Tuesday 3 April 2018

The Outer Circle by Ian Ridley #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour @IanRidley1 #TheOuterCircle @unbounders

It’s the morning after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. The city is relaxed as rarely before, delighted with itself at how spectacularly it has hosted the uplifting event.

The capital, however, will be rudely and brutally awoken from its self-congratulation by a shocking atrocity committed upon innocent Muslims at the London Central Mosque in Regent's Park.

How could it happen? Why did it happen? Is this a terrorist attack? Is it political? Or is it personal?

THE OUTER CIRCLE is concerned with the culture of modern Britain. It follows five characters caught up in this tragic event and the aftermath of anxiety and reprisal as the answers dramatically emerge.

The Outer Circle by Ian Ridley was published by Unbound in January this year. I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. He's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books

My Life In Books - Ian Ridley

Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd

This is the book that most inspired me in writing The Outer Circle. Boyd takes as his starting point a man on the run from the authorities around various London locations for a crime he didn’t commit and examines how hard it is these days simply to disappear, given all the traces of us not only on cameras but whenever we do something like use bank cards. Boyd combines a literary style with a rattling good plot, which was my aim too. I even give the book a mention in The Outer Circle.

Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy

I’m a son of Dorset so grew up reading Hardy and was familiar with all the locations. I could have chosen Tess of the D’Urbervilles or The Mayor of Casterbridge, which are probably more enjoyable books, but I chose Jude for the purposes of this exercise for one reason: Hardy is ruthless with his characters and thus an example to aspiring writers. Probably the saddest book in literature.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

After the pathos of Jude Fawley, the redemption of Atticus Finch. I read this at school and it has always stayed with me – which is as it should be for every school student. Beautiful writing, beautiful sentiments underpinned by compassion and decency, it was a brave book on the iniquities of racism and inequities of race at a time, in 1960, when America was tearing itself apart. It is a great example of a writer’s ability to shine a light on humanity and make a difference.

My Turn to Make the Tea by Monica Dickens

When I was in my 20s, I was passionate about being a journalist and devoured anything about newspapers, things like Ben Hecht’s Gaily Gaily, which was the inspiration for the Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau film Hold The Front Page. This book by Monica Dickens is something of a curio, written in the 1950s and being from the old times and technology of local papers, but it remains charming and a good story. I guess my woman journo character in The Outer Circle, Jan Mason, owes something to the sparky Poppy in My Turn to Make the Tea.

What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe

I think Jonathan Coe has an amazing eye for the absurd in English culture and manages to combine acute social observation with an understated – so thus powerful - anger about the injustices in our society. It is all done with wit and elegance and the quality of this book is shown by the fact that though it was written in 1994, it is still bang on the money today about a sense of entitlement, privilege and its abuse.

The Heart of a Goof by PG Wodehouse

I love reading Wodehouse just for his wit and the wonder of his turns of phrase. He is one of the few writers who make me laugh out loud and he is just the best at finding bizarre names for his characters. Dear old Gussie Fink-Nottle. People say the world he created no longer exists. Well, it never did exist. Wodehouse poked affectionate fun at a bumbling imaginary aristocracy of a bygone era. This collection of stories is about his favourite pastime, golf, and contains one of my favourite lines, where boy falls in love with girl on the 18th green – “He sprang forward and clasped her to his bosom, using the interlocking grip.”

L’Etranger by Albert Camus

I studied French at University, though was a poor student, to be honest, and did not read enough. Camus’s brilliant psychological and philosophical thriller captured my attention though and has held it through my life. The concept of The Outsider, alienated and never quite feeling in the swim of things like those around – a sense of comparing one’s inner thoughts and feelings with the perception of others’ seemingly ‘fine’ outward appearance - often links the characters in The Outer Circle.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

My subsidiary subject at Uni was German and Der Prozess was a seminal novel for me. Bleak and dark, it tells the story of a man, Josef K, arrested for a crime but with no knowledge of what that crime is. After being bailed, he obsessively tries to find out why he has been accused. It begins on the day of his 30th birthday and that sense of impending doom from a life-changing event and turning-point milestone are why I made my main character, Saul Bradstock, 59 years old. The images in this book are stark, the settings bizarre and the message of injustice timeless. For a writer, it is a lesson in using imagination.

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

The obsession for writers in American literature is producing ‘The Great American Novel’ and this is about the closest I have discovered in the last 20 years. A swirling tale, it focuses on a Midwestern family: father, mother and their three grown-up children. The themes are the changes in American life and family, socially and economically, in the late 20th Century and the book now seems very prescient about the soul-searching since 9/11 and the divides in the country. State of the Nation told through people and relationships.

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Anyone wanting to write crime or thriller or both just has to look to Agatha Christie for inspiration. She is the queen of plot and page-turning. I chose this particular novel partly because I’ve stayed at the Burgh Island Hotel where it is set and can picture the setting, but also because of its technique of having characters contained in one claustrophobic location. Though The Outer Circle uses various London locations, Regent’s Park is the heart of the book and my ending (no spoilers here) owes something to a Christie-esque denouement.

Ian Ridley is an award-winning football writer and the author of 10 books. A former chairman of Weymouth and St Albans City, he has been writing about football for over 30 years, having worked for various newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday and The Observer.

Follow him on Twitter @IanRidley1

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