Inspiration can be pulled from anywhere, but there’s something special about storytelling—whether it’s film or the written word—that motivates. Crime fiction author Will Dean, author of The Last Thing to Burn and First Born, shares the top ten works of fiction that shaped him as an author.
ALIEN – In Space Nobody Can Hear You Scream. I watched this movie when I was too young to watch the movie and it has shaped my thoughts and nightmares ever since. This is the reason my protagonist’s last name in The Last One is Ripley.
1984 by George Orwell – I didn’t read this until I was nineteen years old, living in a cramped apartment a short walk from George Orwell’s London home. I vividly remember how claustrophobic, powerless, trapped, angry, and tense I was reading it. I’m a fan of all his books (I read them one after the other) but the way Orwell wrote in the 1940s about censorship, surveillance, inequality, and propaganda, is breath-taking. A masterclass in futurology, and terror.
JAWS by Peter Benchley – I couldn’t not include Jaws. it is sometimes said you need two elements to make a truly thrilling thriller: a ticking clock (of some kind: a race against time; internal or external), and an enclosed setting (so the characters must eventually face their fears/foes head-on). In Jaws this is demonstrated in extremis. Quint, Hooper and Brody are isolated on a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean being hunted by a man-eating shark. Delicious.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – When I was thirteen my parents went out for the night and my dad told me I could watch any of the VHS tapes apart from the one on top of the cabinet. He mumbled something about psychopaths and cannibals. Naturally, I watched the movie that night. The slow build of terror, dread, and anticipation before Starling meets Lecter for the first time, walking deeper and deeper into the building, hearing stories, passing through gates, is superb.
I AM LEGEND – About as high concept as they come. The rendering of New York City as a truly wild place, with predators (I’m not only talking about lions in Times Square), with a sense of extreme loneliness. I re-watch this movie most winters.
I read this Michel Faber book (a book that defies genre expectations) a few years ago and it blew my mind. Beautifully written, dark, and deeply odd.
This Stephen King book made a huge impact on me as a young reader (I grew up with no books in the house, with parents who didn’t read, so I could borrow whatever I liked from the library. Like many of my author friends, I read King way too early. Thank goodness for that). I also love the Kubrik adaptation. The tension is unrelenting.
My favourite novel. I reread The Road every year or two and I always learn something new from it. McCarthy was masterful in the way he rooted an epic apocalyptic story in the relatable, small world of a father and son.
Kazuo Ishiguro is a genius. Like many high-concept stories this book skirts the limits of literary fiction, sci-fi, and thriller. If you draw that Venn diagram I am extremely interested in where the circles intersect. I won’t spoil this book if you haven’t read it yet; suffice to say it explores themes of ethics, injustice, sacrifice, and coming of age.
I adore this novel. It is a post-apocalyptic story (the culprit being a fictional flu epidemic) and it is written with such warmth, clear-sightedness, and lightness of touch.
About the Author
Will Dean, author of The Last Thing to Burn which was shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, grew up in the East Midlands of the United Kingdom. After studying law at the London School of Economics and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden where he built a wooden house in a vast forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. His debut novel, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s book club on ITV, shortlisted for the National Book Award (UK), The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize, and was named a Telegraph book of the year. His latest thriller, The Last One, is available now.
When Caz steps onboard the exclusive cruise liner RMS Atlantica, it’s the start of a vacation of a lifetime with her new love, Pete. On their first night they explore the ship, eat, dance, make friends, but when Caz wakes the next morning, Pete is missing.
And when she walks out into the corridor, all the cabin doors are open. To her horror, she soon realizes that the ship is completely empty. No passengers, no crew, nobody but her. The Atlantica is steaming into the mid-Atlantic and Caz is the only person on board. But that’s just the beginning of the terrifying journey she finds herself trapped on in this white-knuckled mystery.
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