Author’s Bookshelf: Ray Celestin

Ray Celestin -Bookcase photoWhere’s your bookcase located and what does it look like?

It’s actually a cupboard that’s inset into the wall of my bedroom. I repurposed it as a bookcase as it’s next to my desk, which is where I do most of my writing. It’s pretty small, so there’s only a tiny selection of books there, with most of the shelves double-stacked. I’ve got another 5 crates or so of books in the garage that I don’t have space for on the shelves.

What kind of books will definitely not be found in your bookcase?

I honestly can’t think of a single type or genre of book that I don’t own at least one example of, or would refuse to read. There’s no Mills & Boone there, but never say never…

What author have you discovered and loved recently?

I just finished reading ‘The Lost Stradivarius’ by J. Meade Falkner and loved it. It’s a novella that’s similar in tone and subject matter to the short stories of MR James. Falkner only ever wrote three works of fiction – the others are ‘Moonfleet’ and ‘The Nebuly Coat’, the second of which is a mystery novel I’ll be reading soon as apparently it’s something of a lost classic.

Where is your favourite place to read?

The sofa in my living room.

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

Books can definitely change lives and there were a few that changed mine. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ are both books I read young (too young) that had a big impact on me. The books that influenced me as a writer were (for very different reasons) ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Invisible Cities’, and ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’.

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

Something long and easy to read – The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, the Complete Sherlock Holmes…

What book did you give last as a present and to whom?

‘The Mumonkan’, which is a collection of Zen koans from the 13th century. (Koans are paradoxical puzzles used by Zen masters. The idea is that the puzzles cannot be solved with logic, causing the student to abandon rational thought in their attempt to solve them, thereby hastening enlightenment. I reckon there’s a lesson there for crime writers, but I haven’t figured out what it is it yet). Anyway, I posted a copy to my friend Dai last week as the last time I saw him he was going on and on about koans but he mentioned he hadn’t read this collection yet, which is the definitive one.

What are you reading now?

I’m finally reading ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ by Karen Joy Fowler, about two years after everyone else read it. It’s excellent so far.

What are your top ten books?

In true ‘Spinal Tap’ fashion – my top ten goes up to eleven

  • ‘Invisible Cities’ by Italo Calvino
  • ‘Mr Palomar’ by Italo Calvino
  • ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens
  • ‘Guards, Guards’ by Terry Pratchett
  • ‘From Hell’ by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
  • ‘Pedro Paramo’ by Juan Rulfo
  • ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ by Iain Pears
  • ‘Carry on, Jeeves’ by PG Wodehouse
  • ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ‘Ficciones’ by Jorge Luis Borges
  • ‘The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories’ by HP Lovecraft

What’s your most treasured book on your bookcase?

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s a super-cheapo edition I bought for about 8 quid online. It’s badly printed, badly bound and the paper is so thin it’s see-through, but I love it. It has every Holmes short story and novel all in one edition, I’ve read it many times over.