Linda Mann worked in the offshore finance sector for ten years until settling on the Isle of Man where she is now married with three children. She was a member of the Isle of Man Arts Council and Chairman of the Film and Literature panel for four years but she now concentrates on writing, including skits for the satirical news programme 'The Headlines Again' on Manx Radio. She has written four supernatural crime novels - Mist, Tidemaster, The Corsican Trap and Mr Boots – available or forthcoming from Priory Press. Here Linda writes about Terry Pratchett.
Linda Mann on the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
'You know that Terry Pratchett really does know his quantum from a hole in the ground.'
The above quote is lifted from my fourth book, entitled Mr Boots, and is basically a bit of blatant bottom-licking. It isn't often that you find a book which changes the way you look at things - well, not one that makes you laugh out loud in front of complete strangers.
The first time I read anything by the great writer was on a chartered plane to the Canary Islands. A long time ago, I worked for a living and part of my employment was to travel to the Canaries once a year to check a share register. Most people regarded it as a bit of a jolly and I suppose that if I'd been a civil servant during today's transparent government, that's exactly what it would have been.
Unfortunately this particular client expected you to work as the Jews did for the Pharaoh and only allowed you to leave the office after the street lamps came on and the bar was shut; even the meals were delivered to your desk. We also had to fly chartered, which meant that I and my legal companions were in suits while the rest of the passengers were wearing the latest thing in Don Johnson shirts and Bermuda shorts, a popular look among the Jet Set in the 80s. Needless to say, we were given a wide berth by all, including the flight attendants who obviously thought we were some sort of team of Inquisitors. After all, no one really expects the Spanish inquisition - well, not on a flight to Lanzarote anyway.
And it was there, on one delayed flight, that I leant across my chortling companion's heaving form and demanded to know what he was reading.
'Pratchett,' he said.
'Who?' I demanded.
'He's funny, especially this bit...'
The tome was passed across with instructions not to lose his page and I read the immortal words
'... I can't handle that sort of money. You've got to be in the Guild of Lawyers or something to steal that much.'
I looked into my grinning companion's eyes and hissed, 'But you're a solicitor?'
'I know - good, isn't it.'
It was then that I realized that the legal profession did actually do humour. OK, so they would normally charge by the hour but it gave one food for thought.
Eventually, on my return to normal working hours and the odd glimpse of a watery sun between deluges, I bought my own copy of Wyrd Sisters and learnt more about that strange flat world of the Disc: a planet that was carried around the cosmos on the backs of four giant elephants - there had been five but there was a problem with the flight plan - and they in turn stood on the backs of A'Tuin the great star turtle. I met and loved Captain Carrot, until I met my very own version of Commander Vimes and realized that muscle isn't everything. Gradually I have managed to rise through the ranks of the three witches and now get treated much as Granny Weatherwax, in that small children run away and hide in the undergrowth in case you either make them clean their room or turn them into some sort of uncool growth by insisting that they wash and ingest vegetables.
I now write my own version of black humour and have realized over the years that I owe a lot to Mr Pratchett, although whether the rest of the world will be grateful is a moot point. He it was who openly referred to other writers and other books, he took strange words and expanded them to the point where implosion was imminent. He made assassins cool and policemen knobbly, ladies of negotiable affection stalked the streets, and there was always someone who would sell you a sausage in a bun whether you wanted one or not.
Wodehouse had his Mr Mulliner and the inebriated occupants of the Drones Club. Tom Sharpe had Cambridge and diminutive Germans of Italian extraction blowing up the Department of Transport. Even McCall Smith has at least two countries to poke fun at, Botswana and Scotland. Pratchett went one better and invented an entire world.
It was Pratchett who really taught me to look at ordinary things in an extraordinary way, and for that I shall always be extremely grateful, even if it means that I'm still laughing aloud in very public places.