My next novel - which is coming along in fits and starts - draws upon my earliest childhood memories up to my early twenties. A kind of historical novel I guess. As background research I've been reading a lot of history on the fifties and early sixties. I need to make sure that the context in which the characters move is historically accurate.
But I also need to recall and evaluate my own personal history. What made me the person I am, what influenced me socially and culturally, what values fed my hopes and dreams. Fortunately the internet is a great way to research what was going on culturally at the time.
Books, of course, were a major influence. The major influence I guess. But so was televison. I watched a lot between the ages of six and fourteen or so. All in black and white of course. And when I look back at it now a lot of it was American and most of that was Westerns, a more or less forgotten genre. From Wells Fargo up to Wagon Train I watched them all religiously. How I admired the strong silent heroes that populated those weekly dramas. How I longed to inhabit their frontier worlds where every problem had a neat solution, where goodness always triumphed over evil, where you knew who your enemy was and what to do about him (you shot him).
Looking back I wonder guiltily if I was completely wasting my time spending all those hours glued to the box. Maybe I should have been reading the classics, studying Greek perhaps, certainly improving my mind. When I examine my own cultural hinterland now it seems a rather barren landscape. Why did I waste so much time? Why am I still wasting my time? I seem to have learned nothing with the passing years.
In my defence I don't watch anything like so much television nowadays. Well, they don't make decent Westerns any more, do they? And the cult of celebrity that has replaced that flickering, magic world proffers nothing but cardboard heroes upholding dubious moral values.
Clint Eastwood and his posse of sidekicks would have run them straight out of town.