The cat sat on my blog!

Not as good as “The dog ate my homework”, I know, but it was funny the way she leapt up and sat on my notes the very minute I woke the computer up.
Okay. Influences. We all have ’em: all writers are scavengers. What we call creativity is the spark that sets them alike. Mine, now, come from all over the place: some deliberately (Chandler), some peripherally (Pterry, Joss, Rider Haggard). some once much used (M.R. James) and all sorts of random things, from myth, legend, and tradition, to film, tv and history. I’ve used the Antikythera mechanism and the fabled treasures of Prester John, the Phaistos disc and Frankenstein’s artificial man (not a monster), the history of Lisbon and the Feng-huang… to name just a few.
When I was nine or ten I was nuts for Narnia, and wrote stories about it. That was before I understood the Christian subtext, at which point I lost my enthusiasm. I read The Hobbit not long after, followed by LotR, which influenced me for years. (My high school English teacher had studied under Tolkien at Oxford.) In fact I was even writing Tolkien-influenced French essays for A-level studies!
But alongside that, and wishing I could write the funny like P.G. Wodehouse, two more important influences came into my literary life. I first discovered M.R. James at age 13, and had some fine nightmares as a consequence— but it was thanks to him that my writing career began. I continued under his thrall for about another 20 years, culminating in the publication of Printer’s Devil and my subsequent writer’s block. During that period I occasionally wrote non-Jamesian ghost stories, including resurrecting William Hope Hodgson’s “Carnacki the Ghost-finder” with the collaboration of Rick Kennett in Australia.
In the meantime my dad had introduced me to Raymond Chandler. If my default genre setting is the English Ghost Story tradition, my default narrative setting is Chandler. Long before settling into “Weird Noir” I wrote a thriller, believe it or not, narrated by a very Marlowe-esque feisty reporter called Gail. (It’s actually called Film Noir, and one day I’ll publish it as an ebook.)


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