Books: a book that changed me; Geoff Nicholson

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When did you first read it? I was 13 and saw a copy in a newsagent's window in Hillsborough, in Sheffield. It had "bullet holes" punched in the jacket. I knew I had to own it and read it.

Why did it strike you so much? I loved the book, though certainly not for the plot or the characters. Partly it was a source of exotic information; about cars, guns, martinis, cipher machines, sex and so forth. The world it depicted, of health clubs and casinos and yachts, was obviously remote and mysterious to a 13-year-old, but then again, just about everything in the world seemed remote and mysterious to me at that time. At least Bond's world was interesting. I was keen to grow up and Bond seemed thrillingly adult, though not, of course, like any adult I'd ever actually met. But the main change it brought about was inspiring me to immediately start writing my first "novel", a spy thriller called "Half an Agent is Better Than None". The hero, Troy Carter, worked for a deadly secret organisation called BOA (initials of the rather pedestrianly named British Overseas Agency). I have no memory of the plot, and most likely it didn't have one. I'm sure it was the sort of thing a 13-year-old boy who had read and not quite understood Ian Fleming was likely to come up with. I wrote it in a lined notebook exactly the size of a "real" paperback. I considered making two bullet holes in the cover, but decided that would be derivative.

Have you re-read it? Just this week. It seems it was an even bigger influence on me than I thought. I was amazed to find there's a scene in which a Volkswagen Beetle goes up in flames. I certainly had no memory of that when I wrote Still Life With Volkswagens, in which any number of Volkswagens explode. I did vaguely recall the foot-sucking scene between Bond and Domino Vitali, and although it wasn't exactly a model for my own novel Footsucker I remembered it as being pretty hot. Of course it now seems primly Victorian.

Do you recommend it or is it a private passion? I still think the Bond novels are more enjoyable than the films, though I realise that's only a partial recommendation.

Geoff Nicholson's latest novel is 'Flesh Guitar', published by Gollancz at pounds 9.99.

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