Authors and Influences

Today’s blog is about two authors and my favourite books that influenced me to write my first novel, Toxic Beer.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Noel Adams

Douglas Adams portrait.
The late, great Douglas Adams.
Image Credit: Michael Hughes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I may have mentioned it before (well, definitely to lots of my best friends, anyway, when I get the chance), that my new book Toxic Beer is a bit like The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2). I need to do this because the title of my book suggests something to do with beer, so they get a bit confused – hence me mentioning Mr Adams’ bestseller when I tell them that Toxic Beer is meant to be funny, and that I was trying to write something new and fresh and original in the great man’s style whilst also introducing Joe Public to my tongue-in-cheek style of humour but with a gentle nod towards Douglas.

Now it’s safe to say that I’m a bit of a fan of said author’s books and, particularly, his style of sci-fi comedy writing. Actually, I take that back and say I’m a total geek of a fan. In fact, my second birthday (yes, I know you can only have one) is on May 25th, or Towel Day (look it up on Wikipedia).

Yes, you get the idea. I love these books. I’ve got all the first five books. In my opinion, the sixth book, although not bad, doesn’t count and it’s very easy to copy someone else’s style.

Anyway, the books still make me snort with laughter, even having read them many times.

Oh, and I don’t like Garth Jennings’ film adaption and I can’t sit through the DVD that my better half brought me for my 50th without stabbing myself in the thigh with a fork – don’t get me started!

So what was it about this particular book that made me pick up pen and paper? Or fire up my friendly laptop and start writing a book in said style?

Well, Douglas Adams is the reason that I’m an author. When I got a decent internet subscription, the first thing I did was a search for The Hitchhiker’s Guide. I found H2G2 – a collaborative encyclopedia founded by Adams. Through writing for H2G2, I learnt that I wasn’t a bad writer. Then, all of my author buddies and friends told me, after reading my first draft of Toxic Beer, to “go for it”. Had it not been for a line editor ripping my 80,000-word manuscript down to less than 20,000, I may never have bothered writing the book in the first place. Lucky, then, for my stubbornness and determination to show the cheeky so-and-so that if I have to pay to have my book ripped apart, at least I can publish it just to show who is boss! I swear I heard Douglas in a dream telling me to get on with it – and that’s why I really wanted to write something like H2G2.

But why this style of writing, and why Douglas Adams?

Well, to quote one of my well-published friends (no names allowed, but he has sold a lot of books): “We need a new Douglas Adams”. His words, not mine, and no way could I ever step up and take the great man’s place but I’d like to think that I could at least (I hope) get fans of this style of writing to notice my efforts and, maybe, enjoy my own style of writing. 

Now nothing, in my own opinion, comes close to Douglas Adams’ style of humour. Unless you have read any of his books, you won’t know why I’m waxing lyrical about them but let’s assume for argument sake you, the reader of this blog, has read all of them. You will know, then, what I’m on about.

And you will now, having hopefully read my book Toxic Beer, see how Douglas Adams influenced me to write it. In fact, because of my love for his books, and missing the great man dearly, I managed to sneak in a few mentions of his characters into my novel. Another one of the main reasons for the influence of H2G2 and me writing a book in the same genre was mainly because I missed his writing, and although there are some very good sci-fi humour books out, no one does it quite like the late great Mr Adams.

This brings me nicely to the second author I have to thank for my twisted oddball sense of humour.

Robert Rankin: SEX AND DRUGS AND SAUSAGE ROLLS

I first read this masterpiece of silliness when I was waiting to fly home from Moscow. The plane had been delayed due to bad weather. I was desperate to escape the country (just kidding, it sounds like the start of a James Bond thriller) but the bit about the bad weather is true as it was Christmas time. I had just finished a business trip for an engineering company. I just wanted to get home to my better half and enjoy what was left of Christmas. So, to kill some time, I managed to buy this only book in English available in the airport newsagent’s shop, then sat myself down in an Irish pub to pass the time sipping Guinness and reading this book.

Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls Book Cover
Sex And Drugs And Sausage Rolls, by Robert Rankin ©Corgi Publishing

Mr Rankin is better known as the “Master of Silliness” –  a well-deserved title in my opinion and one I’ve been trying to emulate ever since reading S&D&Sr. In fact, recently, someone who read my book described my style of humour as “bonkers but extremely funny”. They couldn’t stop crying with laugher from start to finish. Well, if my humour is described as “bonkers” and “extremely funny”, I’ll take that as a compliment any day!

But back to why Mr Rankin’s book managed to bend and shape my sense of humour into what it is today, and why I almost got locked up by the Russian secret police (just kidding – maybe I should write a James Bon novel after all!) Truth be told, after consuming a couple of Russian Irish beers and reading the book, the first chapter had me practically rolling around on the floor in hysterics. I did get a few funny glances from a couple of big Spetstnaz commando-types who were enjoying a vodka or two in the bar. Lucky for me, my flight got called out on the tannoy and, just in the nick of time, I managed to escape the clutches of the Russian KGB.

In his books, Robert has a way of combining a good story made up of total nonsense and daft humour and still making it believable, I think because his characterisation is very strong. This style of writing appeals to me, and you will definitely see some of this kind of humour and characterization reflected in my own book, Toxic Beer. And I love the way Both Robert’s and Douglas Adams’ styles of writing give you the freedom as an author to make it up as you go along. That’s certainly the style I use when creating my characters and planets’ inhabitants, nav computers, and names for alien spacecraft etc. And just like Douglas Adams, although I love writing this stuff I also have an issue with deadlines – in fact, I read once that Mr Adams’ agent locked him in a room until he had finished writing his manuscript! Maybe being thrown in a Russian gulag for laughing at Russia’s finest crack commandoes in an Irish pub, in a Russian airport, would have done me some good. Perhaps it would have meant I wrote Toxic Beer a bit faster (it took the best of ten years).

Luckily for me, I don’t have an agent. Being a free agent myself, I get to say when my books will be finished, which is quite refreshing, to be honest.

Anyway, here are some examples of the made-up, extremely funny one-liners and humour from Mr Adams & Mr Rankin that have been my main influences.

For example, Douglas has the planet blown up whilst making way for an intergalactic superhighway while Arthur Dent is trying to stop his house from being bulldozed to make way for a new highway that happens to go through his house.

This was a pretty good opening for a book, in my opinion, and made me want to read more.

Robert Rankin has a chap called ‘Small Dave’ who just had his future read by a Penist (someone who reads your dangly bits instead of your palm apparently), a rock band called ‘Gandhi’s Hairdryer’ whose lead singer might be the devil in disguise, all based in Brentford. It’s a must-read, in my opinion, and very funny. It instantly had me laughing with Robert’s unique sense of humour.

Dare I compare my books to my heroes of comedy?

Ok, I have a group of alcoholic aliens bumping and burping around the galaxy in a stolen spaceship that pumps out lager beers as toxic waste.

In my latest offering, The Last Intergalactic Booze Cruise, which I am currently working on, I have a Formula 8000 Hyper Jump Race (a bit like Formula One racing, only in a nuclear bomb powered one-seater faster-than-light racing spaceship that hyper-jumps its way around the racecourse). The race is started by a nuclear missile exploding over the starting line just to get the race pilots adrenalin going for the race…

Anyway, I highly suggest if you want to have a good laugh and see where my influence for humour came from, please read these very funny books by Robert Rankin & Douglas Adams.

Take care,
Simon

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