I used to keep a list of all the books I'd read. I don't know what happened to the list but it would have looked a bit odd to anyone who read it. I read whatever I found around me, mostly the paperbacks that my Dad had just read, which were for the most part crime and thrillers. He also read westerns but they never really caught my imagination; my sister, on the other hand, became a fan of Louis L'Amour and other western writers. My Nan was devoted to historical novels by the likes of Jean Plaidy but could never persuade me that they were worthy of my attention, not when she also had Agatha Christie novels on her shelves, which were much more to my taste.
At the same time, I was working my way through the shelves of our local library. Thanks to my only having a children's library ticket, this meant I only had access to the children's section and only two books at a time, which meant I was slowly but steadily working my way through the works of Enid Blyton, Capt. W. E. Johns, Anthony Buckeridge and Malcolm Saville. And American authors like Wilbur Price, Franklin W. Dixon, Carolyn Keene and multi-author series like the Three Investigators books, introduced by Alfred Hitchcock.
All I can remember about the list was that, at some point, my top two authors were Franklin W. Dixon and John Creasey. Not my favourite authors... I'd simply read more books by those two than any other writer. If you'd asked me to name my favourite author, I would probably have said the name of whoever's book I happened to be reading at the time. I was rather caught out this way during my interview for the local grammar school as the book I was reading was Twelve Chinks and a Woman by James Hadley Chase. Actually, it those more PC times — 1973 — it had been retitled The Doll's Bad News and that was the book I had tucked in my pocket at the interview.
What really interested me about Speed & Power was the science fiction stories. The magazine reprinted 27 stories by Arthur C. Clarke and 4 by Isaac Asimov, serialised over the 87 issues. The majority were illustrated by Mike Whittlesea and to this eleven-year-old they were an inspiration. Science fiction wasn't new to me as I'd watched Star Trek, read some of the James Blish adaptations and even one or two novels — a couple by Edgar Rice Burroughs, including A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars, and some of John Creasey's Doctor Palfrey global catastrophe stories, for instance.
Reading the Arthur C. Clarke stories coincided with a growing interest in reading about astronomy and rocketry. I had seen various moon missions and even moon landings over the previous few years and, according to Speed & Power, it was surely only a matter of a few years before we were sending spaceships to Mars. Mankind was about to visit Barsoom! I was this close to living in a science fiction world!