WHAT BOOK would the Reverend Richard Coles take to a desert island?
…are you reading now?
Oliver Soden’s brilliant biography of Noel Coward. I loved his biography of Michael Tippett (and actually made it into a footnote), but Coward is one of my favourite cultural heroes of 20th-century England.
I dressed up as him once in a nylon dressing gown from Marks & Spencer in Kettering, holding a cigarette stuck on the end of an old paintbrush, and gave a towering performance of him singing A Room With A View for my Theatre Studies A-level — and got a majestic B.
And the other day, I chanced across his beach house at St Margaret’s Bay near Deal, and for some reason this makes me feel even more invested. Did you know he sold it to Ian Fleming?
A practical man, the Reverend Richard Coles would take a guide to the flora and fauna of desert islands
…would you take to a desert island?
I know this sounds like an ambitious ask, considering it’s a desert island, but a guide to the flora and fauna of desert islands would be very helpful, even if it is only sandflies and coconut palms.
But I would probably die of boredom before starvation, pirates or shark attack got me, so it would not need to be an exhaustive account.
…first gave you the reading bug?
Rev Richard Coles was captivated by the enigmatic Holmes at a young age
I read from a very early age — Ant And Bee were my first choice — but I got my first proper book when I was eight.
My grandfather took me to The Oundle Bookshop in Northamptonshire, a great independent book shop that is still in business, and bought me the Sherlock Holmes Short Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.
I was utterly captivated. The Speckled Band, The Lion’s Mane and The Beryl Coronet still make me shiver — but mostly it was the enigmatic Holmes himself who fascinated me, a strange, otherworldly figure, who could look at something that seemed entirely innocuous and see in it the hidden truth beneath.
I made my mum buy me a deerstalker and a magnifying glass.
…left you cold?
I am afraid I find Hobbits a total turn-off. In fact, any book with wizards tripping over their beards, elves, epic journeys and runes leaves me cold, and I was just about the only one of my friends growing up who didn’t love J.R.R. Tolkien.
Funnily enough, all these things are fine in other forms. I have a passionate and abiding love for the music dramas of Richard Wagner, Valkyries and all, and I binged the whole of Game Of Thrones in about three sleepless weeks, so — perhaps I should give Middle Earth another go?
- A Death In The Parish by The Reverend Richard Coles (W&N), £18.99; ebook at £9.99; audio download, read by the author, at richardcoles.com/books.