A Life Of Fiction CLXIX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Books You May Want To Read: I am not really a big recommender of books, whether fiction or non-fiction, as I never seem to get through books as quickly as I like. I find that life always gets in the way.
I have recommended novels to people on other posts. I’m sure that I must have told you how great The Master and Margarita is, at some stage in the past. But I don’t think that I have waffled on about non-fiction books.
I buy non-fiction books for only two reasons. The first reason is that the books are going to occupy a place on my shelves at home, in what I think of as my ‘research library.’ The other reason is that the subject of the book is so fascinating (to me, at least) that I cannot resist picking it up. Here are three non-fiction books (I could name only a couple of others) which passed the test of See: Must Buy. All three of the books were acquired from charity shops (two came from Oxfam, one came from the British Heart Foundation).
I will try to briefly describe the books without giving away too much about them.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann. This book is about the search to discover what happened to the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett. Fawcett had become obsessed with the idea that there was a real-life lost city – the Lost City of Z – deep in the Amazon jungle. Fawcett went in search of it in 1925 and was never seen again.
Fawcett was not some dilettantish, amateur explorer. He was a tough and seasoned individual; and it is possible that The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was partially inspired by Fawcett’s adventures. The character of Lord John Roxton was probably modelled on him.
I have not yet finished this book as I write these words. But how could I resist a book with the title of The Lost City of Z. I have been obsessed with lost cities since I was a little kid, ever since I heard about Atlantis and places like that. I have featured lost cities in my novels in the past (in City of Gold, for example). I think that, in my Gas-Lamp Fantasy Game, I even mention the lost City of Z, in one of the supplements. As soon as I saw this book on the shelves in the charity store I knew that it was going to be a good read.
The Riddle and the Knight by Giles Milton. The author was also the writer of Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, another good book. I’m recommending this book because it is probably (and undeservingly) less well known; and because the book is mainly about Sir John Mandeville. Like Fawcett Mandeville was an explorer – but Mandeville lived around six hundred years before Fawcett.
According to legend Mandeville spent around three decades exploring the world. After his travels he reputedly returned to Britain claiming to have travelled to the Far East, and to have encountered all manner of strange men and creatures. He claimed to have encountered Amazons, ; people with only one, giant leg and foot (inspiring a race in the Narnia books of C S Lewis); and Andaman Islanders who only had a small hole instead of a mouth. Anything to do with Sir John Mandeville – a person who I used as a character in Victoria Forever! – was something which I could not resist. I like things which are strange and quirky.
My last recommendation is The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby. The book was originally published in French. It is another book dealing with South America. This one is about the claim made by some South American shamans that knowledge of plants was learned directly from the plants themselves while taking hallucinogenic substances. The book deals with the ideas of the double helix of DNA bring connected with the Rod of Asclepius. Narby claims that shamans (and ancient civilisations) had knowledge which modern science did not rediscover until the 1950s. It does not really matter whether Narby is correct or not. What is important is that you, at least, consider the possibility that he might be right. We should consider any such outlandish theories seriously, and not simply reject them out of hand. Some of the ideas in this book were an influence on my novel The Impossibilities.
Well, that is my selection of non-faction books. Maybe none of the above books are for you. Or maybe you have discovered your own favourite books which are quirky and strange.
That’s it for this post. Another one soon.

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