You may or may not know who Ray Bradbury is, fair enough. But for me he’s one of the most influential authors of the last century — and he’s still going strong at 89.

I was reminded of Ray Bradbury after reading a recent article in the Sunday Times and I do indeed owe him a debt. Like the author of the article, I probably wouldn’t be writing now if it weren’t for Ray Bradbury.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyFamous for his short stories — I’ve only just realised he’s written only a handful or two of novels, three of which are detective stories — Bradbury’s a master of telling a tale in just a few pages. This is a trick I’ve yet to achieve, much less master.

He’s a product of his age, I suppose, generating short works aimed at the pulp science fiction magazines of the middle of the last century before branching out into radio and television via such famous series as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I thought he’d written my favourite episode from the original Twilight Zone series, but I guess I was mis-remembering.

I’d say the debt I mentioned before has as much to do with his ability to get me to keep reading as it does for his body of work. And for that I have to applaud him. His ability to imagine amazing events happening to just about anyone, from kids in small town middle America to adventurers traveling to the stars and beyond managed to captivate me at an early age.

He seems able to turn his hand to just about everything, from disturbing stories about haunted carnivals to science fiction, to coming of age stories to hard-boiled detective novels, he’s written it all.

It’s hard for me to say what his most famous work is, although The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 are probably amongst them. I particularly enjoyed those detective novels which started with Death is a Lonely Business and which he published much later in his life (I’m reminded of it every time I hear Robbie Robertson’s Somewhere Down the Crazy River).

He’s won many awards over his lifetime and I’d say they are all richly deserved. If you’ve never read his work, try Dandelion Wine — for me it conjures the hot, sunny days of childhood.

Ray Bradbury, a living legend. Thanks Ray – I hope you know what you’ve done!