The ONE book: Adam Maxwell

Welcome once again to the Littlest Library, where guests get to choose the ONE book they’d like to save and add to the collection. This can be a physical copy of a book you own or a book that means something to you personally.

The ONE book rules

  1. You can choose ONE book
  2. see rule #1

That’s it.

It can be any book you like, but in the words of the Highlander, there can be only ONE.

Last time we talked Liz de Jager, author of one of my favourite trilogies (start with Banished!) about her ONE book, THE WALKING DRUM by Louis L’Amour.  

Today I’m delighted to welcome Adam Maxwell, author of the Kilchester books. They’re a lot of fun, you should check them out.

Right, Mr Maxwell. What have you got for us?

As a teenager, I was an insatiable reader. I was also an impatient idiot.

I say this up front, hoping you’ll relate and ultimately forgive me for what I’m about to tell you. Part of it, at least.

Before I get into my one book, maybe I should give you some context?

Rewind back to the late 80s and early 90s and the world was a different place for bookish types. In Newcastle and Sunderland in the North East of England, there were the pillars of second-hand bookshops like the Durham Book Centre, but there always seemed to be other shops sprouting weekly.

As a result, myself and my cousin Oliver entered an endless quest to view and purchase ALL THE BOOKS.

On pocket money alone, it was difficult and so we also employed the magnificent local libraries in order to feed our addictions.

I was consuming crime books by Agatha Christie alongside Monty Python’s Brand New Papperbok and one day my Aunty and Uncle said, ‘You should read this. It’s right up your street.’ They handed over a paperback copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and, within two chapters, I knew it was the favourite book I had ever read or would ever read.

Oddly, that isn’t the book I would save.

The great thing about finding a new (to you) author is that they have a back catalogue and these musty bookshops allowed me to fill my shelf with the first four Hitchhikers books.

The library, on the other hand, had a hardback of another of Douglas Adams’ books… on the front cover was a brass plaque and on the plaque were the words:

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Hardback copy of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Reader, I practically ran out of the library with it and started reading on the bus home.

I read and I read and then… the impatient idiot took over.

The whole first section is about an electric monk? And a bloke in a car? Where were the jokes on every page? The main character didn’t even turn up for… pages and pages and pages…

See… impatient idiot.

I gave up on it and returned the book, thinking little more about it until a few weeks later when, chatting with my cousin, I mentioned the disappointment.

‘What?’ was his incredulous response. ‘It’s his best book. You should give it another chance.’

And so I did. And in doing so I discovered the ‘one’… because yeah, Hitchhikers is great. It’s a mad, fun, brilliantly written cornucopia of ideas, but plot-wise it’s all over the place. Dirk Gently takes all the best bits of Hitchhikers and all the best bits of Douglas Adams; this big ideas, the humour, the Wodehousian wordplay and crafts it exquisitely together into a brilliant narrative and produces something even better.

Firstly, the concept… a detective who takes the idea of a Sherlock-like detective who sees things we don’t and pushes it to the absurd. Dirk sees nothing in particular. And everything. In a funny sort of way. He’s convinced by the interconnectedness of all things and, although he is clever, he’s also infuriating and inconsistent.

From the outside Dirk Gently seems to be cursed with his powers rather than engaged with them. Then come the ghosts, the hypnotism, the… time travel?

And lest we forget the horse in the bathroom.

A simple case of a lost cat becomes so overblown that Dirk becomes embroiled in events that could prove extinction-level and yet the world he occupies always feels very British… and always very, very funny.

The Dirk Gently books taught me a huge amount about how it’s possible to balance humour with completely contrasting genres and make it work. If you build the right type of fictional world, then anything can happen in there.

I re-read both the Dirk Gently books every few years and they still remain as fun, fresh and brimming with ideas as they were the first (second?) time I read them.

Of course, after I returned my copy to the library, I had to buy my own. And that’s the one book I would save. Thanks to my cousin pointing out that I was an impatient idiot.

These days I’m glad to say I’m not quite as impatient.

But I’m still a massive idiot.

Adam Maxwell is the author of the Kilchester series of novels which have been described as ‘Oceans 11 meets Hot Fuzz… in book form’.

If you like crime fiction with a large dollop of crazy then you might want to give his books a read. And if you head over to his website you can get one of them for free.

Thanks Mr M. It’s a cracking book and a worthy addition to the library (especially as I foolishly sold my own, signed copy many years ago when I was skint. It appears that I too am a massive idiot!)

Do you want to take part in the Littlest Library ONE book challenge? I’ve got a few more guests lined up, but the more the merrier!

Drop me an email: with a photo of your book, and some words to explain why it’s your ONE book.

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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