The story of a talking goat living in an idyllic 1950s farmyard might seem an unlikely book to feature on a blog specialising in crime fiction. But the route to James Lee Burke, George Pelecanos, Ian Rankin and countless others started with Emily and her friends, with a pacifist bull and with a rhyming, anarchic feline in a hat.
Emily the Goat - the first in Jane Pilgrim's Blackberrry Farm series - started my reading life and so she will also start this new series of posts "50 Books", a sort of retrospective of my reading life, which will give some commentary on my 50 most influential, important or favourite books.
As an infant, I am told, these were always my first choice books - 25 of them, little red square things: Rusty the Sheepdog, Mrs Nibble, Ernest Owl and a host of other characters.
"Every night," my mother says, "to the point it got very very boring. And you knew them all off by heart. We'd start and you'd finish."
Many parents will recongise this phenomenon: the same books over and over again with pre-reading children eventually learning them off by heart and able to recite them. I've experienced it myself with a couple of books: Jamie and the Lost Bird (which I read so many times I also knew off by heart) and Mick Inkpen's lovely Where Oh Where is Kipper's Bear?
I strong believe that story-telling is a deeply rooted human desire, perhaps even a need, one that both ties us into the world around us and develops our understanding of it and ourselves but also liberates us from it, broadens our horizons and extends our ambitions. We crave stories.
This was ignited in me in my childhood, by parents with the patience to read Mrs Squirrel and Hazel or Ferdinand the Bull night after night.
Since then books have been an almost constant companion and reading for pleasure has been my most important hobby, a refuge from, as well as a portal to, the world. And later in my life it's been a key part of bonding with my children, reading to them a hugely varied selection of books from the lovely Shirley Hughes to Harry Potter and Enid Blyton to Charlie Higson. I'm currently reading David Walliams' The Demon Dentist to the youngest - and coming to the sad realisation that we're approach the end of an era.
And of course we have read Blackberry Farm books, which were republished by Brockhampton Press, now an imprint of Hodder, at the turn of the century and were bought by my parents for my eldest who was born in 2000.
The stories are simple and charming, usually extolling the virtues of kindness and helping others. F Stock May's illustrations look a little dated to the adult eye in 2013 - and in 2000 for that matter - but not to the extent that any infant will notice. Rather, they make Blackberry Farm an ideal introduction to the beautiful world of literature. They certainly served me well, twice over, and three generations of our family regard them fondly.