‘Writer, wife, mother, new grandmother, fancies herself as funny.’ That’s how Sue Clark, this week’s guest on My Book in 3 Books, describes herself on Twitter. Let’s see if she is indeed ‘funny’:
I don’t care about your book! Instead tell me about three books which influenced your book…
Three books that inspired my comic fiction, Note to Boy. Only three? If you say so.
My default setting is humour, so all of them are, to different extents, funny books. My first choice is… are you sure you don’t want me to tell you about my book? No?
Get on with it, Sue.
Moll, the Making of Molly Parkin by Molly Parkin
Not a novel (that’s not against the rules, is it?) but a terrific autobiography of the force of nature that is Molly Parkin, fashion journalist, novelist and now painter – for, somehow, defying the odds, well into her eighties, she is still alive and very much kicking.
This brutally honest, expletive-strewn book tells of Molly’s outrageous and promiscuous life, from her sexual awakening in the 1950s at the hands of actor James Robertson Justice (the irascible chief surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt in the Doctor in the House series, for younger readers) to partying in New York with Andy Warhol and the Rolling Stones. Jeffrey Bernard, no less, called this book shocking. Need I say more?
Now can I talk about my …? Not yet?
The Inimitable Jeeves by P G Wodehouse
It’s an obvious choice but I can’t leave him out. My second book is any work by P G Wodehouse. Wodehouse has never been bettered for comic fiction in my view. His phrasing, his timing, his tone, the little details that give a spot-on evocation of the lives of the idle rich in the 1920s and 30s, have you smiling from the first page.
And that’s before you bump up against one of his razor sharp comic lines. But when you do … Here’s an example from The Inimitable Jeeves (1923): I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express in the small of the back. It’s the daisies that get me every time. Elegant. Succinct. Funny.
Much like my own modest tome … ah, still too soon?
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
After two books set in the past, I suppose I’d better pick something more contemporary. I’ve long been an admirer of Kate Atkinson from her Whitbread award-winning first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum onwards. While not out-and-out comic fiction, comedy is never far from many of her works.
One Good Turn, subtitled A Jolly Murder Mystery, is part of the Jackson Brodie crime series and, for my money, one of her most satisfying books. Set, like many of them, in Edinburgh, it allows her to cast a jaundiced eye on the Festival and its visitors, as well as weaving an entertaining, humane and tense tale.
And I’ve just discovered and loved The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Metafiction written before the term was even thought of. And funny.
I know. I’ve sneaked in a fourth. I hoped you wouldn’t notice.
I did notice actually but I’m not informing the literary police as I can’t be bothered.
So come on then, Sue – what IS your book about?
Note to Boy by Sue Clark
What? You mean, now? My book? I couldn’t possibly … oh, if you insist. Ahem.
Note to Boy, tells of Eloise, an elderly, arrogant but occasionally charming former fashion guru, who befriends Bradley, a downtrodden but occasionally cunning teenager from a deprived background. She wants her celebrity life back. He just wants a life. Out of the chaos, something resembling a plan emerges, but will the unlikely duo be able to pull it off, and can they trust each other?
I hope I’ve taken a little something from all these books in my writing. If I’ve achieved a fraction of the joie de vivre of Molly Parkin, the wit of P G Wodehouse, the playfulness of Kate Atkinson, and the wry humour of William Goldman, I’ll be a very happy writer.
Note to Boy is crowdfunding with Unbound. If you’d like to pre-order a copy, please visit the Unbound website and click on Pledge. I’ll be eternally happy and you’ll be a patron of the arts. Thank you.