Rhidian Brook shares the seven books which influenced his new novel— The Killing of Butterfly Joe— which is published in hardback and ebook now.

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 seven books (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

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.

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Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

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.

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Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

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.

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Hazards of Butterfly Collecting by Torben B Larsen

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.

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The Odyssey by Homer

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!

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