This week's guest is Uko Bendi Udo. His fiction and feature articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines all over the world, and his short stories have been published in AfroSF, Naija Stories, African Roar 2012 and The Apex Book of World SF 3.
Uko shares five of his inspirations - the sounds and words and places that have influenced his work.
Paul Dean wrote like a miki fiki. You don’t know him? I believe you. During the 90’s, Paul Dean wrote car reviews for the Los Angeles Times, and I’m not even sure he’s still alive. But boy, did he get me juiced those mornings I needed something other than coffee to get me going. I was something of an anomaly when I went to college (I think in more ways than one, but that’s another write-up). While every other college hombre bursting with college-boy hormones and inappropriate dose of sexual fantasies only read the sports pages of newspapers, I read everything. Yap, including the car review sections, and I wasn’t even into cars. I knew how to get the chicks without the cars, and so having one was not an issue.
Where was I? Yeah, Paul Dean.
Paul Dean wrote with an attitude. No word was wasted. When I read his reviews, it was like talking to a drinking buddy who knew everything about cars and could cut through the façade or BS – like that. He got my attention very quickly, and he kept me in his grip until he was done. And the cool thing about it was that he had such a vast vocabulary that he could employ words from either side of the street, fancy or gritty. At the end of it all, did I end up liking cars more as a result of reading Paul Dean? Maybe. But I sure as heck wanted to write like him, and I looked forward to reading his columns as much as I looked forward to visiting a friend's house on Thursdays for some great Mexican home cooking.
Now I’m dating my ass. Back in the day, every frigging Nigerian pimple-faced school-age kid had a Chase in his hand or in his backpack. It was like a cult following, and it was exciting. Amongst the fellas, girls, girls, college sports meets, college parties, more girls, and James Hadley Chase were favorite topics of discussion. James Hadley Chase was a writer who wrote crime novels, and the setting was exclusively American. He was like an insider feeding his readers gist and itty-bitty details of the criminal underbelly of the American landscape, and the gripping, unforgettable characters that populated it. The prose, to top it all off, was the capper. The text oozed so much Americana in language and prose that discourses that followed always sent the readers and discussants into a tizzy. Nigerian teenagers learned to say “No skin off my nose” from reading a Chase.
The funny thing was that this dude was not even an American! The biography states that he was born in England, and but for a brief visit to the States late in his life, he never really experienced the landscape or culture of which he wrote. Genius, I’d say. The world has slowly come around to it, but the key in keeping interest in anything is to give it the onion twist. String us along, and watch us turn those pages like our lives depend on it. A few writers do it well, but boy, do the ones that know how to do it do it well. All these to say that James Hadley Chase influenced how I write/try to write today.