Reading became my saviour

Alex Wheatle shares with us how reading became his saviour, when he started writing novels before moving into developing a successful career writing YA fiction and how his life was put on the screen in acclaimed director Steve McQueen’s Small Axe films.

You have to have determination and tenacity to get that first draft out there.

Born on the 3rd of January, 1963, I spent most of my childhood in the notorious Shirley Oaks children’s home a few miles east of Croydon. I spent many lonely hours reading comics like The Beano, Whizzer and Chips and Shoot! On the odd chance I’d pick up a discarded football annual.

 

Growing up, my heroes were Pele, Muhammad Ali, Viv Richards and Bruce Lee.

I am a massive fan of reggae. In my mid teens I was a founder member of the Crucial Rocker sound system where I wrote lyrics for performances in community halls, youth clubs, house parties and blues dances.

My favourite reggae artists are Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott, Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Osbourne, Barrington Levy, The Mighty Diamonds, The Chantells, Wailing Souls, Dennis Bovell, Brown Sugar and so many more.

My first novel, Brixton Rock, was published to critical acclaim by BlackAmber Books in 1999.

Writers who have inspired me include CLR James, James Baldwin, Chester Himes, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Charles Dickens, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Iceberg Slim, Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, Courttia Newland, Yvvette Edwards, Nadifa Mohammad and Irenosen Okojie.

Publisher: Andersen Press (pblack@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk)

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