I see Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus novel is out. The 24th in a long line of successful and excellent crime fiction. There was a day when I would snap up his latest as soon as it hit the bookshop shelf. I finally broke that addiction about three years ago and recently off-loaded the entire collection. The shelf space was needed!
Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed them. It wasn’t a decline in the quality of storytelling or plot lines, but my brain was craving a different direction. So, when one day I read D H Lawrence’s The White Peacock followed by John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, a whole world of books I had bypassed burst open, and I plunged right in.
The authors came thick and fast: Scott Fitzgerald, Lawrence Durrell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Attwood, Kazu Ishiguro, Ernest Hemingway, Alexander Dumas, Jose Saramago to name but a handful. This at a time when my poetry writing, and reading were also taking off. It was effectively a super nova going off in my brain and the fall out was – and still is – wonderful and exciting.
I stumbled at some, of course. Most notably Dickens. After research, Bleak House seemed the best place to start. However, after 200 or so pages my determination wilted at alarming speed and eventually I abandoned that plan. I’m sure that will be seen as heresy in certain circles!
There is nothing wrong with formulaic writing. Authors have been mining that seam for years from the likes of Jack Higgins through Dick Francis and Danielle Steel to Lee Childs. I am not critical of it in anyway. The readers have their favourites, as I did in Rankin, and are comfortable with that. But.
I do like a challenge. And that is not only rooted in authors of the past. There are still current authors who’s work I like and do not bypass. Ian McEwan and Conn Iggulden are two of them. However, I enjoy going down untrodden paths.
The Booker Prize winner was announced this week. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka is absolutely on my must-read list (I can’t say that about many Booker winners). It looks fascinating and another newly published book on my radar is Alan Moore’s Illumination. Orders will be placed with my local bookshop of course!
Such discoveries are high adventure without having to travel any further from my favourite chair to the kitchen to brew another pot of coffee.
Born in North Wales, poet & writer Paul Mortimer has lived in Tiverton for 13 years. His first poetry collection, Fault Line, was published by Lapwing in 2015, followed by Wind Voices from the same publishing house in 2019. He has appeared at several literary festivals and headlined at a number of poetry events in recent years.