Born into a family of actors and painters, Gahan Hanmer naturally gravitated toward the arts. As a youth, he was not an exceptional student or much of an athlete, but he received satisfaction and appreciation from the work he did on the stage, which began when he was eight years old. Under the guidance of his uncle actor Marlon Brando, Gahan developed his talent exclusively as a theatre artist, working with many inspired teachers and directors. In the classical theatre Gahan played soldiers, princes, kings and gods, along with beggars, villains, criminals and madmen. Trained in the Stanislavski 'method', living truly in the skins and minds of these characters, he absorbed what each of them had to teach him. Later in life, he began to try to organize some of what life had taught him in a novel of romance and adventure. Every night, after his two daughters were in bed, he became the main character in a perilous mythical journey and recorded it as it unfolded in his imagination. Years later, rewritten and revised many times and finally pruned and polished, the result was The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality.
Today Gahan joins us to talk about the books that have influenced and inspired him during his life.
Is there a book you own which can put a smile on your face and make you feel happy simply by holding it in your hand?
That would have to be The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, featuring animal characters in an English countryside milieu. I wouldn't mind turning into an animal myself – maybe an otter – and going to live there myself. I don't know where you would find such an insightful appreciation of nature unfolding season by season within the context of a many layered story line, such charming characters, and such a warm, touching, and positive view of life. It is also a book one can appreciate at any age, and I reread it periodically with the same pleasure as always.
Which book or series makes you feel most nostalgic, remembering the period in your life you first read it?
When, in my college days, I read Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller, the author seemed to me to be the epitome of the free spirit. Personal freedom, beyond the clutch of society's normal zombie lockstep, was the consuming goal of my life at that time, and continues to be one of my guiding lights in the present. I could write a long paper on the subject of personal freedom, which is much more complex and demanding than I ever imagined when I was in college. But Henry Miller's funny, seditious, and uncompromising satire brings back to me that time in my life when he was my hero and my ideal.
Which book or series makes your blood pump and your palms sweaty?
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the book that keeps me gasping at the sheer magic of his storytelling and his grasp of what I like to call the human predicament, half comedy, half tragedy, mixed with uncontrolled passions and the extravagance of life itself. This novel is continually bursting the seams of its own conventions and yanking the reader into a new dimension of experience.
Are there any authors in particular that have been inspirational to you and influential upon your work?
That to me is a baffling question, but perhaps I'm inspired to write like the authors I like to read. I enjoy stories that are very tightly written, where every word counts. Jack London comes to mind as a good tight storyteller; and I want to mention the two tightest books of my experience: True Grit by Charles Portis and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
And finally, Fantasy Book Review is all about recommending the best reads the genre has to offer. Could you please offer our readers a fantasy recommendation of your own?
For totally absorbing weirdness and originality, I would vote for the Gormenghast series, particularly the first two books, Titus Groan and Gormenghast.
The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality by Gahan Hanmer
Sometimes it's funny how fast things can change, and sometimes it's not…
Welcome to Albert Keane's beautifully designed medieval kingdom nestled in a completely isolated river valley in the Canadian wilderness. Peaceful, happy, and prosperous, it takes nothing from the modern world, not so much as a single clock.
There is a castle, of course, and a monastery. There is even a pitch dark, rat-infested dungeon – because you simply have to have one if you are trying a rule a feudal kingdom!
Farmers work the land, artisans ply their trades, monks keep school and visit the sick, and nobody (well, almost nobody) misses the modern world at all.
So why has Jack Darcey – actor, wanderer, ex-competitive fencer – been tricked and seduced into paying a visit? And why hasn't anyone told him that the only way to leave is a perilous trek across hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness without a compass or a map?
Because a tide of fear and violence is rising from the twisted ambitions of one of King Albert's nobles, and Albert's fortune teller believes that Jack could turn the tide – if he lives long enough...
Seamlessly blending medieval and modern elements,The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality serves up a heady brew of action, humour, romance and satire in a kingdom set apart in time and space where reality is the dealer's choice.