Malcolm Mackay’s Bookshelf

Fresh from the 2013 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s ‘New Blood’ Panel, Malcolm Mackay (author of The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter) gives us a glimpse into his reading world.

What author have you discovered and loved recently?

A recent, and long overdue, discovery for me was Chester Himes. I have no idea how I managed to miss him for so long, but I finally picked up a copy of A Rage in Harlem and loved it. It’s stylish, fast and has a sense of being a little bit out of control at times. I also have huge admiration for any writer who can set a thrilling story over as short a time period as possible, which Himes does in Real Cool Killers. It’s quite a creative achievement.

Is there an author who is your guilty pleasure (or any book you’d rather have a brown paper bag over while reading?)

I can honestly say there isn’t any author I’ve read that I would be embarrassed to admit to. If a book looks good to me, I’ll happily read it and to hell with the rest of the world. It may also be that I need to broaden my reading to include more potentially embarrassing reads.

What’s the book you’d choose as your Desert Island book?

A cruel thing, to make me choose one. I would probably go for Pop1280 by Jim Thompson, because the novels that most appeal to me are novels led by great, complicated characters. I should probably have picked something longer.

Is there a book that you lend out and push onto all your friends?

I think we’ve reached the point where nobody listens to any of my recommendations for books/TV/film/games or just about anything else.

Can books change lives? If so, which one changed yours?

Unquestionably they can. It’s not always the dramatic, thunderbolt, instant change that people might crave, but books sink into our subconscious and change the way we see the world, the way we think about things and the way we treat other people. For me, a book that hooked me back into reading after a few years of intellectual neglect was The Count of Monte Cristo, which was a gift from my sister many years ago. It’s bloated and has a slightly unsatisfactory ending, but still a wonderful example of fun, thrilling storytelling.

What are your top ten books?

Ask me this tomorrow and the list might look very different, but these are today’s top ten, in no order at all –

The Comedians – Graham Greene

Pop1280 – Jim Thompson

The Trial – Franz Kafka

Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Painted Veil – William Somerset Maugham

Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett

All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

What’s your most treasured book on your bookcase?

I’m a terrible hoarder, so as much as it’s a cheat of an answer, I have to say all of them. Never thrown out a book, never dumped any at a charity shop, don’t think I ever will. As with the colour co-ordination of the bookcase, I think it might be a mild case of OCD.