I am almost positive that, if you’re reading this, you have memories of books and stories which have stayed with you long after you first read them, or that have inspired you, or influenced you in some way. I know I have. There are some that have been way more inspirational than I ever could have realised at the time, and these have definitely influenced, not just me as a reader, but the writer in me, too.
The tiny reader ‘me’ gobbles stories
There are books I remember reading as a small child which gave to me, I’m sure, a love of the written word and the power of its magic. I remember vividly my one and only hardback copy of Twinkle. For the life of me now, I can’t remember what was inside, but the feeling I get when I think of it is that books are magical, transportive; the feel of it, the sight of it, the formation of the pages gave me joy and still does, even in memory.
I had a number of Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men books on my shelf, too, which I devoured every day, over and over. Okay, I’m going to admit now that I have a bit of an OCD thing going on when it comes to books and films I love. I obsess about them and read or watch them compulsively and repetitively to the point of driving others bonkers! Anyway, back to the Mr Men… I absolutely loved the characterisation, which is no surprise because character is my favourite aspect of any book. When my brother was in the bathroom, I used to get him to call out two Mr men titles and I’d read the stories to him through the bathroom door (he’ll love me for sharing that!). This reading aloud, though, may well have given me an appreciation of the weight and function of words, and of sound patterns such as alliteration – even though I didn’t know it as such then, but I’m a complete alliteration lover in adulthood.
On a slightly darker note, and much more in keeping with me as a writer, the Mr Men stories also gave me a huge appreciation for the way a threat may come to pass, or a lesson can be learned the hard way, and the endings of these books left an indelible mark on my child sponge brain. I loved this unnerving aspect, the psychological element, and this feeling of just desserts, which created an easy point of transition to my subsequent obsession with Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven books. In fact, I’ve still got all fifteen of them, spines and edges a bit tattered and well-thumbed. The mystery and the need to solve it completely captivated me. The characters felt like friends, right down to Scamper the dog! Reading each mystery adventure, I felt a thrill as each clue was uncovered and I was with the gang all the way, trying to solve the case. At the age of seven or eight, I had no idea that my brain was in training for what was going to become the big passion of my life.
Everything changed with Agatha Christie!
At the grand old age of ten, my dad bought me my first Poirot novel, The ABC Murders. This I devoured quicker than a bar of Cadbury’s (and that’s saying something, believe me!). I absolutely fell in love with Poirot, if that’s a thing you can do with the little Belgian detective. Ever since then I’ve had an enduring and obsessive passion for Agatha Christie’s work and, more generally, the detective story.[Read more…] about Magic, Mystery and Agatha Christie (fiction that made me a writer, part 1)