Influences? I've had a few but then again too few to mention. Harold Bloom famously built a literary theory or at least concept around the idea (wonder if he did any influence-influenza riffs?) but many jazz critics take it a step further. For them influence becomes a sort of elaborate parlor game: who influence who, how much, when? If they were off in their own little huts improvising prayers to the gods of swing that would be one thing but this approach has threatened to engulf any more reasonable criticism. Too many interviews with musicians try to track down the influences, a mostly pointless task since any musician tends to be the worst person to ask about his or her influences, not even counting the ones that would like to deny or hide them. You can see a different take in the message boards for The Comics Journal. Sparked by Wizard's recent list of the ten most influential comic book artists, the posters usually take the attitude that we can determine who's most influential if only, well, if only we could figure it out. Admittedly the Wizard list isn't completely ridiculous (it has Eisner, Kirby and Adams after all) but it's the more indefensible choices (Joe Madureira and George Perez over Carl Barks, Harvey Kurtzman, Lou Fine or Robert Crumb) that fuel the debate. When the posters aren't whining about who actually is most influential, the entire thing becomes more fruitful. Simply stating Barks should be on the list or Steranko not is of trivial interest but discussing why approaches true criticism.
There's little talk of influences in Ben Sidran's Talking Jazz: An Oral History (1992, expanded 1995). Despite the title this is a collection of interviews and not really an oral history (ie it's not establishing a broader history of jazz or actually always even describing a history of the interviewees). Having another musician for the interviewer makes it more substantial than most such books because Sidran knows more about what really interests another musician than a historian or critic often does. Sidran keeps the musicians focused on their career or details of the art, only occasionally allowing somebody to wander off into nonsense like the "healing power of music." Now I want to check out more of Pepper Adams who I'd never paid much attention to before and the real trick is that interviews of Steve Gadd and Dave Grusin are actually interesting even if their work still promises to be dull.
H. Rider Haggard King Solomon's Mines (1885): Despite a weakness for Victoriana, I'd always pegged Haggard as some Empire-apologist adventure writer which appears to be not entirely true. I'll admit that it was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that made me decide to read this--I've never seen any of the movie versions either--and surprise there's a reason it's remained in print this long. (Actually I checked a 1925 edition out of the library. Opposite the title page is a list of Haggard's works starting with a parlimentary report moving to history, autobiography, travel, novels and finally at the bottom a skad of "romances," the latter all the stuff he's now remembered for.) The novel is actually a reasonably fun one-thing-after-another tale complete with last-minute rescues, lost civilizations, war, wild animals and whathaveyou. Bits may be cliches but I suspect that this is where many of them got started and in any case the story is so quickly paced and solidly told that it doesn't suffer. Haggard has a real knack for detail, throwing in hunting stories, cultural oddities (how to innoculate your cattle) and other bits that give the novel texture. He even has a sense of humor about the whole thing: one character spends several chapters trouserless and with only half his face shaven because it impresses the locals. And perhaps it's a surprise that Haggard has a more complex attitude to black Africans than you might expect from a writer of that time. The narrator (Quatermain) tends to believe in the superiority of white/European culture and comes out explicitly against interracial marriages but at the same time grants a nobility to several black characters and doesn't remotely consider the rest subhuman, pointing out their courage, sorrow, intelligence, weakness, schemes, whatever the case might be. There have been more negative portrayals of Southerners by New York writers. Even the marriage thing is more because it wouldn't actually work out in any society rather than something that by nature shouldn't happen. Actually I suspect most modern readers will have more trouble with the long-abandoned genre (last active in the 20s and 30s with the pulps, E.R. Burroughs and Robert Howard (whose Solomon Kane stories have a real edge)) than with the political aspects.