began reading at a very early age - certainly before the age of 4.
I read everything avidly - even the labels on jars of jam and packets of
breakfast cereal - and I've been told that our family GP had to endure
my reading of pages of Treasure Island whenever he visited (and I'd have
been pre-school then).
I remember enjoying works
such as the Jennings and Darbishire series (Anthony Buckeridge) when I
was around 11, and before that I'd
read many of the Beatrix Potter novels.
however, I had been exposed to Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies, and
for some reason that had a deep subliminal impact
on me (which, of course, was its
struck me as having a philosophy with which I could identify - but it wasn't
until I was much, much older that I realised I had unconsciously adopted
her name as a moral and social tenet for much of my life.
Around the ages 13 -
14 I became entranced with science fiction, yet I couldn't really give
you the names of any of the works I enjoyed or their authors - I just enjoyed
the material and didn't commit names and titles to memory.
Around the age of 16
and my 'A' level course in English Literature, I had a stack of reading
to get through (I asked for suggestions for reading material in the Summer
holiday before the Sixth Form years began, and the English master gave
me a pile of books large enough to hide behind).
(I was also studying
French and German to 'A' level, so there were works by Molière,
Racine, Brecht, Gotthelf, Zuckmayer, Sartre, Camus, Balzac and Voltaire
to get through as well - to name just a few.)
The list included Dickens
(just about every story he wrote!), Shakespeare (Henry IV Parts 1 and 2,
Henry V, Othello, Richard III, various others), Donne (an anthology of
his work), Eliot (probably the Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch), Chaucer
(Canterbury Tales - but I don't recall which tales!), Jonson (The Alchemist,
Volpone), Dryden (another anthology of poems), Brontë (Emily) (Wuthering
Heights), Austen (Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility)
and a host of others that I can't even bring to mind after all this time.
I damaged my eyesight
because I read so much, wearing glasses that I thought were for reading
when in fact they were for distance work <oops>.
In among my collection
of classics at the time was a couple of oddities, for only one of which
can I recall the title: Oriental Spotlight. There was a passage I
remember about a style of singing, describing it as "an attempt to retrieve
that portion of the bathwater that one has inadvertently swallowed".
I don't think the author was impressed with Egypt.
For a while I wondered
if the book had really existed, but I found it through Yahoo! just recently
so I'm not going bananas.
a Young Adult
|After a surfeit of the
classics (which really only lasted two years but it felt like a lifetime)
I dove into pulp fiction and some science fiction.
At one point I had a
guitar case (about twice the length of an ordinary suitcase) full with
around 300 paperbacks) - we didn't have space for a library bookcase in
the house, so I kept my 'library' in that.
It was not unusual over
a weekend for me to pick up a new book and begin reading - and not put
it down until I had finished, which often meant reading through the night.
Sometimes I would do that with books that I had read several times already...
Among the authors I remember
are Alastair Maclean (every book he wrote), Hammond Innes (ditto, I think),
Desmond Bagley (ditto), Robert Ludlum (ditto), Frederick Forsyth (Day of
the Jackal), John Le Carré (Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy), Michael
Crichton (The Andromeda Strain), Arthur C. Clarke (Rendezvous with Rama,
2061: Odyssey Three), Paul Gallico (Too Many Ghosts), Tom Sharpe (just
about everything he wrote), and there were a few nonfiction books (such
as The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved, by Larry Kusche).
I also enjoyed the late
Spike Milligan's books (Puckoon, A Book of Bits or a Bit of a Book, The
Little Potboiler, and others) - but then I'm a fan of the Goons - and his
style of writing has had some appreciable influence on me.
So too have the collected
writings of the Monty Python crew - much of my silliest early writing has
stemmed from a combination of styles of The Goons and Monty Python.
|I latched on to the
late Douglas Adams very late in the day, but fell hook, line and sinker
for all five books in the Hitchhiker 'Trilogy'. I haven't yet read
Terry Pratchett, although I'm led to believe that he writes in a similar
If ever I could point
to another writer and say they had a MAJOR influence on me, it would be
Douglas Adams. His influence provided me with a winning entry in
a recent competition: HitchHiker's
Guide To The Recipes (So Long And Thanks For All The Pancakes) won
first prize in the first Write Thinking competition, which was organised
Michael Knowles, Technical Writer
A recent acquisition
has been Travels With Samantha, by Philip Greenspun (with whom I've exchanged
email, and he's an interesting guy. I'd be surprised if there is
a writer alive who ISN'T interesting!).
The book is a sad yet
fascinating - if somewhat sketchy - description of his trip into Alaska
after the tragic death of a long time companion - his dog, George.
Having bonded closely with animals all my life, I can relate strongly to
aspects of the story.
Following on with an
animals thread, the very latest acquisition was a gift of Pets and their
Celebrities from the author himself, Chris Ameruoso, a fellow dweller in
the apartment complex that currently substitutes for home.
Otherwise, apart from
the occasional reference manual I've read very little in the last year
(two books, tops), which may give some idea of the lack of idle time available
to me, even when I'm in between contracts!
Most recently I've enjoyed
reading some of the current - and past - entries in the TooWrite
Short Story Competitions. Regardless of writing style there are
some fascinating stories there, all under 1500 words in length (which is
a nice bite-size for reading when you have literally only a few minutes
The fact that at least
two of my own creations are in there somewhere doesn't influence my opinion
one jot :)