Books: Inspirations Novelist and Dramatist John Mortimer

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The Independent Culture
The artwork

"The Flagellation" by Piero della Francesca in the Ducal Palace in Urbino. It is rather like a novel in that there are two stories: something ghastly is going on in the background, the flagellation, and in the foreground are two men discussing something - but you don't know what.

The music

I didn't come to music until very late in life. The greatest theatrical composer is Puccini because his music may be corny but it's wonderful. Turandot's music and, in particular, Little Lau's lovesong, has all the excitement of the theatre - it's almost too exciting for me to think about.

The place

Where I live, in the house where I was a child, on the edge of the Chiltern Hills. It is important because in a way nothing has changed, and in a way everything has changed. When I was a child all the cottages were inhabited by farm labourers and now they are all inhabited by merchant bankers.

The film

Preston Sturges is the greatest film director. He made wonderful comedies in the early Forties. In Sullivan's Travels, a film director goes to live with the underclasses in order to write a film about them. Then he is mistaken for a murderer. It has a great social conscience: comedy about important things.

The play

The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov. The new Conservative working class rising against the rather hopeless, charming, old middle class that I was brought up to be a part of; yet they all understand each other's point.

John Mortimer's new novel is `The Sound of Trumpets' (Viking)