FIVE THINGS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Robert Masello
THE CANTERVILLE GHOST. Although Oscar Wilde wrote the original short story, this updated and VERY reinvented movie version (made in 1944) and starring Robert Young, was my favorite movie as a kid. I felt SO BAD for the cowardly ghost played by Charles Laughton, and of course I loved the whole English castle / ghost story angle. Still do, and use variants of it in some of my own work to this day.
OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham. When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who’d stocked the bookshelves in our house with great books. I was allowed free rein – if I could understand it, I was welcome to read it – and one of the books I stumbled upon at around 13 (and long before the word “bondage’ would have suggested anything untoward to me) was Of Human Bondage. It was the first book that I can remember reading that had me so caught up in it that I literally could not wait to turn the next page. That’s how worried I was about Philip Carey, the protagonist, and how concerned I was that he would continue to throw his life away on the conniving Mildred, who took such terrible and unrelenting advantage of him.
IAN FLEMING. James Bond nearly cost me my life. Once, at summer camp, while I was supposed to be playing goalie in a soccer game, I started reading Goldfinger, and became so absorbed that I was completely oblivious to the soccer ball flying straight at my face. It hit me so hard I was carried into the net, my glasses welded to my nose, my teeth rattling in my skull, and my teammates, of course, fit to be tied. But it did confirm my love of reading (as if that needed any further confirmation).
DOUBLE INDEMNITY. No matter how many times I’ve watched this movie, I never get tired of it. The crackling dialogue (listen to the charged exchange between Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck when she first tries to usher him out the door) and the intricate, if utterly implausible, plot. If Maugham taught me the importance of creating a full-bodied and sympathetic character, Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, who wrote the script (based, of course, on the fabulous serialized novel by James M. Cain), taught me to move things along, not waste a second, and keep the plot twisting.
SERGEANT PEPPER’S LONELY HEART’S CLUB BAND. If I haven’t given away my antiquity earlier, I have just now. But I loved that album so much I wore it out. It was more than a record – it was a magical touchstone or talisman of some kind. The Beatles remain the one thing I can always count on to raise my spirits and take me back to my youth. In fact, I think I may listen to a few Beatles cuts right now. I need the lift –it’s way better than a Red Bull! — before getting back to the spot where I got stuck while writing my new novel.
Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, television writer, and the author of many bestselling novels and nonfiction books. His most recent historical thriller, with a supernatural spin, is The Einstein Prophecy. His previous work, including the thrillers Blood and Ice, The Medusa Amulet, and The Romanov Cross, have been published all over the world and translated into at least fifteen languages. He lives and works in Los Angeles.