Oliver Harris 🔖 answers thirteen questions in Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What are you currently reading?

OH: I seem to be reading ten books at the same time, as usual. Top of the pile is Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus and, as of yesterday, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place – one of the few contemporary authors who can get me to fork out for a new hardback.

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

OH: Joyce’s Ulysses is something remarkable. A theoretical Chekhov’s Complete Stories would rival it, but in a very different way. Can’t even begin to think what the worst would be, but I’m tempted to namecheck Ayn Rand for combing banality with a genuine, widespread negative impact on the world.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

OH: Usborne’s Supernatural Guides provided a spine-tingling introduction to the uncanny. Three volumes: Haunted HousesGhosts and Spectres 🕮 Vampires, Werewolves and Demons 🕮Mysterious Powers and Strange Forces. Character-forming; I learned a lot there.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

OH: I can’t think of one off-hand. I consumed books quite complacently as a child. There were no superstars like Rowling or Pullman in my day. I don’t think I was that blown way by Roald Dahl, and Enid Blyton hardly set my world on fire.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

OH: I remember two seminal reading experiences in late adolescence: Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero. Both felt as thrilling for their style as much as anything – it seemed to confront the contemporary world and find a literary voice to match. Brash, sometimes superficial and mindless, sometimes soulless, nihilistic, cluttered with the authentic detritus of 1980s/90s life. Both delivered a frisson of transgressive realism.


TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

OH: I’d go for JM Coetzee and the aforementioned Rachel Cusk.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

OH: Fiction. It’s where the truth lies.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

OH: James Ellroy’s My Dark Places is a book I return to often when teaching crime writing or talking about what made me want to write crime. An investigation into his own mother’s murder, as well as into his self-creation as an author, and a vivid, thorough dissection of 1950s LA, it made me see crime writing as a legitimate vehicle for sociological and psychological analysis. It's also unafraid of the trawl involved in investigation, with its testament to obsession.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

OH: No. Can’t think why I would. Know your enemies, and all.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

OH: Interesting question. If I gave them Catcher in the Rye and explained that I relate to it even more now than I did when I was in my teens, they might get some sense of my arrested development.


TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

OH: Period Power by Maisie Hill.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

OH: I rail slightly against the assumption that a good book needs to be adapted. But (for obscurity’s sake) I’d love to make a film of Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

TPQ: The just must - select one book you simply have to read before you close the final page on life.

OH: Difficult one. Rather than listing the predictable classics, I’ll say Sally Rooney’s new novel, Beautiful World, Where Ere You. I thought Normal People was exceptional.

Oliver Harris was born in North London but now lives in Manchester, where he teaches at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is the author of the Nick Belsey series of crime novels and, more recently, the Elliot Kane spy series. Ascension, the second Kane novel, has just been published by Little, Brown. Ascension by Oliver Harris | Hachette UK

Booker's Dozen @ Oliver Harris

Oliver Harris 🔖 answers thirteen questions in Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What are you currently reading?

OH: I seem to be reading ten books at the same time, as usual. Top of the pile is Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus and, as of yesterday, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place – one of the few contemporary authors who can get me to fork out for a new hardback.

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

OH: Joyce’s Ulysses is something remarkable. A theoretical Chekhov’s Complete Stories would rival it, but in a very different way. Can’t even begin to think what the worst would be, but I’m tempted to namecheck Ayn Rand for combing banality with a genuine, widespread negative impact on the world.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

OH: Usborne’s Supernatural Guides provided a spine-tingling introduction to the uncanny. Three volumes: Haunted HousesGhosts and Spectres 🕮 Vampires, Werewolves and Demons 🕮Mysterious Powers and Strange Forces. Character-forming; I learned a lot there.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

OH: I can’t think of one off-hand. I consumed books quite complacently as a child. There were no superstars like Rowling or Pullman in my day. I don’t think I was that blown way by Roald Dahl, and Enid Blyton hardly set my world on fire.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

OH: I remember two seminal reading experiences in late adolescence: Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero. Both felt as thrilling for their style as much as anything – it seemed to confront the contemporary world and find a literary voice to match. Brash, sometimes superficial and mindless, sometimes soulless, nihilistic, cluttered with the authentic detritus of 1980s/90s life. Both delivered a frisson of transgressive realism.


TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

OH: I’d go for JM Coetzee and the aforementioned Rachel Cusk.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

OH: Fiction. It’s where the truth lies.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

OH: James Ellroy’s My Dark Places is a book I return to often when teaching crime writing or talking about what made me want to write crime. An investigation into his own mother’s murder, as well as into his self-creation as an author, and a vivid, thorough dissection of 1950s LA, it made me see crime writing as a legitimate vehicle for sociological and psychological analysis. It's also unafraid of the trawl involved in investigation, with its testament to obsession.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

OH: No. Can’t think why I would. Know your enemies, and all.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

OH: Interesting question. If I gave them Catcher in the Rye and explained that I relate to it even more now than I did when I was in my teens, they might get some sense of my arrested development.


TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

OH: Period Power by Maisie Hill.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

OH: I rail slightly against the assumption that a good book needs to be adapted. But (for obscurity’s sake) I’d love to make a film of Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

TPQ: The just must - select one book you simply have to read before you close the final page on life.

OH: Difficult one. Rather than listing the predictable classics, I’ll say Sally Rooney’s new novel, Beautiful World, Where Ere You. I thought Normal People was exceptional.

Oliver Harris was born in North London but now lives in Manchester, where he teaches at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is the author of the Nick Belsey series of crime novels and, more recently, the Elliot Kane spy series. Ascension, the second Kane novel, has just been published by Little, Brown. Ascension by Oliver Harris | Hachette UK

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