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Nightjar
  • Writer's picturePaul Jameson

Influential Books On Me (Part 2): As an Older Child

I recently participated in a Threads thing where you were challenged to name twenty books that you'd read that had greatly influenced you - without commenting why or how. At first I didn't think much of it, but as I progressed I realised it was really interesting - possibly more so personally - to think of these authors and works.

These authors and works, Have they influenced me as an author?

So I figured, as a blog, I'd consider them in more detail, looking at how and why they'd influenced me. Perhaps they do influence my writing without me ever having been aware. We will see. But rather than looking at one book at a time, I'll try to group them as of a kind, read either by my age, perhaps the genre into which they fall, or a particular stage in my life. So for the second part of this instalment, I'm going to look at those books that influenced me as an older child going on teen, before finally leaving home and the like. Coincidentally, there were six in total that I chose, the same number as my early years.



So what were these six books and how did they influence the growing pains of me? 


The first two books kind of saw the end of a child of Africa, before becoming a teen of England. You see in the 70's and early 1980s I lived in Africa, and all I wanted to do - after spending my day roaming the veld with my friends, hunting snakes, and getting into all manner of scrapes (believe me, there were many) - was to read about animal adventures and become a game ranger. 'Jock of the Bushveld' by Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick, I actually won in my final year of school in Africa, for academic achievement. I read it with a huge sense of home-sickness on arriving back in England - could smell the veld, hear my friends, when I read it. The Willard Price Adventures, on the other hand, simply reflected my love of the wild. I'm not sure either book strongly influenced me and my writing, both simply watering the already planted seed of interest sown in nature and animals as a young child, a theme often explored and taking centre stage in my work.


The next two books were huge influences on me though.

I'm going on an adventure.

Yep.

You guessed it.


I stumbled on 'The Hobbit' by JRR Tolkien at school. I remember they were being binned by the English teacher and I asked if I could take one home. Life was never the same. At the age of fourteen I discovered fantasy, magic, Middle Earth, and the wonder that is the writing of Tolkien - for me anyway. I loved it. I read the Hobbit, hardly believing what I was reading, and followed that path to 'The Lord of the Rings'. The British countryside held new meaning and I left behind the homesickness that was Africa. There was adventure again, even in England. In my mind trees moved, elves lived and magic was everywhere. I didn't realise it at the time, but in retrospect Tolkien also gave me a place to escape the abuse I experienced at home - pretty much a daily event with my mother - so in a way I think Middle Earth saved me. I loved Lord of the Rings, truly, and after Lord of the Rings I read pretty much every fantasy title I could get my hands on. I wanted more. More magic. More adventure.


So did it influence me?

Hell yeah!

There's magic in my writing; Nature is a Kingdom, And Fae do live.

But not only did Tolkien introduce me to fantasy as a genre, it also led me to develop an interest in the folklore of the British Isles. In my quest for fantasy reads, I stumbled on 'Taliesin' by Stephen Lawhead. A fictitious retelling of the Arthurian legends, 'The Pendragon Cycle', it opened my eyes into incorporating magic into the seeming mundanity of everyday life and historical events. I loved his use of secondary characters from out legend as main characters, the magic sometimes being difficult to define or see, a madness to some. I'm not sure Lawhead's writing is an influence on my writing, but as a pathway from Tolkien on into real folklore as a passion and inspiration to fictitious retellings, it most certainly was. It led me into an interest of ancient history, mythology, and how the British landscape is steeped in folklore, legend, the wyrd, ghosts, castles and hauntings. It's an amazing ancient landscape I'm blessed to live in, and that most certainly does influence my writing.


The final book I've chosen is quite different. In truth, 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' might have been one of the final books I read as a young adult before leaving home - it was part of our 'A' level required reading (academic level in the UK). This book knocked in the final nail in instilling in me a very real disgust of hate politics, Fascism, and right-wing politicians and their political parties. I was already quite left-leaning, compassionate for nature, and my family came from a Lancashire mining background (Whiston, Merseyside and the Lea Greene Colliery - I remember my Grandad and uncle being strong union men). Although my parents lived in the south - and were Tories - I regularly stayed with my relatives on Merseyside. There I saw first-hand what the Tories had done to Liverpool and mining families in the '80s.

It was evil. Don't let anyone tell you different.

So I already had a tendency (much to my parent's ire) to question authority and, in their words, 'rebel'. I know there is academic criticism of the 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' by William L. Shirer, but for me it showed how insidious hate politics is. It taught me to look beyond the media and popular message to the actual players, their backgrounds, drivers, overall ambition, and to better investigate for the truth, rather than rely on the face value of 'being told' by the media and authority figures. And this fear of a corruption of authority, of hate and greed, malice, self-service driving people in power, definitely comes across in my writing; it's there in 'Life of Maggot' and 'Nightjar', and to a lesser familial level in '76 and the Odd 93'.


So did these books influence me and my writing.

I'd have to say yes.

Nature Magic Fantasy & Folklore Anti-Authoritarianism

They're all there, whether inspired directly by the books, or the texts being pathways into the discovery of an influence on my writing. Strange stuff. An interesting point of self-reflection, that until I properly considered it I was unaware of. So, as an author or just as self, what books in your life influenced you? And - if an author - do they still influence your writing?


Give it some thought.

You might be surprised.


 

If there's a topic you'd like me to consider in a blog, a book you think I really need to read and review, or a TV Series you think I'd enjoy (and you'd like me to include it in my blog) drop me a line and let me know.



Finally.

If you do buy my books.

Thank you.

And let me know what you think.

Get in touch on Threads.

I'm always there; a writer, you see...


 

      

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