February 4, 1925 - December 13, 2011
This photo is from October 2010, when I met author Russell Hoban at the Map Marathon
in London - a curious art event, which included people from Genesis P'Orridge to Gilbert & George.
I came across Hoban's work a number of years ago at random - an extract of a forthcoming novel on his publisher's website, which I was trawling from a work based rut. The extract struck me as having a lot in common with authors like Murakami and Brautigan, so I bought one of his books that week. And have gone on to read most of his work.
That novel, and many of his novels, was set in London. Full of details of London, with an added element of magic realism kind of detail. Which I enjoyed. But he also did more - from children's books to the more obvious science fiction.
For many his most famous novel is Riddley Walker, a post-apocalyptic novel. A boy turned man at a young age finds himself caught up in the punch and judy politics of a deeply fractured culture. I put off reading it for years, its very different from his other works, and takes on a strange hype of its own. But when I finally did read it I enjoyed it a lot and could see why it was such an influential work.
Russell was 86 and still writing, he is quoted as having said that any time he stopped writing he felt ill. At 86 things were catching up with him, when I met him he was frail, but engaged and still full of life. He had recently been in hospital with heart surgery, but it still came as a shock and a moment of overwhelming sadness when I heard of his death earlier this week.