Books that influenced The Killing of Butterfly Joe

Rhidian Brook shares the seven books which influenced his novel The Killing of Butterfly Joe.

When trying to discern the effect of other works of literature on your own it's tempting to choose those that make you look good by association rather than ones that actually influenced decision making about form, style or content. Influence is also subliminal, so a writer isn't always aware of what's ‘gone in to' their own work. I've tried to pick sevenbooks (all books I'd loved to be associated with!) that I know have influenced my own book, albeit in different ways.

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

by Dr Seuss

Book cover for The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

The Cat In the Hat is a great creative/destructive creation, a character who cannot be pinned down or sit still, and who causes mayhem and joy in equal measure. I consciously shaped Butterfly Joe in his image. Joe is also someone who walks into a room, sets a plate spinning and is gone by the time the plates crash to the ground.

Zorba the Greek

by Nikos Kazantzakis

Book cover for Zorba the Greek

In Zorba The Greek the narrator meets a larger than life eponymous hero and is pulled away from his books with the promise of experience. It's a set up I use in my own novel. And like Joe, Zorba is an iconoclast, a man who lives by his own code, challenges the sacred cows of his culture and embodies the contractions of his country.

Rip Van Winkle

by Washington Irving

Book cover for Rip Van Winkle

I set my novel in the spooky Catskills where Irving's hero lies down and wakes up 20 years later. I lived there once and they do have a particular atmosphere, a feeling of being out of kilter, operating to different time. My narrator, Llew Jones, is reading this tale when he meets Joe and Joe renames him Rip Van Jones as he thinks it's a better name to sell with.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Book cover for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

It was between this and On The Road, but the madcap adventuring and travel, the feel for the land and the sense of impending trouble – and humour - probably had more bearing on my own book. The arm wrestle between tragedy and comedy in Butterfly Joe also owes a lot to Twain’s great tale.

Hazards of Butterfly Collecting

by Torben B Larsen

Book cover for Hazards of Butterfly Collecting

I read a lot of books about butterflies when researching but this collection of articles by an entomologist travelling the world in search of butterflies stands out. Writing with a light touch and factually fascinating, Larsen is very funny. He also hints at the obsessive dedication required for such work, something that plays an important role in my own story.

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book cover for The Great Gatsby

Another book in which a narrator describes an eponymous hero who has an elusive, mythical quality and is seduced by the charisma of the person he’s describing.  There is something of the Nick Carraway in Llew: both are young men slightly out of their depth who learn uncomfortable truths about themselves.

The Odyssey

by Homer

Book cover for The Odyssey

My narrator's stated ambition is to “see America and write about it” - preferably in epic verse, along the lines of The Odyssey. He even calls it his Americodyssey. In a way he achieves his ambition (just not in the way he thought). Fragments of epic verse break up his confession, although they owe more to Dr Seuss than Homer!

Watch Rhidian Brook introduce The Killing of Butterly Joe, which is published in hardback and ebook now.

The Killing of Butterfly Joe

by Rhidian Brook

Book cover for The Killing of Butterfly Joe

Llew Jones wanted to see the States and write about the experience. Then he met Joe Bosco, a butterfly salesman as charismatic as he is infuriating, and they were soon hurtling across 1980s America together, caught up in an adventure that got way, way out of control. Now Llew is in jail, his friend is gone, and he has to give his side of the story if he’s ever going to get free . . .