The Independent/Scholastic Story of the Year: I discovered a Brave New World of books: Steven Berkoff talks to Jenny Gilbert about his childhood reading.
Friday 16 April 1993
I was born in Stepney but was evacuated to Luton, which had the added advantage that the schools were better. The whole family joined me eventually, but at the beginning I was alone. My sister, who used to read all the time, introduced me to Mark Twain when I was eight or nine - Huckleberry Finn I think was the first. I remember being intrigued by the names in it.
There were always books around at home, mostly from the library. My mother and my sister were readers, but they mostly took out detective stories. I liked anything to do with mysticism or foreign travel - I loved Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
We had a book called The Supernatural Omnibus - I remember the title because I was puzzled by the bus. It was an anthology of horror stories. There was one by Dickens, another by Edgar Allan Poe. I found them so compelling I couldn't read them at bedtime, so I read them in the early evening. Every sound in the room became something terrifying. It was like a drug. It both horrified and attracted me. Since then I've always loved tales of the macabre - the outer reaches of human experience.
I probably went through a period of not reading in adolescence. But then I started reading my mother's books and was amazed I could actually read them. Through my associates on the street I began to get interested in what you might call literature. We used to hang around outside coffee bars discussing what we'd read. We thought we were Bohemians, existentialists. Brave New World knocked me out. Brilliant. Then After Many a Summer, Antic Hay . . . I ploughed through Huxley.
At 17 or 18 I discovered Henry Miller. I thought it was the most incredible writing because the vocabulary was so rich. It sent me to the dictionary. I'd got a hard-cover book with blank pages inside, and in it I wrote down all the new words I learnt words like 'ambergris' and 'fuliginous'. It was my personal vocabulary book, and by then my first desire was to be a writer. I've still got that book.
Steven Berkoff is currently making 'Decadence', a film starring Joan Collins. His latest book, 'Coriolanus in Deutschland', is published by Amberlane Press at pounds 9.95.
Life & Style blogs
Charlie Charlie Challenge: everyone on the internet thinks it’s a marketing stunt, but it probably isn’t
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be
Woman jailed for making 'loud sex noises'
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
The big NHS question: Why are there so few new GPs when so many of our keenest brains want to study medicine?
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Charles Kennedy dead: Former Lib Dem leader dies at home aged 55 - latest news
- 3 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
- 4 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 5 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...
£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...
£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...