I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s impossible to be a writer without being a reader. It’s that ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ thing, I suppose. There’s a whole host of writers whose writing I love, and whilst I wouldn’t dream of comparing my writing to theirs, I hope just a little of their magic has been shaken onto mine…

The aforementioned six-years-in-the-making, blockbuster of a novel with a World War II setting, is in part an homage to my favourite writers. It might be described as a dialogue with the ghosts of Joseph Heller and Rex Warner, authors respectively of Catch-22 (as everybody knows) and The Aerodrome (which not so many people know, its having fallen off the radar in recent decades).

In the early ’90s, long before I embarked on the long road to writing my biography of Bill Nelson, I toyed with the idea of writing a biography of Warner. At the time, no biography of the great man existed, though as I was to find out in the course of my research, one was in preparation. That was partly why I abandoned the project. I got as far as interviewing his widow, Frances (a wonderful woman) and Warner’s ‘Auden Circle’ contemporaries, Sir Stephen Spender (he wrote, inviting me to his St John’s Wood house, on a scrap of envelope…) and Edward Upward (already in his 90s at the time and still razor-sharp – what an inspirational man). But that’s another story…

The structure of the book owes something to Georges Perec’s Life a User’s Manual, absolutely my favourite book of all time. I’ve put in a fair few word games, something to which the great Oulipian wasn’t averse. As for my narrator, a World War II veteran, reflecting on his experiences in July of 2005, there’s undoubtedly a debt to the singular Max Sebald (RIP), author of Austerlitz, The Rings of Saturn and The Emigrants among others.

Numerous other writers have inspired me along the way. I’ve learnt much from George Orwell, from his edict to avoid purple passages and his brilliant allegorical satire, Animal Farm (I must have read it six times at least over the last thirty years), which has informed the ‘book-within-the book’ in my own novel, set in a world of sprites and faeries. My pages on novellas and experimental novels provide a further insight into writers whom I find inspirational.



Haunted by the ghosts of Heller and Warner, Perec and Sebald…

2 Responses to “Influences”

  1. Oh, the Places We See January 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    Thanks for introducing me to several authors I didn’t know before reading this. And that’s why I love the internet!

    • Paul Sutton Reeves January 21, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

      My pleasure! Yes, there are multiple universes discover out there…

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