Chris Brookmyre. Credit: Bob McDevitt Photography.
Chris Brookmyre. Credit: Bob McDevitt Photography.

The Good Books, Chris Brookmyre: ‘Reading Iain Banks changed my perception of what Scottish fiction could be’

Chris Brookmyre on colourful comics, the essence of Glasgow, and the importance of reading somewhere sunny when your writing spot isn’t. 

The first book I remember reading: 

Asterix in Britain. It was on our class bookshelf in Primary Three, but I had to wait because whenever we had reading time, there was always a rush to get it because of the colourful and anarchic cover. Asterix stayed with me throughout my childhood and into my teens, and entirely warped my understanding of ancient history.

A book I recommend to everyone:

I frequently recommend Swing, Hammer Swing! by Jeff Torrington because it is like the essence of Glasgow distilled into a novel, or like a Billy Connolly routine that goes on for four hundred pages. It is simply the funniest book I have ever read, the story of a man traipsing around his old haunts in Sixties Gorbals as the world he knows is literally pulled down around him.

The best three books I have read in the last year:

Fall, or Dodge In Hell by Neal Stephenson. A typically vast and sprawling epic by literature’s most reliable visionary of our computer-driven future. It is a novel about a digitally created afterlife, and the inevitable battle to shape and control it.

Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville. A nerve-jangling thriller that is also a hugely touching meditation on a mother’s love. It is about the lengths a woman will go to protect a daughter who has not aged in a decade because she has certain appetites.

Oh, Brother by John Niven. A startlingly honest, eye-wateringly funny and eye-wateringly moving memoir about the life and death of Nevin’s younger brother, and the writer’s painful journey to come to terms with his loss.

A book I didn’t finish:

I know how much effort it takes to write any book, so I am reluctant to disparage anyone else’s work.

An author who has inspired me:

The late Iain Banks. Reading his work in my adolescence changed my perception of what Scottish fiction could be. It gave me permission to write all the twisted stories my imagination might come up with. They say never meet your heroes, but I was fortunate enough to get to know Iain, and he was as inspiring in real life as he was on the page.

My favourite place to read:

Somewhere sunny, by a swimming pool, and in the shade. In order to write, I spend a lot of time walking in horrible Scottish weather, so there is no greater luxury than enjoying the opposite of that whilst consuming the fruits of someone else’s labours.

The Cracked Mirror (Abacus Books) comes out in July. Voices of the Dead (Canongate) by Amberose Parry (Chris and his wife Marisa Haetzman) will be published in paperback in June.


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