A young Nick Tingley, still at school – probably about primary age – coming home one day and scooting up to his bedroom. On his bookcase, there are a fair number of books. Some of them have been read to death, others have hardly been touched at all. Occasionally he might stop and look at the whole expanse of vibrant covers. He would spend minutes at a time carefully examining each individual book for what he wanted…
But it was all kind of pointless really. He would invariably reach for the same one every time.
Few of his friends had heard of Gideon Gander Solves The Worlds Greatest Mysteries by David Henry Wilson. Those that had didn’t really make a point of reading it all that often. But Nick absolutely loved it. There was something about this quaint story of a farmyard gander who went around poking his nose into other people’s affairs and solving crimes that didn’t actually exist that inspired that young boy.
In fact, it was that book that fuelled Nick’s love of crime fiction. So I guess David Henry Wilson is to blame for it all…
Flash forward fifteen to twenty years or so.
Nick Tingley is now grown up. Well, he’s supposed to be grown up – but in reality he still thinks very similarly to that young boy who used to read about Gideon Gander and his adventures. Only I suppose he’s a little wiser and more aware of the world around him.
He still stares at bookshelves for hours on end. Not necessarily because he wants to read something, but more because there is something oddly comforting about them.
You see, Nick Tingley suffers from extreme anxiety – most people would call it OCD. In fact Nick has been known to spend hours attempting to leave his apartment – he seems to get stuck in an endless loop of checking everything from locks to plug sockets. And it’s not because he is an overly cautious person normally – it’s just like there is some sort of demonic being inside his head, constantly poking and prodding at him, questioning every action and decision he makes.
He stares at the books, not because he is looking for something to read – most of the books he stares at are those he has read a dozen times before. No. He stares at them because they are the single fixed point in what is a constantly changing world. Those books will always be there. And they will never be anywhere other than precisely where Nick has put them…
And that is relaxing for him.
The only difference is that Gideon Gander is no longer on the shelves. That book disappeared a long time ago. Nick can’t even remember when and how…
When he’s writing, Nick is at peace. He writes because he enjoys it, he writes because he loves telling a good tale. But he also writes because the world outside is so complicated, and everyone seems to have their own opinion of it, which only serves to make it even more complicated. The stories that Nick writes are his way of explaining the world. He takes all the issues that he sees around him and condenses them down into a single problem. Then – using the narrative of his stories – he solves that problem.
In those hours, he can type away and dream and understand. In those hours, he can fly…
But there is still something not right…
There’s one more place I want to take you.
A few weeks ago, I just happened to remember Gideon Gander. I recalled those hours I spent devouring that book and reading it again and again until the pages frayed and began to fall out.
I went online and I found it. It’s not been printed for a good time but, by some stroke of luck, someone was selling one second-hand (or third or fourth – I didn’t really care). I bought it and it arrived at my home a few days later. I held it in my hands and admired the front cover.
This was the book that inspired me to write.
This was the book that created my love of crime fiction.
This book allowed me deal with my own problems in a way that was fun, hard work and intensely rewarding.
All those hours and days and weeks and months of diligently ripping apart my own work, breaking it down and starting again; the characters and the plots and the unnervingly real settings all stemmed from the love of a single book.
And now I have it again. Sat on my desk at all times where I can’t miss it.
And it isn’t going anywhere.