Scroll down a few writers’ Facebook pages and before long you’ll find a Stephen King meme with his words of wisdom about writers needing to read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. I wholeheartedly agree with the King.
Depending on the type of writing projects I’m involved with, the amount I read ebbs and flows. But I am always reading – more so when I’m in the final stages of editing, less so when I’m actively creating and constantly when I’m on a writing hiatus.
I recently discovered Joseph Flynn and his crime/drama books. I read all three of the books in the Ron Ketchum series. Ron used to be an LA cop who retired over some events that had him looking like your typical white cop gunning down blacks. He actually calls himself a recovering racist. He ends up being recruited by big time movie star and Mayor of Goldstrike (a beautiful little town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains), Clay Steadman, to become Goldstrike’s new Chief of Police. Nothing much ever happens in Goldstrike, until, of course, it does. Flynn writes good stories with great character development.
Flynn is a sneaky author. In book two of the Ron Ketchum series, he introduces Bureau of Indian Affairs, Special Agent John Tall Wolf. I became hooked on John’s character and it just so happens that Flynn has written another series devoted to Tall Wolf. The first has a great title – Tall Man in Ray Bans. These books feature multiple US government acronym agencies mixing it up together to solve crimes that all have a slight Native American twist. The hook in the Tall Wolf series is John’s belief that Marlena Flower Moon, his BIA boss, is actually Coyote, a mythical creature with great power – a southern US version of trickster raven. She tried to eat him when he was a baby and she’s never given up trying to get him.
Joseph Flynn has published both traditionally and is currently self-publishing from his own imprint, Stray Dog Press.
Another recent read that led me to a series is The Devil’s Grin by Annelie Wendenberg – book one of the Kronberg Crime Series. Free on Amazon as I’m writing this post, this novel has over 600 reviews! The novel’s premise fascinates me and I marvel at the creativity of other writers. Main character, Anne Kronberg, wants to be a doctor in a historical era when a woman in the field of medicine would be arrested. She disguises herself as a man, becomes Dr. Anton Kronberg, England’s best bacteriologist and lives her dream. The fun begins when she is called to a crime scene involving a man found in the London waterworks who is suspected of dying of cholera. There she meets Sherlock Holmes. The book races on from that point in the best Holmesian fashion.
I have just started the second book in the series and must pause to wonder and, as the writer of a series, ask myself the same question: why, when authors write the second book, do they seem to lose sight of what readers loved in the first book? Wendenberg’s writing magic came in the interchanges between Holmes and Dr. Kronberg. I am at the 36% mark of book two and Sherlock has yet to arrive. Hmmm … I’ll keep reading because I am hooked but if Holmes doesn’t show up soon, I am unlikely to be thrilled about continuing.
I’ve written before about author Dan Simmons. Not too long ago, I finished his newest novel, The Fifth Heart. As always, with Simmons, he writes with a wide-reaching net and a stunning catch ensues. It is 1893 and author Henry James meets Sherlock Holmes in Paris as James is about to throw himself into the Seine and end it all. Sherlock convinces James they have other fish to fry and the two of them are off to Washington, DC to thwart an attempted presidential assassination. A side trip to the Chicago World’s Fair is fascinating. But, as reviewers are wont to say, Simmons is in love with his own research and the book might have been better for a bit of trimming. But this is Dan Simmons and you get what you get and you don’t get upset. There is enough brilliancy to make any indulgence fade to the background.
Still on the Simmons bandwagon, I also read, Darwin’s Blade. This novel is fast-paced with amazingly funny dialogue. Darwin Blade is an accident scene investigator, a complex man who is haunted by his Vietnam battle experience and some harsh personal losses. I couldn’t put this one down.
So, there you have it – a writer must read and believe me, I do. My tastes are eclectic. If I love an author, I’ll always give their next book a go. My attention is often caught by a book’s blurb. Once caught, I’ll give the book a try regardless of genre or author recognition.
I’d have a hard time ever calling myself an expert writer – no matter the number of books produced or hours spent writing. I believe there will always be just too much to learn. But I am quite confident to say I am an expert reader. With an easy 10,000 hours of practice under my belt, I’ve attained professional status, as Malcolm Gladwell defines such things.
You’ve had a peek inside my reading life. Let’s share. Take a moment to comment and let me know what you’re currently reading. Then hashtag this post on Twitter as #fridayreads. Sound like a plan?
Interesting sounding books. I wonder if that Holmes situation will be a shocker. And I so agree with King!
I’m just really fascinated with the concept of plugging new ideas into the Holmes tradition and seeing how they fly. The King seldom steers writers onto the wrong path.
Wow! You’ve gathered together some wonderful recommendations–all sound like books I’d enjoy. Thank you. My favorite two books of the past few months are both by Candice Millard–nonfiction that reads like fiction: “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” and “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey”.
Thanks for stopping by, Erin. Nonfiction that reads like fiction – that could be a new and interesting genre to compete with faction. Theodore Roosevelt has a couple of cameo appearances in Dan Simmons – Fifth Heart. So many connections and great reading directions to explore.
Great post – I’m definitely going to look out for the Joseph Flynn books. Thanks for the recommendation. Over the summer I’ve read ‘New York’ and ‘Paris’, both fabulous historical fiction by Edward Rutherfurd and ‘behind the beautiful forevers’ by Katherine Boo (Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity) which reads like fiction but is all the more gut-wrenching because it isn’t.
Hi Mel – interesting – another suggestion of a book that reads like fiction but is not. I’m always on the look out for highly recommended historical fiction. Have you read Robert Harris’ book – An Officer and a Spy – it’s all about the Dreyfus affair in 1895 in Paris. http://www.amazon.com/Officer-Spy-novel-Robert-Harris-ebook/dp/B00EBRU05I/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Absolutely superb. I felt as though I was walking the streets of Paris alongside main character Picquart – the newly appointed head of the country’s counterespionage agency.
I agree with King. Finding the time to read, is a struggle for me. If I read at night in bed, no matter how good the book, I fall asleep after a couple pages. Most of my reading is done while on the treadmill. Thanks to my Kindle, I don’t have to worry about holding onto a book and risk flying off the treadmill.
Great selection of books, Fran. Thanks for sharing.
You are very welcome, Jill. When facing a busy schedule one must be innovative. And thank goodness for the invention of the e-reader! We certainly wouldn’t want anyone flying off a treadmill – real book hopefully shielding one’s head from injury on impact.
I’m always reading, but it may not always be novels. Currently I am reading a lengthy novel, though, Vanity Fair by Thackeray.
Ambitious – Vanity Fair. I would suspect that many readers of today would find Thackeray a challenge. I read Vanity Fair years ago and am now curious if I have become one who would struggle. I’ll have to dig around on the library shelves and see if I can spot it.
I feel as if I have been reading this book forever and as if it will never end. But I am determined!
I’m a slow eater, and I always choose a breakfast I can eat with one hand. So I read every morning with my breakfast. (I never skip breakfast.)
I just finished A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. I’m currently reading The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. Next I’ll be reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.
I love the organized list you have, Nicki. I think the innovations shown in this comment stream when it comes to squeezing in reading time are simply fascinating. I’ve read Kate Atkinson before. I’ll be on the look out for these other authors and titles. Many thanks.
Hello Francis! I love that quote by Stephen King. It’s one of my favorites of his because of it’s simplicity and truth. I’m always amazed by writers who say they don’t have time to read. Your book recommendations are interesting. I’ll have to check some of them out. Thank you! 😀
Hi Vashti. The King can definitely cut through to the simple and true. Every novel I read helps me further hone my own craft – story structure, character development, dialogue, pacing and, at times, tips on things I never want to do because as I reader, the book in question made me want to scream. I believe writing is very much an apprenticeship craft.
so many words
so little time 🙂
For many years
I crammed my head
with words of the others.
I learned to regurgitate,
reference, cite and paraphrase
the stories the others told.
Then my own words began to flow
running like a mountain stream
over and around all those words of the others.
Did those other words prime the pump
or did they change my story?
Do they dilute the waters now
or do they represent a basic truth?
There are only so many stories
All is a variation on a limited number of themes
This is what it is to be human.
I’ve wasted too much time in recent years trying to find merit in new, indie books. Whereas my blogger-writer friends rarely disappoint there is a sea of mediocrity out there. It was therefore nice to read Orwell’s ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’ recently, a lovely little period piece set in 1934 London.
I’ll have a look at that one for sure, Roy. Great title. I do know what you mean on the wasted time aspect of trying out new, indie books. Even with my strict criteria of looking at reviews first and using the Amazon Look Inside feature, I still get stuck with some doozies. Just glad I read fast and am getting more and more willing to dump a book that isn’t working for me.