The British writer on discovering Barthes, channelling Burroughs and appreciating the talents of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr Ripley

My earliest reading memory
Before I could read, I was seduced by Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester. Embroidered poppies and pansies, “Alack, I am worn to a ravelling”, and especially the explosion of colour when the mayor’s cherry coat is flung across a table.

My favourite book growing up
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper was set a few miles from where I grew up in the Chilterns, deep country then and no doubt now ravaged by HS2. It’s a time-slip story, in which ordinary 1980s domesticity continually gives way to other eras, and it nourished my obsession with how history lodges in physical places.

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