Friday, April 9, 2021




 Okay, the title of this post is click-bait. Devised to pique your interest.

I'm actually talking about writers - - the authors who influenced me and my style of writing.

Without a doubt, reading has always been the greatest pleasure of my life (music is also a great pleasure, but one which involves enormous work and dedication).

I was a voracious reader from a very early age. Books were my escape, my inspiration, my salvation. I can honestly say that nearly everything I ever learned was from books. 

This literary addiction was most likely inherent. My mother read constantly and had an insatiable appetite for learning. She never forced me to do the same, but always encouraged my literary quest which came naturally.

My father wasn't particularly keen on reading. Whenever he saw me absorbed in a book, he'd curtly say "Why the hell don't you go outside and get some sunshine?"
In my very early teens I used to climb to the  top of the tree in our front yard and read there - undisturbed.
Dear old Dad once admitted that in his youth he read Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. That was perhaps the extent of his literary pursuits.

When I was eight years old I read the unabridged editions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. When I was eleven I read everything I could find by the Bronte sisters. I remember how astonished the librarian was when I requested Jane Eyre.
"Are you sure that's the book you want?" she asked. 

Now, a thousand years later (or so it seems), I still think Jane Eyre is one of the greatest novels ever written.

I'm glad I devoured the classics when I was young, because I probably wouldn't have the energy or incentive to do it now. Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Thoreau, Edith Wharton, Edgar Allan Poe....
In my early teens I discovered D.H.Lawrence, Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck (I loved The Pearl for its exquisite simplicity and The Grapes of Wrath for raw realism).

My favorite writer at that time was Taylor Caldwell, and I still think she was one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. I read A Prologue to Love when I was thirteen and liked it so much that I wrote her a letter (and she graciously answered it). It's still one of my favorite novels.

I first started writing short stories when I was ten - - and I actually wrote a novel when I was twelve (good Lord, I hope it doesn't still exist).

So, what authors have influenced my "style" of writing the most? Many. Many. But I have to say the top two would definitely be John Rechy and Raymond Chandler. 

I've read all of Chandler's novels and stories. Without a doubt, his unique and appealing style of writing is much more interesting than the stories themselves. I've always loved his semi-sarcastic descriptions:

"She has a mouth made for double-decker sandwiches."

John Rechy might seem like a strange influence - but his writing style inspired me more than any other author. His novels are predominately gay-oriented and very often pornographic - but it is his raw, realistic, and unobtrusive way with words that mesmerized me.

His first novel City of Night (1963) had a profound influence on me. Undoubtedly because I could strongly relate to the subject matter (the dark underground world of anonymous sex and male hustlers) and was living it during the first time I read the book.
Rechy wrote about all the notorious places in L.A. and Hollywood that I actually knew (especially in his semi-documentary book The Sexual Outlaw).

When I was a brash twenty-year-old, I wrote John Rechy a "fan" letter saying how much his writing influenced me. He answered, told me that he was working on The Sexual Outlaw, and gave me his Los Angeles address.

I never met him, although I had the opportunity. Perhaps it's best. Illusion is often preferable to reality.
Last I heard, Rechy is still alive at age ninety.
Ninety! Where the heck did the time go?

This blog post is probably of little interest to anyone other than myself, but I had an urge to unleash it anyway.
It could have been much longer, but I was merciful.


  1. When I was in 5th or 6th grade the bookmobile used to come to our Elementary school. I read Tom Sawyer Huckleberry Finn, all of the dog books I could find. And then one day I found a book by Pearl S. Buck and took it up to the check out with my other books and the bookmobile lady said, "no it was too old for me." I went home that day and told my Mom. She got right on the phone with the school Principal and told old Mrs.K. that I was to be allowed to check out any book I chose. The next time I got to bring home The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, it was an excellent book, I didn't think too much one way or the other about the concubines in the story, which I suppose is what the bookmobile ladies objected to. I read all of the Pearl S Buck books the bookmobile brought after that. I knew just where to look for the kind of books I liked. They were the ones up on the two highest shelves right by where the bookmobile ladies stood. I also liked Edna Ferber, I first read Giant, then Saratoga Trunk, and others that she wrote. There were so many good books in there. I guess the more adult ones must have been on there for the teachers.

    I can't remember exactly what year in elementary school my son was in, maybe 3rd grade. He had a book he was assigned to read some, cartoon-ish book about a chimp. Without telling me or his Dad, our son read a military book titled
    The Battle of the Bulge (about one of the greatest battles of WW2). I wondered afterwards if the teacher thought it was a diet book. And that was what he wrote his book report on, instead of the chimp book. The next day I received a note from the teacher saying that they would prefer he write his book report about the chimp book as our son called it. I told him just read it and make a quick report and don't worry about it anymore. Why wouldn't they have encouraged him to write about something on a higher level that he was extremely interested in? He never needed any encouragement to read all kinds of Military history books. That's where his interests always were. He's a Master Sergeant now and has been in the Air Force for 17 years. He's seen the world, and for the most part enjoyed it.

    Maybe he would be a zookeeper now if he had wanted to read "that stupid chimp"
    book", nothing wrong with that.

    1. Thanks for your delightful comment. I'm still laughing at the chimp book - - and the possibility that the teacher might have thought "The Battle of the Bulge" was a diet book. Hilarious! I'm glad your son was true to himself and became such an admirable adult.

      Shortly after I read "Huckleberry Finn" it was starting to be banned in some American libraries and schools. Perhaps because of the "N" word (I'm not really sure). It's an outrage that so MANY books are being banned for no discernible reason except lunacy (such as the Dr. Seuss books).

  2. Dear Jon, Are you sure we didn't grow up together? The long hall from front room to mine was lined with a thousand favorite books, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Poe, Clarence Young ("The Motor Boys"), Victor Appleton ("Tom Swift"), Conan Doyle, Carolyn Keene, H.G. Wells, Twain, Bierce, Mead,...all staples of a 1950's household. We lived in the sticks and neighbors up to a quarter mile away crossed fields to borrow books. Result? I don't know for sure --maybe intellectual freedom recognizable between and among us; something to do with solving enigmas, finding fun and feeling loved by authors as we read them. I sure liked your post,Jon.

    1. "Feeling loved by authors as we read them"
      That's brilliant, Geo, and so true.

      I really miss the good old days when books reigned supreme and there weren't any annoyances like computers and cell phones. I miss bookstores and libraries.
      And loaning and borrowing books among friends.

      I'm so glad you liked this post. I'm sure that the subject of John Rechy might have been offensive to some....but, heck, it's part of my history.

  3. Okay, you scared me a little -- when I went to comment and saw "No more comments allowed." (Whoa, what did I miss?!)
    Tho' my passion for reading has waned considerably, I found your thoughts compelling. And what a thrill to have that author respond. For what it's worth, I think your not taking Rechy up on his offer was wise. Better that you enjoy your daydreams than have the bubble burst. (Been there, done that.)

    Thank you for allowing us these insights!

    1. Myra, I almost removed this post because I didn't think too many people would find it interesting. I also thought the subject of John Rechy would be offensive (there's that pesky word again). I'm not exactly proud of my sordid past, but it's a part of me that I refuse to deny. And - despite the subject matter - Rechy is a great writer.

      Anyway, I'm glad the post didn't turn you off.
      Yup - - illusion is very often more preferable than reality....

  4. I absolutely love to read! Books has been my escape for 50+ years. Thank you Jon for sharing your life with us!

  5. Omgoodness- sorry my comment posted 3x... certainly wasn’t that interesting,😉
    Tried to delete the others and couldn’t.. I apologize.

    1. The more comments, the better! I welcome all of them - even duplicates (actually, I deleted your two "extra" ones).

  6. So glad that you did not remove this post, Jon, as it was so interesting to learn more about your early reading interests. I also enjoyed Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle, but have never read anything by Jane Austen. I can remember reading most of James Michener’s books but to this day can’t recall the plot lines of them. Raymond Chandler, Damon Runyon and Shirley Jackson are authors I need to read more. Libraries have always been a favorite place to visit. When the pandemic shut down the public library here, I switched to library downloaded e-books and audio books and read/listened to more in 2020 than in several years before. My current passions are historical fiction. There is nothing as exciting as finding a book I can’t wait to continue reading.

    1. When it comes to my favorite writers, I hardly scratched the surface. There are so many! I used to read an enormous amount of fiction - but lately I prefer history and biographies.

      I've never cared for Jane Austen (boring). Raymond Chandler's story plots are often forgettable, but his unique and entertaining style of writing is fantastic.

      Glad you enjoyed by ramblings about books.

  7. Not much of a reader, though I was forced to read from many of those authors you mentioned while I was in American Literature class. I could never keep up the reading! (They wanted us to read a novel every week!) As we were forced to read books on topics I cared little about ( Similar to the "Stupid chimp Book!" ( I have to laugh as I could relate very easily) I read Ayn Rand, Upton Sinclare and Tolkien. When I do read a book.. they are usually HUGE and i get totally absorbed! Now... Why read books when there are Blogs? Blogs are so much more fun... and the day to day goings-on of people's lives are just as historic and noteworthy as our culture. And a Snapshot of the time. (And usually far more entertaining!)
    Also, Your Quote of the day: Illusion is often preferable to reality. Short, accurate, and deep. I like quotes like that because, as an adult, I never want to meet my heroes or idols. Because I know they are human in the end...

    1. Literature classes are annoying and often uninspiring. There's nothing worse than being forced to read books that we have no interest in (I'm thinking about my high school days...). Reading should be a pleasure, not a chore.

      I think of bloggers as armchair exhibitionists. We secretly enjoy revealing ourselves to complying strangers....

      I discovered that illusion is preferable to reality at a fairly early age.

  8. I must admit that I like to read but if the book does not pull me in enough to remain interested after about two chapters, I usually do not ever finish it.

    My dad was the opposite, he loved reading and he really enjoyed Carl Sagan's books a lot - typical of an Aquarius to have an interest in astronomy. lol

    1. I still read very often, but somehow I had much more enthusiasm about books in my youth than I do now. Perhaps all the annoying complexities of life have gotten in my way.
      I remember the immense popularity of Carl Sagan. I have a keen interest in astronomy but was never a huge Sagan fan.


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