Books That Made Me – Part One

A recent post on Twitter from a good friend reminded me of the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts with various writers using a set outline of questions under the title “Books That Made Me.” Reading over a few of the more recent interviews made me think that it might be fun to take that outline and use it for my own series of blog posts. – Just how would I answer those same questions?

So with apologies to the Guardian, let’s take a look shall we:

What book am I currently reading?

It’s very rare that I am reading just a single book at a time, often it’s three or more. At the moment I have a pretty eclectic list of reads underway.

Fleming

“The Life of Ian Fleming” by John Pearson. I recently received a copy of “Ian Fleming: The Notes” published by Queen Anne Press which collects many of Pearson’s research notes from when he was writing his acclaimed 1966 biography of James Bond’s creator. Before diving into that much-anticipated volume I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the actual biography first.

R&R

“The History of Rock & Roll: Volume 1” by Ed Ward: My current bedside table read is this excellent, entertaining, and informative first volume on the history of rock from 1920 to 1963. As an aside, over the last few months, I’ve been listening to a podcast on The History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, which, other than common subject matter, has no connection with the book, yet as I’m reading I hear the text in the voice of the podcast’s presenter, Andrew Hickey.

bat100

On the coffee table in my library sits “Batman: 100 Greatest Moments” by Robert Greenberger. Covering the last 80 years of the Dark Knight’s career it’s providing some trips down memory lane from my years as a serious Batman collector while opening me up to some of the more recent tales I may have missed.

Disco

While the Kindle app on my phone is loaded with a copy of  “Star Trek Discovery: The Enterprise War” by John Jackson Miller featuring the tale of what happened to the iconic spaceship while under the command of Captain Christopher Pike during the Federation/Klingon conflict shown in the first season of the new Discovery series. It’s a fun read that sheds some interesting light on characters we feel we know but have never really been that deeply explored before. A good “stood in line at Starbucks and want to catch up” read; which is what I want from the books I read in digital format.  Something I can read anywhere whether I have a spare 5 minutes, or a spare 50 minutes.

What book changed my life?

This is a tricky one that took a lot of thinking about. Was it “Tom Swift and the Cosmic Astronauts” that I got out of the library as a youngster that introduced me to the concept of cosmic adventure, or discovering DUNE at college and realizing how mind-expanding  SF could be? The Readers Digest abridged books version of The Man With The Golden Gun that introduced me to the works of Ian Fleming, or the James Bond Annual that sparked my fascination with the 007 movies? The various comics that proved to be turning points in my life (that is probably fodder for another blog post)?

ZEN

In the end, I think the vote goes to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by  Robert M. Pirsig. I read the book while serving on-board container ships as a junior engineer, and it helped me come to the realization that as much as I love, and am fascinated by, machines I didn’t really gain much personal satisfaction from working on them. I wanted to share knowledge about them, I wanted to share about what they could do; and that despite the fact that I couldn’t spell (and still can’t) I really could do that one thing I’d wanted to do since the age of seven despite being repeatedly told I couldn’t do it –  be a writer.

Next time I’ll be thinking about:

  • The book I wish I’d written.
  • The book that had the greatest influence on my writing.

Till then, keep reading.

Tumbling Around The Web

What do Batman, James Bond, racing cars,  my favorite motorcycle speedway club, and the occasional book review have in common? Well, they are all subjects of the several blogs I run on Tumblr.

Tumblr

 

If you enjoy browsing through comics covers, photos, and the occasional video you can find the more visual representations of some of my favorite topics as follows:

  • Alan J. Porter – Writer: Where I post reviews of books I’ve read along with the occasional pop-culture image, cover, or photo that captures my interest or could be fodder for a future project.
  • Racing Comics: A celebration of motorsports in comics, with over 700 different covers posted to date.
  • Batman on the Cover: A chronological journey through Batman’s publishing history around the world starting in 1939. With over 1,100 covers posted so far, we are currently revisiting the Bat-books of 1961
  • James Bond Lexicon: The companion site to the James Bond Lexicon project. Currently posting a chronological journey through James Bond’s timeline.
  • Belle Vue Aces: Just a place for me to celebrate my favorite sports team, the iconic Belle Vue Aces speedway team.

 

 

I Never Met Stan

I never met Stan, but one year at San Diego Comic-Con my daughter, Meggan, and I were sat in the lobby of one of the hotels chatting with the editor of our upcoming manga series when I felt a kick on my shins, and Meggan mouthed the words “Stan Lee” and pointed. Sure enough standing right behind me with his back to my chair was “The Man.” Several years later at a Con in Chicago my wife, Gill, and I were almost bowled over by Stan as he rushed to a panel or signing. Only her last minute side step avoided a up close encounter. Two chances, yet I never did get the opportunity to thank him for what he inspired in me.

I never met Stan, but he introduced me to some amazing people. While I love the mythic grandeur of the iconic DC heroes, it was Stan who made me invested in the lives of Peter, Matt, Tony, Bruce, Steve, Don, Hank, Janet, Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny and the rest of the Marvel Universe.

I never met Stan, but his was the first name I came to recognize as someone who created the amazing worlds and characters on the comic book pages. He fired the imagination of a seven-year old boy that maybe one day he could write stories too.

I never met Stan, but I’m proud that we shared a couple of professions over the years, as technical writers (him during his brief military service, me for most of my career), and comics writers (him for a life time, me sporadically over the last decade).

I never met Stan, but he always reminded me of my favorite Great Uncle when I was growing up. Someone who would tell wonderful stories of his life and exploits, some of which might even have been true.

I never met Stan, and now I never will. It’s difficult to believe he’s gone. He’s been there for most of my life. But as I think about his passing I realize that I will never live in a world without Stan Lee. His words are on my bookcases, his cameos are forever in the 10 years of amazing movies he inspired, his philosophies on life, tolerance, respect, and a little showmanship inform ever character I create, every story I write, how I conduct myself in business, and in everyday life.

Thanks for everything, Stan.

Nuff Said.

I’m a Manchester Lad – Some Personal Thoughts.

MCR

I’ve always had a complex relationship with Manchester. I grew up there, and it did a lot to shape who I am and the things that drive me, from writing, to music, to my love for motorsports – it all started in Manchester.

I was born and lived the first 25 years of my life in a village on the banks of the River Mersey that was just a scant six miles from Manchester city center. Yet when I arrived in the world it lay outside the city boundaries, and for many years I would carefully explain that I wasn’t from Manchester, but was from the county of Cheshire. When the area was absorbed into the growing metropolis of Greater Manchester, I somehow felt aggrieved at this imposition.

Yet it was to Manchester I invariably turned for education and entertainment. I was lucky enough to attend one of the top schools in Manchester. I was there for the punk explosion and the beginnings of the Manchester sound. I played pool with musicians in small clubs and saw headline acts at the Apollo Theater. I frequented the bookstores, comic shops, libraries, art galleries, and museums, went to public lectures at the universities, and spent many Saturday nights cheering on the local motorcycle speedway team (a tradition that had started with my parents in the 1950s). In fact I came to love Manchester so much that at the age of 16 when I had a chance to join the UK Customs Service I turned it down because they said they might post me anywhere in the country, and I wanted to stay in Manchester. But just a few years later I couldn’t wait to get away from the city, and was soon off to college in other cities, and jobs that took me further away. After I finally moved from Manchester I never really looked back and rarely visited. A few years ago when I took my wife to see the area I grew up in, I realized it had been 17 years since I had last been in the city.

On that visit, I reconnected with Manchester. I saw what it had become. Manchester was a city born of industry, arguably the cauldron of the modern industrial age. The Manchester of the seventies and eighties had always felt bleak and in some ways oppressive to me despite its many attractions. Now it was a vibrant multi-cultural metropolis, that alongside a rapidly modernized infrastructure respected and celebrated both its history and its people. To quote one of my many friends who still live in the city, “Manchester is one of the busiest, brightest, multicultural cities in the world. We are all races, religions, genders, and sexulaities.” – Thanks to social media I’ve plugged myself back in to being a Manc at heart – keeping up with events in the city, and once again supporting my favorite speedway team – – even if from thousands of miles away across an ocean.

Manchester has seen its share of violence and trauma over its history, from the Peterloo Massacre, to being the target of heavy bombing in World War 2, to riots in the streets. When I was growing up IRA bomb threats were a regular part of life in the city, and in 1996 they made good on the threat when a massive bomb exploded in the city center injuring over two-hundred people.

The latest terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena was sickening, cowardly, and an act of sheer evil perpetrated on the most vulnerable, the young. It drove into the heart of two of the things that make Manchester so vibrant, its youth and its music.

The residents of the city responded with grace, kindness, and that indomitable community spirit that marks Manchester as the friendliest city in the UK. Manchester will grieve, and it will survive. Manchester will continue to flourish and grow stronger; and even if I now carry an American passport and call Texas home, I for one am proud to call myself a Mancunian again.