Unforgettable yellow paper

Duncan Minshull

Over the years I had read Russell’s novels, had heard his opera collaboration with Harrison Birtwistle, and then asked him to write some stories for BBC radio.

We were not acquainted but he kindly agreed and wrote three crackers in the time permitting between novels. They were enticingly called Telling Stories, The Ghost Horse of Ghengis Khan and Like A Circle In A Spiral. They were under 3000 words long and succeeded in doing what he has always done for his readers and listeners — conjure up strange and illuminating worlds. You can live in these worlds quite thrillingly.

No, we hadn’t met before the commissions. He invited me round to his house in London, to his study which looked like a higgledy-piggledy nerve-centre. He gave me tips about the actors who might read the stories and asked about the ‘precise wordage’ for each. He delivered on time. He delivered on unforgettable yellow paper.

Very Russell Hoban, I have always thought.

Happy birthday to you, sir, with fondest good wishes. 

Duncan Minshull is Senior Producer for Readings on BBC Radio where he selects and records abridged serialisations for Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime and Book of The Week slots. He has published various anthologies and also writes for a number of newspapers and magazines.

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