All books lovers have the same hallmark: we remember the most important books as if they were old friends. We remember when we took them in hand for the first time, we remember where we have read them, and we can pinpoint the exact locations of the phrases that, for a long time, we used as our own.
I remember perfectly the cardboard box that contained The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, given to me by an old great-uncle when I was nine. I devoured it, discovering for the first time the pleasure of reading. If he had given me the remote-controlled toy car that I secretly wanted, maybe I would have become a taxi driver; as it happened, I never got my driver license.
The second title that I extract from the deck with reverence is Misery by Stephen King. My version is a dog-eared paperback marked by
cups of coffee. I read it at twenty-five, when I was in bed with a near pneumonia. If Wells taught me the fascination of reading, Misery made me jump from reader to writer, pushing me to quit my previous (and unfortunate) day job as a cook in a shitty restaurant. Because of Paul Sheldon, the main character, with his obsessions so similar to my own. All writers have an Annie inside, ready to mutilate...
The third is White Jazz by James Ellroy. I had read many other crime novels earlier, and I had grown up among great classics, from Sherlock Holmes to the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain, but that book was the classic punch in the face. I had never found a noir so powerful. I had never met characters so epic, able to kill and love with equal passion, ruthless but not corrupt. White Jazz cleared the path on which my writing started walking, one that was later enriched by the works of Jeffery Deaver, with his unexpected twists. There are plenty of other novels I stole something from—maybe every one I've read—but in the end, I would like to pay homage to an Italian novel that helped forge my soul. It's If This Is a Man by Primo Levi, the true
story of a Jew imprisoned in Auschwitz. He taught me that evil really exists, and that all that a writer can invent, even the most gifted one, is pale in comparison to our world.
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