My Top 10 – Novelists That Inspired Me

By Alex Caan.

John Le Carre: Probably my favourite writer along with being one of the most influential. I had a brush with MI6 post University and since then became obsessed with espionage. Le Carre writes complex, intelligent novels, but more than that presents a balanced view of the geopolitical landscape and really gets to the heart of the human condition. Read them
as thrillers about love, family, honour, power and betrayal. You can’t go wrong, and he is an inspiring listen. His life has been fascinating, which you can glean from his biography, The Pigeon Tunnel. Favourite novel: The Constant Gardener.

Graham Greene: Another writer who dabbled with the secret services, but what makes him particularly inspiring is the exploration of faith in his work. His novels are not easy reads; there are no heroes or villains, but people doing their best in the myriad of complex situations they find themselves in. His prose is exquisite. Favourite novel: Our Man in Havana.

Terry Pratchett: The master of comedy novels that hide a discourse on the way our own world works, by masking it in a parallel medieval magical world. Themes of just how odd we are as a species are woven into thrilling plots that also have some of the best jokes and characters in literature. Pratchett showed me you can write about anything once you find your voice. Favourite novel: Carpe Jugulum.

Patricia Cornwell: It’s easy to forget in a post-CSI world just how ground-breaking these novels were, introducing forensic pathology to the world and creating one of the most intelligent and diverse cast of characters. Her series more than any other influenced me to become first a psychologist and then a crime writer. Favourite novel: All That Remains.

Vikram Seth: Okay, this is a cheat choice. A Suitable Boy is my Desert Island Discs novel. It is a mammoth read, showing a multi-faceted world in post-Independence India, that has something for everyone. It’s a political novel, thriller, family saga and above all a love story. Plus Seth’s talent is unmatched in terms of sheer skill. It took him 10 years to write this, and this is the man I use when I’m suffering from writer’s block. Anything worth reading is worth taking the time to write.

Agatha Christie: Prolific! Christie wrote so many novels over her career, all deftly plotted with rich vibrant characters and mysteries that always shocked in their conclusion. Some of her work and ideas might be dated now, the casual racism for example, but it still doesn’t take away from her mastery of the genre. She also is a great motivator if you ever find yourself stuck while writing. Favourite novel:Murder On The Orient Express.

Lee Child: He is basically writing Bollywood movies only set in America. Jack Reacher
is the archetypal angry young man. I’d cast Amitabh Bachchan if it was the 70s still. The
villains get their asses kicked. Child started writing after he was made redundant and
feeling particularly wronged. He is inspiring as he came to writing late and took a few
novels to breakthrough big time. And at the top, he remains humble and down-to-earth.
Favourite novel: Killing Floor.

Tess Gerritsen: As a Chinese-American writer, Gerritsen writes about non-Asian lead
characters in Rizzoli & Isles. This gave me the courage to write what I wanted to and not
be confined to what I thought people would expect of me. Her books are also brilliant
thrillers. Favourite novel: Body Double.

Ayisha Malik: Malik is writing the books I wanted to read all my life. In her characters
I see my own world and family. She uses humour to deal with the issues I faced growing up and provides a guide on how to navigate the world we live in. It’s a voice that’s much-needed and Malik writes commercial fiction bravely, which is rare for Asians to do. I can’t wait for Malik’s future novels. Favourite novel: The Other Half Of Happiness.

Sabaa Tahir: Like Malik Tahir broke the mould, she chose to write commercial fiction
and did so by cementing her position at the top of the young adult genre. Think Hunger Games, Twilight et al, and then imagine an Asian writer had written in the same vein. Tahir got a huge advance, a movie deal and topped the New York Times bestseller list. She more than many inspired me to dream big, and showed that being an Asian writer in commercial genre fiction is no longer a barrier. We can do it. Favourite novel: An Ember In The Ashes.

  • Alex Caan has spent over a decade working in Information Systems Security for a number of government organisations. His first novel Cut To The Bone has been a Kindle Number 1 bestseller and a Sainsbury’s best of summer reads. The sequel First to Die
    was released in June 2018.