Tag Archives: Haruki Murakami

Cult Authors

The most common use of the word ‘cult’ is a dodgy religion, one which involves brainwashing and that excludes the world through secrecy.

Areas of the arts, particularly film, music and writing are breeding grounds for cults, with enthusiastic followers knowing about work which is largely obscure to the masses. Being labelled a cult author could be seen as a comment on how commercial you are, though there are successful writers who have cult books.

By the qualifier of sales alone, most cult authors write in a literary way. There are some, such as Haruki Murakami who prosper, and whose readers could be labelled a ‘tribe’ or ‘nation’. Even deceased writers, such as Charles Bukowski, still have healthy sales while remaining an acquired taste. 

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Some authors who wrote a book that once had a cult following, have achieved recognition from masses of readers. The best-known recent example is Stoner by John Williams. John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces is the perfect example of a book that took years to be published, then won adulation for its deceased author, before becoming a novel read by only a few.

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Then, there are the less well-known novelists, who none the less have enthusiastic readers who hunt out-of-print titles and wait for the latest release.

Some of my favourites are Richard Brautigan, Mick Jackson, Brady Udall, Charles Lambert, Justin Cartwright, Tim Gautreaux and Donald Harington.

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If you’re looking for a laugh with richly-imagined situational comedy, seek out Brady Udall‘s Mormon novels or Donald Harington‘s Ozark Mountains sagas. Richard Brautigan’s style is unique and his stories can be funny, sinister and moving in their emotional intensity.

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Mick Jackson, Charles Lambert and Justin Cartwright are British novelists, whose fluid writing style is a joy to read, yet they’re largely overlooked in favour of hacks who’ve got lucky with a bestseller.

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Tim Gautreaux is a poet, short story writer and novelist, and his novel The Clearing is one of my favourites.

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Do you follow any cult authors?

What hidden literary gems do you know about?

Why do you write?

I’ve completed five novels in a series about a Cornish detective. I’m making plans for the sixth story and am feeling optimistic about the future. I don’t feel like I should be doing anything else, other than writing.

I recently read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which while about running, is also revealing about his creativity. Murakami is very good at letting the reader into his thought processes, something he also does with the characters in his novels. Their internal dialogue is gripping, and it’s something I try to emulate with my novels.

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This article in Flavorwire, where famous authors give their reasons for writing, made me ponder my own motivations for writing. 

15 Famous Authors on Why They Write

I agree with what they say about it being a solace, source of happiness, a delight and a way of expressing myself on something. It also has a feeling of making my mark, leaving some trace of who I am. I’m not suggesting that I’m striving for immortality, for it’s a sad fact that a tiny number of writers are remembered by name through history.

How many of you have heard of J.P. Marquand?

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He was a hugely successful writer in the early 20th century, reaching millions of readers and winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature, yet today he’s forgotten. I came across him as an answer to a crossword clue, which might be an apt comment on the transience of success.

So, why do you do it?

Why do you write?

( Showing off is a good reason!) 

Where Writers Write

Some famous writers were rather eccentric in their choices of where to write, with a few needing the reassurance of strange rituals and fetishes to feel comfortable.

I’ve heard of authors writing while standing up, which could avoid some of the health risks of spending ages sitting down, but would surely be tiring. There are lots of retailers selling stand-up desks these days, though I’ve yet to see a bed or bath aimed at horizontal writing.

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Haruki Murakami has shared some images of his writing desk and accoutrements. I see that he’s another writer who works with music playing. I rather covet his reading lamps and am currently watching several flexible neck and Anglepoise lamps on eBay. I’m relying on a bedside table light, atop a suitcase next to my writing table for illumination at the moment.


I don’t have any lucky talismans around my computer, just a mobile phone, memory sticks and a wristwatch, along with a long-bladed Kitchen Devil knife with a serrated edge that I use as a back-scratcher! I think that this makes me pragmatic, rather than stylish!

Some more writers have shared images of their writing desks on the Guardian’s book page:


I think that I’d find sitting by a window with an attractive view too distracting, especially if I had birds to watch. The nearest window to me is ten feet away, looking out on a car park for the petrol station where I live, so not that attractive an alternative to my laptop screen.

The writers’ desks with views of the natural world made me think of Richard Le Gallienne‘s poem: 

‘I Meant To Do My Work Today’

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?

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Nobody Does It Better

Which writer’s work do you eagerly anticipate reading, impatient for their new novel to be published?

It could be someone who writes a series of novels featuring the same characters, or an author who takes years to pen their new story, which finds itself shortlisted for major literary awards. You might be working your way through a writer’s back catalogue, enthralled by their skills, while still taking glee from the occasional stinker of a title, that simply didn’t work.

We’ve all got our favourite authors, and some of them aren’t highly regarded by the critics, but who cares? If books are like food, why not have the occasional naughty treat?

My own list of got-to-read authors includes Walter Mosley, James Lee Burke, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, Barbara Kingsolver, Andrea Camilleri, Annie Dillard, Alice Hoffman, Dennis Lehane, Henning Mankell, Elizabeth Strout, Jo Nesbø, Justin Cartwright, Haruki Murakami, C. J. Sansom, Ann Patchett, Joe R. Lansdale, Don Winslow, Donald Ray Pollock and Jane Harper.

I read two hugely impressive debut novels in 2017, which whet my appetite for the second titles by Lars Mytting and by Kim Zupan.

My list of authors I seek out is based on those that I like. There are plenty of novelists whose books I admire, but don’t particularly like. As an example of this, I recently re-read Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, which was written in a complex way, with long sections devoted to streams of consciousness. Woolf was experimenting with ways of writing a novel, as part of the Modernist movement, but it doesn’t make for easy reading.

Who floats your boat?

Which author makes you forget what you’re doing, to read their story?