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TruckDogs author Graeme Base talks about his favorite books

TruckDogs (Viking/ Penguin) by Graeme Base is kind of like Mad Max crossed with Thomas the Tank Engine. It's a book for children that tells the story of a gang of young half-truck, half-dogs that live in a place like an Australian outback town. Out of boredom they get up to all sorts of mischief, and get into trouble. Then some real baddies, the Rottwheelers, roll into town.As is our wont, readersvoice.com asked Graeme Base about his favorite books.

TruckDogs was inspired by Graeme Base’s trips through central Australia, where he saw the “animal intensity” of road trains as they howled down long desert highways. He came up with the word Rottwheeler, and the story grew from there.
Also he’d seen isolated towns in his outback travels, and wanted to write a story about outback kids in these towns, with nothing to do and getting into trouble as a result.
Graeme Base is probably best known for his picture books, like Animalia, published by Penguin in 1986. This was an alphabet book for children, with each page devoted to a letter of the alphabet and featuring animals and objects that start with that letter. Animalia attracted attention because of the detail in the drawings, enabling adults and children alike to look for objects hidden in the background of the pictures. Originally published in Australia, Animalia had its big break at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Publishers from all over the world meet and try to sell international rights at such book fairs, and some unfinished work on Animalia was spotted and picked up by New York art books publisher Abrams. “One of those flukes, one of those seminal moments in life that has made all the difference turning my hobby into a career,” Mr Base said.

Animalia ended up selling more than two million copies. Graeme Base said he was terrified he’d end up a one hit wonder but he managed to follow up Animalia with books like the whodunnit, The Eleventh Hour. This was an illustrated mystery in verse with clues hidden in the pictures, inspired by a fit of reading Agatha Christie.
“I did read a couple over one summer and that inspired me to do The Eleventh Hour Mystery story with all the clues in the pictures,” Mr Base said.
His other books include The Discovery of Dragons (1996), an illustrated book describing the adventures of the discoverers of various species of dragons.
In the past the text in his books has supported the pictures, but with TruckDogs it’s the other way around.
As for Graeme Base’s favorite books:
RV: I read an interview with you from about 1989 that said you really liked Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, and The Lord of the Rings.
GB: That hasn’t changed. I’ve read a lot of books since but those were the ones that really sort of got me up and running. Lord of the Rings. That was the one that really just blew me away.

RV: What would be your favorite books of all time?
GB: I’m not a widely read kind of guy. I’m the kind of guy who has tried to read Ulysses three times now, which I’m told is one of the great books of all time, and I cannot get into it. I find it impenetrable so I don’t think I’m a great literary critic.
Having said that I loved Cloudstreet, Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. I also loved the Kelly Gang (True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey).
I also love Bill Bryson, I enjoy his whimsy and his humor. I also enjoy Bill Bryson’s books on language as well as travel. He’s a great lover of language. Some great books, very readable books on language which is something I’m interested in.
Of course Douglas Adams. He only got up to number five in the Hitchhiker’s series,(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) which was nowhere near enough, too. I read the last one of Douglas Adams’s, The Salmon of Doubt (ten chapters of this story, plus a compilation of stories, lectures and essays recovered from the hard drive of Adams’s computer – ed). A lot of friends said they shouldn’t have done it. (But) You pick up any scrap, any photograph, because you want all there is. And I was really pleased that that book was made. I personally found it very moving.

TruckDogs is publised by Viking/Penguin, 145pp