Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Favourite Books

(I know the picture of my hydrangea has nothing to do with books, but my I.T. expert son has taught me how to add photos to the blogs, and I just stuck it anywhere!)
It seems obligatory for writers to tell everyone what their favourite reads are. Well, fair enough if you're interested - in which case, bless you! Writers of course, like the rest of the human race, come in all shapes, sizes, ages and their tastes and opinions are just as varied. Hmm, let me think.
First book that springs to mind is "The King Must Die" by Mary Renault. Came out about 1964. (I'm old.) Marvellous re-telling of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, no stuffy Greek myth style but an immediate and human story. The first reading of any good book is an adventure, but this one was a revelation. It was followed by "The Bull From The Sea" about Theseus's later life, and preceded by "The Last Of The Wine", about the war between Athens and Sparta. It helps to know a little of the background, but the stories stand alone.
I write romance so I'd better mention romance writers. Favourite Australian authors in the genre are Lindsay Armstrong ("A Difficult Man", "An Unsuitable Wife" and "An Unwilling Mistress") and Meredith Webber. June Monks's Country Sunshine is delightful. Favourite American is from the Eighties, Rebecca Flanders, I found her work very moving. British, Sally Wentworth, especially "Chris", which was deeply emotional. I'll remember more in time.
I've been a science fiction fan for fifty years. Favourite books in that line are Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand Of Darkness", just about anything by Arthur C. Clarke, the early works of Robert Heinlein, "The Gods Themselves" by Isaac Asimov, "The Dancer From Atlantis" by Poul Anderson (most of his work in fact), "Orbitsville" by Bob Shaw, most of Larry Niven's work including "Destiny's Road". I own an aged and battered anthology by Eric Frank Russell, who is rare in the genre because he can write stories that are both brilliant and funny: the book is called "Far Stars", and if you can find a copy, BUY IT.
Adventure. Unlike other girls I didn't much like girls' fiction, although L.M. Montgomery of "Anne of Green Gables" must be everyone's favourite. I liked Biggles - the pilot created by W.E. Johns, and my daughter loved them too. For adult adventure you can't go past C.S. Forester and the Hornblower series, though all his books tell great stories. "Brown On Resolution" and "The Gun" are my favourite non-Hornblowers.
Humour. I have a special admiration for those who can write it. P.G.Wodehouse who wrote the Jeeves stories is/was a master. Gerald Durrell injected it into most of his zoo-collecting stories, but I especially like his "Fillets of Place", (or Plaice), which is a compilation of several short and hilarious pieces. I gave it to a friend to read to cheer her up after she'd had an operation, and she almost burst her stitches laughing. And my all time favourite is "I'll Trade You An Elk" by Charles Goodrum, which must have been published in the late fifties or early sixties. His dad ran a zoo pre-war in Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A., and the best part of his side-splitting anecdotes is that they're all true!
What else? Oh yes, ANYTHING by Mary Stewart. Favourite is "Touch Not The Cat." And then there's M.M. Kaye, particularly "The Far Pavilions", which at nine hundred pages never became boring and I was never tempted to skip a word. Same with Colleen McCullough's "Morgan's Run."
And just about anything by Winston Graham, though his earlier work is a bit dated now. But his Poldark series is great (he's British) and "The Walking Stick" and "The Forgotten Story" are my favourite non-Poldarks. The Walking Stick particularly interesting because it's told in 1st person by the female protagonist. (It was filmed too, with David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar, in the Sixties.) I adore the way the man writes, so apparently easily, the stories just seem to 'happen.'
I'll carry this on another day. Right now I have to get tea ready. ('Dinner' in the U.S. or other civilised places like southern states of Australia.)

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