Nine books that influenced Nick Hunt’s Red Smoking Mirror

By Swift Press

Nine books that influenced Nick Hunt’s Red Smoking Mirror

By Swift Press

My debut novel Red Smoking Mirror is set in a world in which Moors from al-Andalus, rather than Christians from Spain, reached the New World in 1492. Set in the Moorish enclave of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, it centres upon the love between the Jewish merchant Eli Ben Abram and his Nahua wife Malinala. The books that influenced this alternate history range from sci-fi novels and Westerns to historical chronicles and war journalism – all of them left their mark on the book in strange, often unexpected ways.

Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy

£10.99 £10.44

I don’t think I’ve been so viscerally affected by any other book – an account of the genocidal violence on which America was built. Its atmosphere is like doom metal, relentless and all-consuming. A novel you need to grit your teeth a little to read, but the raw beauty of McCarthy’s prose will carry you through

The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz

Russell Hoban

£9.99 £9.49

Set in a near future in which lions no longer exist, a boy from a nameless Middle Eastern country goes in search of his father. This novel reads like a fairy tale from the rubble of a world to come. It’s playful and peculiar, written with great lightness of touch, a reminder that fiction can be surprising and do anything.

The Travels of Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta


One of the most widely travelled people in history, Ibn Battuta’s journeys took him the length and breadth of the Islamic world, from North Africa to China, in the 14th century. As someone who has read many travel books from the Western point of view, it was thrilling to read an account with an entirely different centre – in which Europe is simply not very important, and America doesn’t exist yet.

Broken April

Ismail Kadare

£9.99 £9.49

This novel by a Nobel Prize-winning writer is set in the Accursed Mountains of Albania, where, until recent times, society was governed by an ancient code known as the Kanun. With its description of legalised blood feuds and incarceration in ‘lock-in towers’ (a way of escaping a family’s revenge), it feels almost like fantasy – a powerful and compelling account of how different concepts of morality shape human lives.

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

Rutgers University) Townsend Professor of History Camilla (Professor of History

£17.49 £16.61

This new history of the Aztecs avoids sensationalism, explaining often exoticised aspects of pre-Columbian society within a much wider context of cosmology and culture. It shines a light on Aztec civilisation’s complexity and sophistication, emphasising not only the things that made it so different from our own, but the many ways in which it is recognisable.

The Sisters Brothers

Patrick (Y) deWitt

£8.99 £8.54

DeWitt is one of the most enjoyable stylists writing today. This take on Western genre fiction, set in the Gold Rush of the 1850s, is written with his signature no-words-wasted literary style, a heavy dose of the absurd and very black humour. It’s bloody, oddly touching and extremely funny.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin

£9.99 £9.49

An ambassador visits an alien world in which gender is completely fluid, with no distinction between male and female, creating a totally different society and politics. The opening scene of an outlandish royal procession in the rain is an astonishing introduction to a new world – and the love story at the novel’s heart is breathtakingly moving.

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