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The books that inspired me

Posted on Jun 26, 2015 by John Scotcher

I've been meaning to tell you about some of the books that I love for a month or so now.  I finally have a bit of time where I haven't anything more pressing I wanted to talk about, so here goes.

Before I start though, I should warn you, I hate lists.  When I have my work hat on, I live in the small business community where blogging and social networking have become a fairly insidious way of marketing, so when I see some soulless blog post that reads something like 'My top ten best tips of badger rearing' or other such claptrap I tend to switch off.  So this isn't going to be a list, it's going to be a ramble!  As to the marketing bit - yes of course I would like you to buy my book when it comes out, but there are also millions of other amazing books out there, so I am not going to ram it down your throat. Instead here are some that are amazing to me.

The book (or rather set of books) that I think I have read more than any other is "The Belgariad".   A fantasy saga by the American author David Eddings (and his wife Leigh, in an unacknowledged collaboration), this was the first time I remember reading something with such a wide range of characters that were woven so well together. Now, admittedly I have not read this since I was about twenty two and the last time I read it I thought I had outgrown it.  However, the sheer likeability and humanity of the characters in the stories made them so loveable that it was easy to forgive the rougher edges of the writing.  The first in the series is Pawn of Prophecy.

Plus at this point in his career, David Eddings liked to give all his characters happy endings.  Everyone gets the girl (not the same girl I hasten to add, or it would have been a markedly different story), everyone has children, everyone lives in a nice cottage with a picket fence (or at least a fantasy world equivlent).  It wouldn't be until I read Guy Gavriel Kay's "The Fionavar Tapestry" that I realised the heroes aren't always necessarily safe.  

I actually reread The Fionavar Tapestry (a trilogy) a couple of years ago after finding them in the attic.  I had to pick up the third one on ebay as it appears to be out of print and is not yet out on Kindle.  I was delighted to discover that it is as good now as when I first read it.  It has aspects of Arthurian Myth in it, which has a strong part in my own book.  This trilogy was one of the influences that is responsible for that.  

Also, The Fionavar Tapestry does something with its chapters brilliantly.  The chapters are self contained.  "Self contained?" I hear you smirk, "John, all chapters are 'self contained'!"  Yes, ok.  That's a fair point.  I could probably put it far better than that.  What I mean each that in each chapter (the majority, at least) the focus switches to a new character and the narrative within that chapter is complete, with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Obviously all chapters in all books are like this to some extent, but it is really in a multi character, multi plot story that it is foregrounded.  Philip Pullman, does it very well in "The Tin Princess", Stephen King in "The Stand" and of course George R R Martin takes it to another level in the "Game of Thrones" books.  

For sheer imagery I love John Fowles' "The Magus".  It's set on a Greek island and as I spent most of my childhood holidays on Greek islands, it holds special place in my heart.  It was also the first piece of meta-fiction I read (which, to give a simplistic and not wholly accurate definition, means it's a book that knows it's a book).  It started me on a journey through all of John Fowles' books whilst I was at university and they all had me sitting forward in my seat, open mouthed, thinking "Wow, I never realised you could do that with writing." However, it remains "The Magus" that I would recommend above all others.  Be warned it's a big book and a long read, but worth every page.

Another big book, worth every page (and like the Magus, recommended to me by my friend Leigh, who has pointed me at some amazing stuff over the years) is "Galilee" by Clive Barker.  This is an amazing story about a family of gods, no longer worshipped, who now live on Earth and their relationship with a family of rich and powerful people (not unlike the Kennedys).  The meeting of old power with new has all the imagination and curve-balls that Clive Barker drops into all his fiction.

Now I've spent all this time talking about books, its time to go and do some editing on my own.  Before i go, however, one very modern recommendation, that I was laying in bed reading only a couple of hours ago: "Tales of the Ketty Jay" a series by Chris Gooding.  These books are great, swashbuckling, funny chaotic romps (I just used the word 'romp' for the first time ever) through a steampunkesque world of rogue traders, knights and pirates.  They are one of the easiest reads I have read in a long time and are very hard to put down.

So I hope that some of you take the time when you have nothing else to try some of these.  You won't be disappointed.  For my next blog: "Ten of my favourite ways to apply lipstick to a squirrel".  

Ok.  Maybe not.

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