Rutherfurd on Rutherfurd
Q. And this was when you started to think seriously about writing.
A. My poor parents. They were waiting for their son to give some sign that he was going to earn a living. But no such luck. Recently my mother showed me some of the letters I'd sent home from University. Letters which cheerfully said things like: "You'll be glad to know I'm planning to write a book," or "As soon as I publish my first novel..." As she gently put it: "We were a bit concerned for you."
Q. Did they express that concern?
A. My father did suggest it might be a good idea to make a living first. But he also said: "If you consider journalism, you could try to be like Alistair Cooke." As a family we always listened to his Letter from America. He and Alan Wicker are still the two broadcasters I most admire: pure, elegant professionals. The other thing my father said was: "Since you like history, you should look at Michener's work. His research is magnificent." My father had greatly admired The Source. Pretty good advice, in retrospect.
Q. And in fact, after completing your degree at Cambridge, you commenced a historical novel, set in the later Roman Empire. Was it inspired by Michener?
A. By a wonderful book, Julian, by Gore Vidal, which I'd read before Cambridge. I worked at it for some months, and discovered how difficult it is to write a book. I wasn't ready for it yet.