarns, the Homeric classics, The Iliad, The Oddyssey, Les Norton books by Robert G. Barrett, Wendy Holden (when my librarian told me to start reading some female authors and gave me her recommendations), then Jackie Collins, Sue Townsends’ Adrian Mole series, JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, Douglas Kennedy, Spike Milligan, Tom Holt, Ion Idriess, Tom Cole, Neville Shute, John O’Grady (fantastic), Frank Hardy, Hugh Lunn, Hector Holthouse, Colin Bowles (the Flying Doctor novels are brilliant!), Mike Hayes (Prickle Farm series = legend), columnists like Glenn A. Baker, Mike O’Connor, Vitali Vitaliev, Bill Bryson, Dave Barry and on and on.
I found a lot of books and authors that had come highly recommended who’s novels I never finished… and never will. Obviously I’m blind to their particular brand of genius. It was one group of novels that really kickstarted me though. A cheesy series by Harry Harrison.
Harry was responsible for starting me writing. At sometime in the early 90’s, I’d just finished one of his Stainless Steel Rat novels (about a futuristic space cop), put it down, lit a ciggie, sipped my rum, and thought, “Shit, if I couldn’t write a better book than that…” I said the same to my wife who said, “Well, why don’t you?” So I did. It was terrible. That novel lies festering in a brown box under my bed. It is beyond salvation. The only reason I don’t put it out of it’s misery is because part of me doesn’t want to give up on it… but it’s a dog on it’s last legs. A dog I am loathe to put down.
I continued to write, short biographies, short stories, humorous column articles (not for publication but for my own entertainment and stress relief!), then, years later I stumbled across Harry’s ‘Hammer and the Cross’ series. Harry is no hack. Harry, the bastard, can really scribble. That’s when it dawned on me that Harry was using the Stainless Steel rat books as a light hearted romp to keep his hand in while he researched his ‘proper’ novels. It nearly crushed the writing spirit in me that discovery. But by then I was in too deep and had to keep going.
And, I too have a Stainless-esque novel which I turn to when my current novel is bugging me, or the characters won’t do what they’re damn well told. It’s fun, light hearted, and above all an escape. The words flow, and I give myself little tingles of joy as I scribble merrily away. Then the pieces of my ‘real’ novel start to fall into place and I go back to it with a tad more enthusiasm. Hey, it works for me, but more on this later.
Finally, for those of you waiting with bated breath re: is my youngest enjoying The Hobbit? Well, the answer is ‘Yes, so far’. She made me laugh very much the other night when she interrupted me, “Dad, those naughty dwarfs’ are going to trick him into going on an adventure aren’t they?”
And I replied with an answer that all tellers of tales, and readers of books have given throughout the ages,
“Well, we’ll just have to see what happens little mate, won’t we!”