Books in boxes

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For the last three years, Mon and I have been living with her parents. All of our things have been stored in boxes in the cellar, with the inevitable result that whenever we’ve needed a particular item – a plug adaptor, a passport, a DVD – we’ve had to rummage and excavate our possessions to find the missing thing. Some boxes were needed regularly, and these stayed on the surface. Others were out of sight and out of mind, and they sunk deeper into the mire, their contents forgotten.

We moved into our own house on Christmas Eve. Moving has been a slow process, and it’s only today that we brought across the last of our boxes. As we unpacked and sorted the contents, I was delighted to discover my research books. These are the weird volumes that have grabbed my interest in charity shops and jumble sales. I seldom know exactly why they spark my interest, but they’re always about something peculiar, and they trigger my imagination. After three years, it was a strange feeling, both energising and nostalgic, to unpack this box of forgotten books and browse again through a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. There are studies of sumo wrestling, devils, tattoos, smuggling, bicycle mechanics, Vikings, saints, medicine, art, juggling and more…

Of the titles pictured here, Whale Nation inspired my long-running novella-in-progress, Year of the Whale, while David Pelham’s Kites (a classic of the kiting genre) and Stephen Turnbull’s Ninja are dripfeeding imagery and history into plans for my next novel. Finally, P.V. Glob’s The Bog People (1971) is research for another story to be written in the distant future, if I ever have the time to write it.

Part of me wishes I was called P.V. Glob.

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