I am a reader. That’s what made me a writer, and I may choose one day not to write, but I will never stop being a reader. My 94 year old father is in a home, and cannot carry on an intelligent conversation, but put words in front of him, and he will read them aloud. My uncle is 96 years old. He can hardly see, and hardly hear, but he always has a book going. He is still a reader.
It was my uncle who introduced me to the mystery. I was on my way to becoming a teenaged literary snob, hooked at the time on the classic Russian, French and English novels, but whenever I went to visit my uncle at Shuswap Lake in British Columbia’s Thompson-Okanagan, I would devour the mystery novels he had by the hundreds on the bookshelves in his cabin. Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Ellery Queen, Raymond Chandler, Dick Francis – my days sitting on the dock watching the waves dance and listening to the call of the loons were filled with mysteries.
My family has always shared a passion for mysteries, although our tastes may have changed and diverged over the years. In the 80’s, I discovered Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Georges Simenon and Tony Hillerman. In the library, I always headed straight for the mystery section looking for new series. After my mother’s death in 1990, my father and I used to buy and share their books with each other. My favorite writers were Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, then John Grisham and Michael Connelly were added to the list. We exchanged “The Cat Who …” novels by Lillian Jackson Braun (we had a Siamese cat at the time!) and my father loved the Sue Grafton series. I was also a fan of Minette Walters and Edna Buchanan, and read many novels by Canadian crime writers Laurali (Bunny) Wright, Laurence Gough and Peter Robinson.
My current favorites, although I still read all of Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George’s novels, are John Lescroart, Michael Connelly and John Grisham. John Lescroart is probably at the top of my list. There are writers that I’ve read and admire, like the Kellermans, James Lee Burke, Robert Crais and Patricia Cornwell, but for one reason or another, their novels have less appeal for me. Perhaps because I am not fond of “fantasy”, (although all fiction is fantasy, isn’t it?) I most enjoy stories that seem real to me. (The subtitle on John Lescroart’s website is: “Real people…real suspense”.) When there’s an overload of violence, weird villains or too perfect heroes, my “too far-fetched” alarm goes off and I’m thrown out of the story. (Sorry, but I don’t like horror or vampire stories for the same reason.)
“Write what you like to read.” Or as Toni Morrison said, “”If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I’ve also heard it said, “Write what you know.” I took both suggestions to heart, and created a mystery series set in a world I’m familiar with, featuring characters that seem real to me, characters that have flaws and foibles, loneliness and self-doubt, loves and hates and prejudices that they must learn to deal with. I try to craft a mystery that will keep the reader guessing, and hopefully surprise him or her at the end. My characters could be you or me, your brother, your husband or your father, your co-worker, high school pal or your boss. In the end, I hope my main characters will be your friends.
I’d love to hear what you, the reader, think about my main characters, J. Hunter Rayne and Elspeth Watson, as well as Dan “Sorry” Sorenson, the jolly biker from Slow Curve on the Coquihalla and Russell Kupka, the L.A. County cop, from Ice on the Grapevine. I’m writing the next book in the series for you.
February 15, 2012 at 6:52 AM
What a great entry! I’m not a mystery fanatic, but I have read my fair share. Agatha will always hold a special place, and regardless of what anyone says, I like the quick, fast paced read of a Janet Evanovich novel. I’m more a reader of schmaltz, I guess you can call it, maybe the “high brow” stuff people turn their noses to. Not much, though. In all honesty, if it hooks me in the first couple of pages, I’ll give it a read. 🙂
February 15, 2012 at 6:10 AM
You put it all in the right perspective. The more I read, the more I want to write. What one author says triggers the imagination in another direction. So I chase rabbits through a lot of briar patches and words through a lot of scenarios.