David Nickle grew up in and around Toronto, where he still lives and works, for the most part as a journalist covering city politics--but also as a novelist and short story writer. He's the author of three and a half novels (the half-novel being The Claus Effect, which he and Karl Schroeder co-authored) and a story collection, Monstrous Affections. His first two solo novels were Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, and Rasputin's Bastards. His new novel, The 'Geisters (ChiZine Publications, July 9, 2013), is the story of a young woman struggling to control the poltergeist that has haunted her since she was a child—and a group of powerful men who want to control them both. David Nickle blogs at The Devil's Exercise Yard.
On your nightstand now:
There is always a stack--these days, both e-book and paper. The current e-book is The Rook, Daniel O'Malley's wonderful first novel of a secret history of magical goings-on in U.K. intelligence work. On paper, it's Robert Shearman's fantastic and witty story collection, Remember Why You Fear Me. I'm also dipping toe in a collection of Daphne du Maurier's more macabre stories, Don't Look Now.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I came upon this novel after reading baskets-full of Enid Blyton novels, which I also adored--particularly Blyton's notion of clever children just like me, going off to remote places without their parents, and outmaneuvering smugglers, pirates and foreign secret agents with nothing but their wits and maybe a bit of string. I learned to read on Blyton books and probably imprinted on them in an unhealthy way. Were it not for Lord of the Flies, I think I would have happily loaded my Grade Four class onto a seaplane, crashed it on a desert island and let the cleverest survive. Goldman's thin novel of wild-pig-gods, broken eyeglasses and very bad boys really did me a service, highlighting some of the less obvious flaws in that plan. It was also a much better yarn than Blyton ever spun, and that's saying something.
Your top five authors:
Joe R. Landsale, Madeline Ashby, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, Stephen Millhauser.
Book you've faked reading:
That's a tough one. I'm usually pretty honest about having abandoned books, because I abandon so many of them--even ones that I find a lot to like in. I'm a slow reader and easily distracted by almost anything. That said: I've definitely held conversations with people about Neal Stephenson's extraordinarily good, and really quite long novel Cryptonomicon, in which I haven't volunteered the fact that I may not have made it quite to the end. Is that faking? I guess it is.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Albert Sánchez Piñol's Pandora in the Congo. I actually discovered this Catalan author's work through his first English-translated novel, Cold Skin. Pandora in the Congo is the more substantial follow-up: a wonderful, Edgar Rice Burroughs–inspired adventure that follows put-upon manservant Marcus Garvey (the other one) deep into the Belgian Congo, and from there eventually into a hollow earth populated by pale giants and infused with strange eroticism. There is murder, and romance, and a very put-upon turtle who learns to live life without a shell, about as well as any of us would.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Del Rey paperback edition of Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson, back in the late '70s. The cover had such promise: a bunch of Tolkienesque heroes battling something awful and glowing and yellow on a narrow stone bridge over a river of lava. How could that go wrong, for an imaginative boy looking for straightforward other-world-fantasy adventure that doesn't involve leprosy, rape and chronic depression? How indeed... So yes. These days, I may pick up a book because of its cover. But I buy it after at least having read a few pages.
Book that changed your life:
I want to say "the first one I wrote." It's a glib answer, but for a writer, or this writer at least, it really is the honest one. I've read many, many books over the years, and the good ones, at least, have made as many impressions on me. But ultimately, while life might be imagined within the covers of books, it's lived beyond them. As a writer, I was certainly encouraged and inspired by Stephen King's early work--particularly Salem's Lot and The Shining, and the Different Seasons novella collection. John Irving has shown me how to delve deep into family and place with books like The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men made me tear up something awful, and showed me how to pull heart-strings.
But for a life-changing book.... I had to go write that one myself.
Favorite line from a book:
"The sky over the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel." --William Gibson, at the beginning of Neuromancer.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
A tie: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and The World According to Garp by John Irving.