I remember a quote from the Spielberg movie, Always, where Audrey Hepburn tells the deceased pilot Richard Dreyfuss that the inspiration he felt when he was learning to fly was breathed into him and that he was there to do the same for the next pilot. Divine breath. Now, I’m not saying that Richard Dreyfuss breathed inspiration into my writing but we all get inspiration from somewhere. For writers it usually comes from other writers and their books. Here are some of the books that influenced me. The divine breath.
THE CHOIRBOYS – Joseph Wambaugh
I was a policeman for thirty years and a soldier for three years before that. I’d read plenty of thrillers and police books and spy stories but reading The Choirboys was the first time one of them spoke to my experience of the front line. The uniformed cops dealing with everyday events with humor, sarcasm and not a little courage. Most of that came from the fact that Wambaugh had been an LAPD cop. He’d seen the stuff life can through at you and knew how cops dealt with it. With humor, sarcasm and not a little courage. And more than a little drink. That’s where my life differed from the cops in the book. Drinking Pepsi isn’t the same as getting shitfaced at choir practice in the park. But it inspired me to write my first crime book, Through The Ruins Of Midnight. About uniformed cops dealing with everyday events with humor, sarcasm etc.
SALEM’S LOT – Stephen King
This didn’t so much inspire me to write as show me how the flow of words could be a conversation, like telling a story around the campfire. No fancy words or grandstanding gestures, just simple easygoing chitchat. Stephen King was speaking directly to me. From his mouth to my ears. That’s how I like to write. We should all be so lucky. To write like Stephen King.
LIVE AND LET DIE – Ian Fleming
Or just about any of Fleming’s James Bond books, but mainly this one. I remember the excitement every time I read the name. A simple line became more exciting just by including those words. James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the departure lounge of Miami airport and thought about life and death. That was from, Goldfinger. What that name told me was I was back in the world of secret agents and beautiful women. Sex and violence. Excitement and promise. I was back with a character I loved to follow. In books and the movies. That was the power of the series character.
Over the years I’ve felt the same about Horatio Hornblower and Philip Marlowe and Jack Reacher. There’s been Raylan Givens and Harry Bosch and Quinn Colson. Characters I want to revisit for their latest adventure. It’s why I enjoy writing about Jim Grant and Vince McNulty. Because creating my own characters is even better than reading somebody else’s. One day they might even become as popular as a man saying, “My name’s Bond. James Bond.” In my dreams.