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Author Simon Louvish talks about his favorite books

Simon Louvish recommends some interesting books…

READERSVOICE.COM: How did you learn the craft of writing?

SIMON LOUVISH: You learn writing by writing.

An old New York writer once told me you’re not a serious writer till you’ve written one million words.

A bit harsh, but not far wrong.

RV: Is it difficult getting inside the minds of people who are long-dead?

SL: Researching dead people is far better than researching the live ones, with their hordes of lawyers.

I have tried to involve the families where possible, this worked quite well with the grandchildren of W.C. Fields, once they accepted I was looking for the real story rather than the bullshit.

I had some good co-operation from the Marx family, or most of them.

Some say no, but as long as you work properly from archive and can back up your statements and findings, there should be no problem.

The facts I usually want to know most about pre-date the birth of most living family members in any case.

RV: How do you go about researching your subjects?

SL: There are always the smarties, those who know, and those who think they know.

I have a good relationship with archivists, who spend so much time with the evidence.

I try to keep in touch with the fans, without getting too immersed in anniversaries, hootenanies and boondoggles.

RV: Do you think you’d know the subjects of your books if you met them today, or would the experience be somehow different?

SL: If I met W.C. Fields he’d say: get that Jew outa here! I don’t drink, so that would be the end of it.

And I don’t even juggle, so forget it.

Groucho would be a pain in the ass; too smart for anybody. Harpo would be fun.

You meet Stan Laurels in many English pubs, sad funny little men who’ve had an interesting life.

Not as talented, though.

Mack Sennett should be a good laugh, larger than life.

He should have been played by John Huston, but it never happened.

Not enough muscles for Mae West, I’m afraid.

But I would have knocked on her door.

RV: Could you recommend some of your favorite books, particularly any books people might not have heard of?

SL: On the serious side, I favour the Latin American novelists, the really great like Migel Angel Asturias, whose great “banana republic” trilogy is out of print (search for The Eyes of the Interred.)

Carlos Fuentes’ Terra Nostra is without compare.

Return to Dostoyevsky, he knows where all the bodies are buried.

As a comic novel Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk is it.

For the Middle East, go to Interlink Books list of Arab and other 3rd world writers for interesting stuff (OK, they’re my US fiction publisher…)

My lost blood brother, Edward Whittemore, wrote five novels of the Middle East which are a scream, or at least the first two are: The Sinai Tapestry and Jerusalem Poker.

He has sadly died.

I once sat with him on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and pigeons came and crapped on our heads – this is what happens to those who transgress the Holy City…

For SF [science fiction]- Philip K. Dick, of course.

For film stuff, I’m a great admirer of David Robinson’s definitive book on Chaplin.

I’m trying to read up on China now. Only 55,000 books to go…

RV: What are you working on at the moment?

SL: I’m working on an unauthorised biography of a Hollywood subject.

Hush hush, watch this space…

I have unpublished fiction for those aspiring editors out there who are ready to go down with the ship…

RV: Are there any other comedians you are planning on writing about? Would you consider writing a biography of the Three Stooges?

SL: Not many comedians to go. Keaton covered by others.

3 Stooges, no, liked them when I was 5, then got over it.

I should do Max Linder, Father of Film Comedy, but that would have to be done gratis, so its on my back-up list.

Many other projects pending. Brother can you spare a dime?