Gonzo sports journalist and author of We Ate All the Pies, John Nicholson gets Brought to Book.
What is your favourite book?
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. I've loved this since I was 15 and re-read it every year. It's a stunning evocation of a truly insane period in American counter-culture which revolved around the likes of Kerouac, The Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey and many, many more unhinged originals. As a lover of both beat poetry and psychedelic rock music from an early age, this book always plugged right into my cultural DNA. It reads like one big trip but is broadly a true account of the Merry Pranksters - a drugged-up, freaked-out bunch of lunatics who travelled around California and beyond in the mid 60s in a psychdelic school bus with 'Furthur' on the destination plate - mispelt on purpose to better express goping 'beyond'. Wolfe's style is as colourful as the acid visions and the real-life characters such as Neal Cassidy, larger than life. I find it totally life affirming and also now quaintly nostalgic.
As a child, what was your favourite book?
Like all my generation I was brought up on Enid Bylton, which I always enjoyed but the first book I really fell properly in love with was Alice In Wonderland. Wonderland was a place I definitely wanted to go to and preferably live in with a hookah smoking caterpillar. Oddly though, as much as I loved it, I never took to Alice - are you even meant to? She was the boring one to me. The Mad Hatter was more my kinda dude.<!--more-->
What book would you take on holiday this year?
If I was lucky enough to get time off I'd take The Ivory Coast by Charles Fleming. It's a rollicking, seedy tale of a black musician in Las Vegas in the 1950s which Dawn, my partner, highly recommends as a fellow lover of that guady desert paradise. Vegas is one of my favourite places for all manner of reasons and the history of it fascinates me, so I'd like to read that pool-side at the Bellagio while consuming a Marguerita the size of my head. If I had someone to carry my bags I'd also take a huge volume called The Outlaw Book Of American Poetry to dip into whenever I needed a hit of some free-form verse about bodily functions and sex. Which is quite often.
Do you have a favourite political book/biography?
My favourite broadly political book is P. J .O'Rourke's Give War A Chance along with his brilliant Parliament of Whores. Whether you agree with P.J. or not there's a fierce wit and intelligence behind all his writing which either articulates your own thoughts more succinctly or shows you a whole new angle. I don't read a lot of political biography but one I really enjoyed is Peter Slowe's book about Labour Big Beast Manny Shinwell who was about as far away from the careerist politician we have today as is possible to imagine.
Which book published in the last ten years do you think is the most significant?
The Da Vinci Code because it illustrated just how mindlessly gullible people can be and for showing that being a rubbish writer is no impediment to commerical success. Which is just as well for me, really.
Which literary character would you most like to be?
Raoul Duke in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Never been on an ether binge, but have always fancied it, especially out in the Mojave Desert. If not him then certainly Sterne's Tristam Shandy, who I'm guessing, had he worked for Rolling Stone in the early 70s would have lived like The Good Doctor.
What is your favourite sporting book?
Big Mal; The High Life And Hard Times Of Malcom Allison Football Legend by David Tossell. Can you imagine a manager wearing a Fedora and smoking a cigar in the dug out today? We have big money in football today but too many small men. You can smell the Brut and the champagne on every page of this biography.