The author of Riddley Walker explains to Professor John Mullan how following the ‘hobo journeys’ of his mind led him to his troubling vision of the future.
Speculating about why readers are drawn to stories as painful as his account of the pinched, raw existence in the wake of a future nuclear catastrophe, Russell Hoban explains to his audience that "people like to read about people in the last extremity of nothing left".
His own engagement with the material, as he explains, came about rather more accidentally after an unplanned visit to Canterbury Cathedral that set his mind off on "one of its hobo journeys" that mysteriously deliver him his plots.
Riddley Walker is remarkable for its reimagining of English in the wake of a collapse of civilisation, and similarly Hoban says that this was not how he started out: "I began in straight English and left it behind", discovering a new tongue that "is an active character and fed me things I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of" including the character of Riddley.
Unusually for a book club guest, Hoban is accompanied by one of his characters, in this case Mr Punch, who features in the novel as "the absolutely lawless force that wants what it wants immediately", but is fortunately on pretty restrained form for the occasion.