Novelist Alan Gibbons doesn’t claim to rank alongside William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens or EM Forster.
But he can offer a unique insight into the life of an award winning writer pupils don’t get from studying the literary greats.
And Alan’s latest visit to Mossley Hollins School proved a popular break from normal studies for enthralled youngsters.
“Authors getting out and engaging with schools is important,” explained the former teacher and man responsible for 63 books during a near 30-year writing career.
“Books can seem a distant artefact to a kid. If they meet the people who write them and find them reasonably entertaining or interesting, it can make non readers, readers.”
Alan, a Manchester United fan with strong Merseyside roots, visits around 160 schools per year, including last month’s return to Mossley Hollins.
So, when does he find time to add to his back catalogue of published work, including Shadow of the Minotaur, Hate, The Edge and The Trap?
“I write in hotels in evenings,” he told the Correspondent. “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and don’t go clubbing. My career and my family are my life.”
He is also an outspoken campaigner for social injustices and passionate defender of libraries.
“We need more librarians because you have to invest in the future,” explained Alan, whose own favourite author is John Steinbeck.
“Politicians think they are saving money but the cost of an illiterate population is tremendous.
“Everytime you close a library you cut the life chances of people. We have to stop doing that.”
Despite the advent and proliferation Alan isn’t anti e-book readers.
“Read by any means necessary,” he says. “Besides, Waterstones are no longer selling Kindles because people still love the physical book.
“The places for Kindles is on holiday when you don’t want to carry a lot of books. The great affection of many people though is still the physical book.
“The book is a very resilient medium and the Kindle is a bit of a fad.”
Judging by pupils’ reaction to Alan’s tutorial and follow-up question and answer session, the book is definitely alive and kicking.
“We use some of Alan’s books as stimulus for our students, “explained teacher Charlotte Prince.
“They really appeal to our boys from working class backgrounds who we may not have that engagement with literature and reading when they come to secondary school.
“We are trying to keep them hooked on literature and some of the material Alan writes about really appeals to them more so than other things. You could see the boys had their hands up asking questions.
“We are also trying to encourage them to read outside of school with the DEAR project (Drop Everything and Read) and using chapters from Alan’s books so they can get them out of the library or ask for them at home.”
Alan’s next book, ‘The Beautiful Game’ is out in April with ‘They Said Too Much’ due out later this year.