There are many reasons why we chose to invest our time in reading fiction. The benefits are vast and appealing. If a doctor prescribed a drug which was a proven stress reliever, led to a slower mental decline in later life, and expanded your vocabulary, opened your mind and gave you pleasure – who wouldn’t take it?
I mentioned in a recent post that reading often provides me with the inspiration to write. Noting this on paper pushed me to think of specific books that made me want to write my own story, the five books below are (in no particular order) responsible for the hours I’ve since invested in fiction writing.
Siege – Simon Kernick
There was always going to be a Simon Kernick book in this list. If you are looking for a gritty London-based crime thriller that will have you turning page after page while you should be doing something else, pick up any of Kernick’s books. I can’t speak highly enough of the breakneck pace he writes with, if my novel can keep such a prolonged accelerated pace, I will have achieved more than what I had set out to do.
Siege tells the tale of a central London hotel targeted in an audacious terrorist plan. A bomb goes off in a shopping centre, then another at a train station, then the siege at the Stanhope hotel. Packed with twists and turns, it is the kind of book that has you trying to squeeze in a chapter or two before getting out the car that you have just parked. More than anything else, it is the relentless pace of the book that keeps you fully engaged throughout.
The Damned – Tarn Richardson
The book begins depicting a scene of World War One, and then beautifully transcends that time with years prior to develop two intricately planned, delivered, and engaging stories culminating to one. Genres are intertwined, tangled together seamlessly where fantasy (an area that I’ve never been partial to) is presented with entire and frighteningly plausibility, where historical war is depicted and portrayed as if personal experience, all the while maintaining the pace and enticement of a modern thriller.
The book itself is beautifully written, short sharp chapters each leading you immediately to the next, leaving you grateful for the next episode of either of the key story lines through the book.
The Day of the Jackal – Frederik Forsyth
Published in 1971, The Day of the Jackal was the first ‘faction’ book I read and it had quite an impact. The story is about a professional assassin engaged by a paramilitary organisation to kill French President Charles de Gaulle
The paramilitary organisation cited, The OAS, was a real group and the story opens with the true tale of an assassination attempt on De Gaulle by Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry. After reading, I think the next ten books I read were works of Forsyth.
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shrivers
This was one of those books that I found hard going for the majority of it but then felt rewarded towards the end when the full story was explained.
The novel surrounds a fictional school massacre and is written, unusually for the majority of books I have read, in the form of letters from the killer’s mother to his father. The letters depict a broken woman trying to understand the events that have shattered her life and the reasons behind them, was it nature or nature? The film of the same name does not do the story justice.
Green River Rising – Tim Willocks
It’s the imaginative writing within this story that lifts the 72 hours in Green River prison to its status as one of my top inspirations for writing. Told through the eyes of a wrongly convicted rapist, Dr. Ray Klein, the reader takes an attaching glimpse into an inmate takeover of the prison as Klein’s parole date looms ever closer.
There are some gruesome scenes with violence commonplace throughout the story. The dialect is superbly captured and there is are layers beyond the obvious prison culture of the book, strands which are coherent with the state of prisons in the UK. The lacked desire for rehabilitation, a holding pen for which no promise of a better way is offered to its inhabitants.