Tag Archives: influences


The Accidental Influences of A Missing MC (3)

I started a mini-series of blog posts under the banner ‘Accidental Influences of A Missing MC’ some time ago now. Today, after discussing The Road Home (click here) and Norwegian Wood (click here), I complete the trio. However, in the case of Espedair Street by the late, great Iain Banks, ‘accidental’ is probably pushing it…

Part Three: Espedair Street by Iain Banks

If you think back to the best books you’ve read, you may recall you were moved, inspired, that you took something profound away from the experience. As Espedair Street is one of my all-time favourite novels, its influence on my book is more than understandable.

Technically, it did still happen by accident. I’d already thought of writing a novel about a DJ who had grown disillusioned, and explore ‘the quarter-life crisis’. But when Espedair Street came into my life, just before I started to research and plan A Missing MC, Chris Ready’s story became destined to share something significant with the novel many regard as Banks’ most underrated.

The main character, Daniel Weir is the bass player of a once-famous rock band. Let me be blunt about exactly where he and Chris Ready resemble; both once enjoyed playing music and look back on their heyday fondly; both find the nostalgia adds to their present malaise; both were happy to allow more flamboyant partners in crime take the limelight; and when the story starts, both feel like they’ve been left behind.

It goes on; Banks has written Espedair Street as if the reader knows Daniel Weir’s band, Frozen Gold. Pushing the audience into this fictional world, the prose at times plays out like an autobiography. I’ve tried something similar; while ‘Ready and Strait’ were never famous, they were notorious and had a loyal following among the student community. Ready is proud of this, and his narration includes indulgent passages about his Drum ‘n’ Bass ‘act’ with MC Strait.

When I approached mainstream agents with A Missing MC I was often told it was so original they wouldn’t know where to start. But anyone who ever reads it having enjoyed Espedair Street would be right in thinking it may not be that original at all.

I’ve said previously that I make no apology for what books have or haven’t influenced my debut novel. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone not shaped by the outside. For example, my music collection may be varied, but whenever I sift through it I can hardly see past Pink Floyd. Very few of us are true pioneers.

Nonetheless, I still carry the hope that someone will take something new, something fresh from A Missing MC, whether it’s the characters, the story itself, or maybe just the feel, how I’ve put the words together.

Click here to discover Espedair Street.


The Accidental Influences of A Missing MC (2)

Part Two: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

In the previous post I set out to select three books I happened to be reading at the time I started to work on A Missing MC.

In this, the second instalment, I discuss a literary classic. Norwegian Wood remains a global phenomenon but first it gripped an entire nation. It became Japan’s novel, because it said so much about the country’s psyche.

Two decades and a captivated worldwide audience later, it was cool to have Norwegian Wood on your bookshelf, and I helped myself to my flatmate’s copy…

I was already developing the idea of my main character going to see old friends one by one, but this book encouraged me to try and bring out a key characteristic in Chris Ready. Toru, the main character in Norwegian Wood is among other things a great listener who people can confide in, and I thought that would help my often down-in-the-dumps protagonist gain more sympathy with the reader.

As the DJ, Ready is a natural focal point for his group of friends, however uncomfortable he is in the role compared to his more charismatic sidekick MC Strait. So when Ready starts his journey and goes to look in on these friends in the wake of Strait’s kidnapping abroad, these characters seem happy to share their fears, about Strait and their own lives, with Ready. I can put the task of making an awkward Ready adapt well to the role of listener down to Toru.

One of my bigger decisions to make was whether to write in the first or third person. Norwegian Wood seemed to settle the argument; the reflections remained close to the story. This is a novel about one person’s almost spiritual journey, and I suppose my book was too. I concluded the reader would rather hear from the person going through it rather than a narrator.

Click here for my review of Norwegian Wood on Goodreads. While I was there I added my review of The Road Home (click here), which I discussed in my previous post.


The Accidental Influences of A Missing MC (1)

Part One: The Road Home by Rose Tremain

I’ve discussed the inspiration for A Missing MC elsewhere, but I view my influences as something altogether different.

Take what I happened to be reading when I started to work on the novel, my first attempt at such an endeavour. As it needed my full attention and started to occupy my every thought, what I was reading at the end of a day’s work was always going have a role to play.

I make no apology for these accidental influences. As I’ve hinted in posts below, I was trying to find my style, my method, my voice. For those of you who have read A Missing MC (or are just about to), I couldn’t pretend otherwise.

I’ve picked out three books that I remember most vividly from that time. First up, The Road Home by Rose Tremain.

This triumphant, epic novel tells the story of Lev, who travels to London from Eastern Europe to find work. Fabulously written, The Road Home encouraged me to stick to my guns and keep Chris Ready’s flashbacks to his past heyday within the present narrative. I was considering creating standalone chapters about Ready’s past and why it is so significant when we pick up the story, but The Road Home convinced me this would have killed the tempo.

I was also intrigued by a peripheral character, Lev’s straight-talking friend Rudi. Giving Lev his opinions from back home in Eastern Europe, Rudi’s expressive voice can be vividly heard through the telephone line. His presence is strong, and gave me a good starting point for trying to do something similar for Strait, the beleaguered ‘missing MC’ himself.

Both Rudi and Strait are almost like ghosts; they not in the here and now of the story, but considerably effect it; Lev looks to Rudi just like I wanted Ready to look to Strait. It’s up to you to decide whether I made that work.

The Road Home won the Orange Prize in 2008. I thoroughly recommend it, just look at some of the reviews on Goodreads!

Click here to find out about the inspiration behind A Missing MC.