One Minute With: John O'Farrell

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The Independent Culture

Where are you and what can you see?

I'm in my office in Clapham. I can see green parakeets outside my window. How they came to be living in South London is a mystery.

What are you currently reading?

The Three Emperors by Miranda Carter. It's a fascinating period (before World War One) she's a great historian, and she lives on my road and gave me a free copy!

Choose a favourite author and say why you like her/him

It changes all the time but at the moment, I'm working my way through everything by Patrick Hamilton, a greatly underrated novelist and dramatist. Like me, he also loved pubs. He wrote a series of novels; Slaves of Solitude is one of the best books I have read for a long time.

Describe the room where you usually write

The London Library, which looks onto St James's Square. I find a table up in the stacks.

What distracts you from writing?

I'm the chair of governors at the Academy School in Lambeth. I will be writing when I remember that I have got a meeting there.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Nigel from the Molesworth Series by Geoffrey Willans. They were about a disrespectful 14-year-old whose attitude towards his school masters is rather like mine towards politicians one of sardonic disdain.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They always surprise me by remembering particular jokes, usually ones that I had forgotten I wrote.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

It's hard to choose between Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Carol Thatcher!

John O'Farrell's 'An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain' is published by Doubleday