Monday, December 13, 2010

Fresh Starts

For the last couple of years, I’ve taken up a task originally proposed by Brian Lindenmuth, now of Spinetingler Magazine. He suggested that, in December, book bloggers should compile lists of authors whose work they’d read for the first time during the preceding 12 months. This might encourage others to try something new as well.

It has certainly been interesting to track my “discoveries.” This year I read roughly half and half old and new books, and multiple works from authors such as Erle Stanley Gardner, William Campbell Gault, Ellery Queen, and Ernest Tidyman (whose John Shaft private-eye stories are, in my opinion, far better than the movies made from them). Of the 2010 releases I’ve enjoyed since New Year’s Day, more than a third came from first-time scribblers or wordsmiths whose efforts I had not previously sampled.

To begin, here’s my 2010 reading list of novels by authors new to me. Debut works are boldfaced. Asterisks denote crime or thriller fiction.

Rachel Brady (Dead Lift)*
Massimo Carlotto (Bandit Love)*
Dan Chaon (Await Your Reply)
Sam Eastland (The Eye of the Red Tsar)*
• Lyndsay Faye (Dust and Shadows)*
Carl Férey (Zulu)*
Matthew Flaming (The Kingdom of Ohio)
Leighton Gage (Dying Gasp)*
• Ernesto Gallo (Needle in a Haystack)*
William Campbell Gault (The Dead Seed)*
• Anna Katharine Green (The Leavenworth Case)*
Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants)
• Ellen Horan (31 Bond Street)*
• D.E. Johnson (The Detroit Electric Scheme)*
• Thomas Kaufman (Drink the Tea)*
Michael Lawrence (I Like It Cool)*
William Link (The Columbo Collection)*
• Jassy Mackenzie (Random Violence)*
• Ernesto Mallo (Needle in a Haystack)*
• Kevin McCarthy (Peeler)*
Deon Meyer (Thirteen Hours)*
Mark Mills (The Information Officer)*
Zygmunt Miłoszewski (Entanglement)*
• Graham Moore (The Sherlockian)*
Peter Quinn (The Man Who Never Returned)*
Adam Ross (Mr. Peanut)*
Mark Sanderson (Snow Hill)*
Kelli Stanley (City of Dragons)*
• James Thompson (Snow Angels)*
• Keith Thomson (Once a Spy)*
• Ernest Tidyman (Shaft)*

And below you will find my roster of non-fiction works by writers I had never taken the opportunity to read before.

Joseph J. Ellis (His Excellency:
George Washington
Neil Hanson (Monk Eastman: The Gangster Who Became a War Hero
Michael F. Holt (Franklin Pierce)
Jeffrey H. Jackson (Paris Under Water:
How the City of Light Survived the
Great Flood of 1910
• Edward P. Kohn (Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt)
James T. Kloppenberg (Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition)
• James Mauro (Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War)

Usually, my annual breakdown is fairly well balanced between fiction and non-fiction, with a heavy emphasis on historical studies. This year, though, the scales tipped decidedly in favor of fiction, for reasons I can’t explain. I shall have to do better in 2011.

WHAT WERE YOUR DISCOVERIES? Anyone else who would like to try the “first reads” exercise is welcome to drop their list into the Comments section of this post. Or, if you make a list on your own blog, please provide a URL here, so that we can all visit it.

READ MORE:Fresh Starts,” by Gary M. Dobbs (The Tainted Archive).


David Cranmer said...

Thanks to James Reasoner and Cullen Gallagher I'm reading Day Keene's Sleep With The Devil. Talented pulp writer.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

A great fresh starts list - I had done a similar thing on my own blog

Richard L. Pangburn said...

Good list.

Thanks to the Rap Sheet, this was the year I discovered Irish Noir (John Connolly, Adrian McKinty, Declan Burke, and Eoin McNamee).

Also thanks to the Rap Sheet, Austin Wright's TONY AND SUSAN, a noir/literary novel that is deeper than you might think. I reviewed it at Amazon and will be submitting my essay on it to the Cormac McCarthy Journal or some similar obscure and scholarly publication.

The finest crime novel I've read this year is Clancy Martin's HOW TO SELL: A NOVEL, which is a darkly humorous take on capitalism as it is often practiced. Not for the feint of heart.

I enjoyed Peter Temple's TRUTH, a fine follow-up to THE BROKEN SHORE.

One of my top five novels of the year has to be Robert Flynn's ECHOES OF GLORY, an insightful Texas yarn with fine humor and wonderful prose, making fun of ultra-conservative fundamentalists. It won the Spur Award this year but has not garnered a mention on the many best lists across the web.

A shame, for it is a delightful novel.

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

Crikey, first reads... Well, I've been playing catch-up this year for one reason or another, so the crime/thriller/mystery first read list for the year would comprise the following (in order of first reading, all of whom I've blogged about over the course of the year):

Jeff Lindsay
Dennis Lehane
George Pelecanos
Gavin Lyall
Richard Stark/Donald Westlake
Jim Thompson
Peter Rabe
Geoffrey Household
William Boyd
Robert Ludlum
Belinda Bauer
John le Carre
Ross Thomas
Kate Atkinson
Francis Clifford

I know: what the hell have I been doing with my life up to this year?

pattinase (abbott) said...

New to me-fiction writers
Gar Anthony Harwood
Peter Temple
James Hynes
Tom Rachman
Lily King
James Siegal
Muriel Burberry
Simon Mauer
Stieg Larsson
Charles Portis
John Williams
Kathryn Stockett
Hilary Davidson

Kent Morgan said...

My new-to-me fiction list:

1. Michael Atkinson (Hemingway's Deadlights)
2. Carter Brown (Long Time No Leola)
3. Lowell Clausen (Third & Forever)
4. Brent Crouch (Desert Places)
5.John Darnton (Black & White and Dead All Over)
6. Bill Fitzhugh (Radio Activity)
7. Alex Gray (Pitch Black)
8. Jeff Hull (Pale Morning Done)
9. Greg Iles (Turning Angel)
10. Attica Locke (Black Water Rising)
11. Richard Lupoff (The Cover Girl Killer)
12. Edward Marston (The Silver Locomotive Mystery)
13. Michael McKinley (The Penalty Killing)
14. Brad Parks (Faces of the Gone)
15. Peter Rennenbohm (Buried Lies)
16. James Sheehan (The Mayor of Lexington Avenue)
17. Ian Vasquez (In the Heat)
18. Lee Williams (The Lifeguard Murders)

Peter Rozovsky said...

My list is here.

P.S. For those of you who are fnd of Blogger's verification words, I have what may be the best one ever for this comment: wariness
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Jen Forbus said...

You can find mine here. And here's to an equally wonderful 2011!