A while back on Facebook blogger Pattinase asked friends to name 15 authors who had influenced them one way or another. One stipulation was that they were named without thinking about it.
Straight away there are, to me anyway, Charles McCormac, Guy Gibson, Patrick R. Reid and Paul Brickhill. Not exactly household names now but back in their day their stories were very influential.
Charles McCormac wrote a book called 'You'll Die In Singapore' - but he didn't. He escaped from Singapore and island hopped his way through Java to Australia. It was one long, harrowing journey that saw his friends die along the way.
Guy Gibson told the story of his life, in 'Enemy Coast Ahead' as a bomber pilot up to and including the destruction of the Moehne Dam that flooded the factories in the Ruhr Valley. After his death while attempting to breach the final dam, Paul Brickhill took up the story in 'The Dambusters'.
It was not just 'The Dambusters' that Paul Brickhill was known for. He had organised the stooges that kept watch over the forgers of the X organisation behind 'The Great Escape' from Stalag Luft 3. It was his book that inspired the movie.
One of my 'heroes' when I was young was Douglas Bader, the legless Battle Of Britain fighter pilot and subject of Brickhill's 'Reach For The Sky'. Like Brickhill, Bader spent time at Stalag Luft 3 and that other 'escape proof' prison camp Colditz Castle.
Colditz Castle was not as escape proof as many thought as Patrick R Reid was to prove and related in the book 'The Colditz Story'. This was followed by 'The Latter Days At Colditz'. In 1984 Pat Reid brought out a third volume 'Colditz:The Full Story' that added the 'secret' stuff that he had not been able to reveal in the first two books.
Four authors who influenced me in my younger years.
Not that they encouraged me to write but more to 'imagine' and 'see' what they were writing about. And to understand.
The common thread to these books is about never giving up; armed with determination, self-belief and hope (in some cases) what seems to be impossible can be achieved.
Although the list showed just four non-fiction writers there were so many others like Richard Hillary's 'The Last Enemy'; a fighter pilot shot down and was disfigured with burns but who climbed back into the cockpit.
These and other wartime true stories became my staple reading diet from (believe it or not) the age of eight - and would be read and re-read over the years. The first book that I bought cost 2/-d (two shillings or 10p). It was Pat Reid's 'The Colditz Story'. That Pan edition still exists today tucked away in a bureau - the pages are brittle and tanned and the spine taped up.
My wife reckons that I will be buried with it - well, I hope so otherwise I would have to plan my own escape.