6. "One Day" by David Nichols
AMAZON DESCRIPTION:'I can imagine you at forty,' she said, a hint of malice in her voice. 'I can picture it right now.'
He smiled without opening his eyes. 'Go on then.'
15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.
So where will they be on this one day next year?
And the year after that? And every year that follows?
Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY.'
MY OPINION: Yes! I've put a Romance novel in this list too! Have I lost my mind or just my testosterone? Well, neither actually. "One Day" is a very well put together book as it turns out, following the lives of two very believable characters. Oh sure, at times they both act like complete idiots but who doesn't in the tentative years between graduation and grown-up life? Plus I'm a really a bit of a soppy so-and-so when it comes down to it. However, I don't like the ending. I can't tell whether its because it seems a cop-out to me or because I've got a big ol' emotional bias against it; I just have problems with it. But on the whole, it is a must-read (not quite sure how I feel about compounding those two particular words together but I'll just go with it...).
5. "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" by Stephen King
AMAZON DESCRIPTION: 'Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired CARRIE. For the first time, here's an intimate autobiographical portrait of his home life, his family and his traumatic recent accident. Citing examples of his work and those of his contemporaries, King gives an excellent masterclass on writing - how to use the tools of the trade from building characters to pace and plotting as well as practical advice on presentation. And King tells readers how he got to be a No. 1 bestseller for a quarter of a century with fascinating descriptions of his own process, the origins and development of, e.g. CARRIE and MISERY.'
MY OPINION: Say what you will about Stephen King; you can't deny his passion for writing. This book has taught me a lot about how best to hone my chosen craft, thanks to both the wise words of Mr. King and the life lessons he shares through his semi-autobiographical chapters. What do you when your work keeps getting rejected? Read this book. How do you figure out just who your audience is? Read this book. How do you find the will to keep on writing, even after a traumatising incident? READ THIS BOOK! I'm serious; I highly recommend this book to all budding young writers, whether you care for the man or not. It's the most entertaining non-fiction 'How to Write Fiction' guide I've ever laid my hands on.
4. "The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse" by Robert Rankin
AMAZON DESCRIPTION: 'THE HOLLOW CHOCOLATE BUNNIES OF THE APOCALYPSE is set in Toy City, once Toy Town, but now older, bigger and certainly not wiser. The Old Rich, who have made their millions from the royalties on their world-famous nursery rhymes, are being slaughtered. One by One. Horribly. A psychopath is on the loose. He must be stopped at all costs. It's a job for Toy City's only detective - but he's missing, leaving Eddie Bear to track down the mad killer, with the aid only of his bestest friend, Jack, and a wide cast of truly unforgettable characters.'
MY OPINION: You ain't seen farcical literary digression till you've read a Robert Rankin novel. Again this book is very special to me because of the simple fact that it was picked by me, for me in the tender days of my youth. If you love the sickly sweet reverberations made by black humour violently colliding with beloved childhood makebelieve, then you will love this book. Despite it's tendency to dither at times then go completely off the rails at others, the story is brilliantly funny, the mystery angle is surprisingly sharp and the cast of characters are even more colourful than you'd expect of Toy City citizens (Eddie Bear being my favourite, mostly because he's as great as...). So give it a read. You'd be a 'gormster' if you didn't.
3. "Tales of the Unexpected" by Roald Dahl
AMAZON DESCRIPTION: 'A selection of short stories taken from Kiss, Kiss and Someone Like You, which are all typical examples of Roald Dahl's outrageous, macabre, impeccably timed and bitterly funny creations. Tales of the Unexpected includes, among others, the chastening tale of 'Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat', an edifying reminder of 'The Way Up to Heaven', the perils of sticking your 'Neck' out, why 'William and Mary' saw eye to eye, and how Mrs. Maloney led the 'Lamb to the Slaughter'.'
MY OPINION: If I could read a Roald Dahl short story each day for the rest of my life then I probably would. I first picked up this collection at a local Book Swap not too long ago and swiftly fell in love with the sheer darkness of Mr. Dahl's humour. Now don't get me wrong, I love his children's book too, it's just the adult stories he wrote have a lot more bite to them, a lot more bitter honesty. My particular favourites are 'Lamb to the Slaughter' (a common one among my social circle) and 'William and Mary', though I'd prescibe a large dose of all of them to anyone wanting to get stuck in with high quality short story writing. Out of all the authors I've come across in my lifetime, Roald Dahl has had the longest and firmest resonance.
2. "Watchmen" by Alan Moore
AMAZON DESCRIPTION: '"Watchmen" redefined superhero conventions and re-introduced comics to an adult audience with a gripping, labyrinthine piece of comic art. Rorschach, a half-psychotic vigilante must convince his ex team-mates, now middle-aged and retired, that he has uncovered a plot to murder the remaining superheroes - along with millions of innocent civilians...Even reunited, will the remnants of the 'Watchmen' be enough to avert a global apocalypse? With a powerful storyline masterfully told by comics supremo Alan Moore and beautifully rendered artwork by the talented Dave Gibbons - this is the one that started the graphic novel revolution and is definitely not one to miss!'
MY OPINION: A preverbial no-brainer. When I picked up the "Watchmen" graphic novel for the first time I didn't know what to make of it: it confused me, sickened me and fascinated me all at the same time. Then I picked it up again and things became clearer. Having picked it up a third time, I knew I could never be parted from this masterpiece ever again. And I literally haven't. Like "Simon Armitage: Selected Poetry" this book is never far from me. Alan Moore is the second writer who's hand I desperately want to shake (we'll get to the first very shortly...). Because of this book I've become obsessed with writing a superhero/masked vigilante tale grounded in realism of my own. Because of this book I've immersed myself in the sometimes psychotropic world of Alan Moore time and time again. Because of this book I've found a kindred spirit in the costumed vigilante Rorschach (well, sort of...). "Watchmen" is truly one of the Great Nerd Bibles. Or something similar. I'll let you be the judge.
AND IN FIRST PLACE, WE HAVE...
1. "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman
AMAZON DESCRIPTION: 'After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the time until his release ticks away, he can feel a storm brewing. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But the storm is about to break... Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Gaiman's epic novel sees him on the road to the heart of America.'
MY OPINION: Neil Gaiman: what can I say? He's my belated literary hero. I could literally devote one long-arse blog post to explaining just what the man means to me and I'd still be nowhere near to scratching the surface. Which is funny considering my radar only picked up on him a matter of years ago. I'd heard of him before but had never found reason to pursue his writing. And then I read "The Sandman" comic book series. A can of worms burst open. It really didn't take me long before I picked up "American Gods". Again, at first it bored me, then it baffled me and eventually it drove me bonkers with admiration. The long winding road of story, the rich cast of characters, the obviously close attention to detail of international mythologies. In short, Mr. Gaiman became my literary God after I finished those closing pages. And that's no mean feat. He is definitely the one man I must meet in my lifetime, definitely the one man I must shake hands with, definitely the one man I may consider lightly waltzing with...Well, maybe the third one's going a tad overboard, but the other two are absolute musts (just what is it with people warping this verb?). Given time I will meet Mr. Gaiman and thank him heartily for all that he has indirectly done to help me along as a writer and I'll be sure to have my trusty copy of "American Gods" to hand. Without a 'Shadow' of a doubt...(sorry, I'm contractually obliged to make at least one godawful pun in every blog. Well, actually that's a lie, but how would you know? Otherwise?).
And that's about it. I'll see you next time (whenever that turns out to be) with some actual writing. In fact, I think I have some poems I'd like you to see, somewhere around here. Let me just check...