He’s been a copper, a QI elf, now he’s an author and artist – this week Stevyn Colgan gives us his three books…
I don’t care about your book! Instead tell me about three books which influenced your book…
The Throwback by Tom Sharpe
Sharpe’s most savage farce. It’s full of bad behaviour and mayhem; explosions, bull-terriers on LSD, human taxidermy and so much worse. The Throwback was the first book that genuinely made me laugh out loud in public. I loved the idea of words making someone laugh and cheering them up on the way to work. It inspired me to try to do the same with my own novels.
Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine
Adams’s only non-fiction book and, to my mind, his best work. All of the humour, all of the delicious metaphors, all of the humanity of his Hitchhiker and Dirk Gently books but employed in the service of highlighting the plight of the world’s most endangered species. It’s a joy from start to finish and a lesson in the use of comedy to get across a serious message. Everything I write, fiction or non-fiction, is a mix of serious and humorous. My books are a mix of light and dark – a lesson I learned from Adams.
The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser
Fraser is better known for his Flashman books but The Pyrates is much funnier. Set in what amounts to an alternative Hollywood universe this book pre-dates Pirates of the Caribbean by at least three decades and is thirty times funnier. It showed me how, if you mix real historical detail and comedy together you can create a fictional world that has a degree of believability. It also showed me how to weave a complex series of plot lines together into a cohesive narrative.
Oh, ok – tell me about your book then…
The Diabolical Club by Stevyn Colgan
My first novel A Murder To Die For, and my next, The Diabolical Club, are comedies and they both owe something to the three books listed above. From Sharpe I‘ve developed my deep love of farce and black humour. From Adams I’ve learned the value of the clever metaphor, the pithy phrase and the value of alternating between light and dark. And from MacDonald Fraser I’ve learned how to plot a book with multiple characters and plot lines and still keep the pace going. My books feature murders, unexpected love stories, curious characters, moments of chaos and moments of sentimentality. I’d never have written the way I do without the inspiration provided by these three authors.