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Please welcome Colin Falconer to Readers Rule!

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I was seven years old when my Aunty Ivy came to visit us. I got a bristly kiss on the cheek, was complimented on my curly hair, and handed a bag full of comics.

It was the start of a lifelong love affair – with stories.

There were some Superman comics in the bag, but they were promptly discarded in favour of the half dozen dog-eared Classics Illustrated. Every week after that, when Aunty Ivy took the train down from London to see us in (what was then) rural Essex, she added to my library of the world’s greatest literature, each volume condensed into 52 lurid pages with speak bubbles.

By the time I was eight I had read Moby Dick, Doctor Jekyl and Mister Hyde, The Moonstone, The Black Tulip and Ivanhoe; was familiar with most of the major works of Alexandre Dumas (Père), Mark Twain and William Wilkie Collins; and had even read most of Homer’s Odyssey (although I never found out how it ended because the comics were second hand and the last page had been ripped out.)

I just hope he got back home all right.

I was the only eight year old I knew who preferred Michael Stroganoff to Huckleberry Hound. All right, so I thought Faust was the Incredible Hulk’s younger brother, but what those comic books gave me was a thirst for great stories.

When I left school the first thing I did, to the consternation of both my parents, was go hitch-hiking around Europe. After all, why go to university? I’d read everything Shakespeare ever wrote one wet weekend when I was 9. What was left to learn?

Instead I hitch-hiked to Morocco, where me and my mate were the only white faces (then) wandering the Djema El-fna’a, the Place of the Dead, in Marrakech. Not too long after that I found myself on a rusted freighter in the middle of a typhoon in the South Java Sea, then heading to the Golden Triangle in Burma, where I shook hands with CIA agents and drug smugglers.

My travels in Indochina led to my first novel, based loosely on the life of Charles Sobrajh, a serial killer whose path I almost crossed many times. They were also the source of my five book Opium series, based on the growth of the heroin trade.

Shadows moving behind the fretted windows of a Marrakech palace led to my fascination with Muslim culture and to books like HAREM and SERAGLIO.

Yet when I look back on the beginnings of my writing career, I still wish I had paid more attention to staying in genre. Pick your niche and stick to it, as Bob Mayer says. Like Grisham or Clancy or Picoult.

But at the start I was too naïve to realize that I was writing out of genre. For a kid raised on Classics Illustrated the only genre I understood was a great story written in an accessible way. I leaned towards historical backgrounds because the Classics Illustrated stories were mostly that.

I try to pay more attention to genre these days, because readers certainly do. But in my own mind I have never strayed from my domain, one you won’t find in the writing books. It is the Aunty Ivy genre; I pray at the feet of the genius who sandwiched Les Miserables into forty eight garish pages.

I don’t have genius. All I have is a love affair with a big story on an exotic canvas that someone can read on one rainy afternoon, just like I did. If just one of my stories can fire someone else’s imagination and send their lives on a different course, as happened to me, then Aunty Ivy and I will consider it a job well done.

 

Check out Colin’s latest release, Venom at Barnes and Noble Nook First!

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