Readers often ask me whether such and such a book was an influence or not. Occasionally people can be quite insistent that obviously such and such a book was obviously an influence and can provide close textual analysis to back up their claim.
For my last blog about the influences on Rivers of London I thought I'd talk about those books that would have been an influence if only I'd read them before I wrote it.
Neil Gaiman is one of the writers most frequently attributed to me as an influence. Alas I'd caught about ten minutes of the original TV series back in the 1980s but I've never read the book. Like alot of books on this list I read Anansi Boys a while after I'd started writing Rivers of London after someone pointed out, in those fatal words - that's a bit like what your book sounds like innit?
I had thought China Mieville had struck out for the more lucrative shores of literary fiction and the good opinion of the broadsheets but he surprised me by producing his own London based mystery - the bastard.
I was about halfway through the first draft of ROL when Mike Shevden came strolling into the Covent Garden branch of Waterstones, where I worked, bold as brass and slapped an ARC of 61 Nails down in front of me. 'Get a load of my new book,' he said. 'It's an urban fantasy set in Covent Garden and draws heavily, and rather brilliantly if I say so myself, on the mythology of London especially stuff you've never heard of because your research mojo is just that pathetic - I pity the poor sod that tries to follow in my footsteps for he shall be subject to much ridicule.'(1)
The Sweet Scent of Blood
I mean you wait ages for an urban fantasy centred around Covent Garden and then two come along at the same time. Suzanne McLeod was another of those reminders that however original you think you are somebody else has already arrived and grabbed all falafel off the buffet table. Although in Suzanne's case she ran off with the kitchen sink as well.
Bryant and May
Fortunately the Bryant and May books didn't register with me until after I'd finished the manuscript otherwise it might have been all over for yours truly's literary career.
Christopher Fowler's Roofworld was an important influence on Rivers of London but while I'd gone onto read Rune, his next book, I'd sort of lost track of him. I remember shelving the Bryant and May books and thinking I should get round to reading them but there's so many books, so little time. We share a similar obsession with the nooks, crannies and secrets of London but luckily a different approach to writing about them. well different enough anyway.
Obviously at some point in time, presumably a couple of years prior to me working in a bookshop, a memo had gone out suggesting that what the world needed were fantasy police procedurals set in London. Caitlin Kittredge hearkened to this call and produced the Black London series in order to throw me deep into a depression. Fortunately, just as with Bryant and May and Felix Castor, London is a diverse enough city for me to get away with being Johnny come lately.
The Wine of Angels
I heard about Phil Rickman's rural fantasy/mysteries when his agent rejected me and cited him as the reason. They said that they already had their supernatural mystery writer, thank you very much, and wouldn't be needing another. I immediately rushed over to the relevant shelf in my crime section and plucked the lone Phil Rickman that had been languishing there and read it. Then I ordered his back catalogue - they sold quite nicely as well.
The Atrocity Archive
This really would have been a seriously major influence had only I had heard of it in time. Charles Stross' fantastic mixture of office comedy, spy thriller and Lovecraftian horror is how I like to spend my afternoons.
(1) He didn't really say any of this because he is, in fact, a very nice gent but that's how it sounded to me.