For the last several years, I’ve made it a practice each December to look back over my reading list for the previous 12 months and see which authors I had the chance to enjoy for the very first time. This ritual began after Brian Lindenmuth, now an editor at Spinetingler Magazine, asked me to share some of my author “discoveries” in 2008. The writers and books didn’t necessarily have to be new, or from the crime-fiction stacks; they just had to be new to me.
2008 happened to be when I first cracked open works by Tony Black, Stieg Larsson, John McFetridge, Michael Stanley, Jane Mayer, and future U.S. president Barack Obama. In the years since, I’ve discovered and become a fan of Stanley Ellin, Kelli Stanley, J. Sydney Jones, Colum McCann, Karen Abbott, Sam Eastland, Leighton Gage, Ernest Tidyman, Zygmunt Miłoszewski, Stefanie Pintoff, Deon Meyer, and ... well, this rundown could go on and on. As it should: I think part of the definition of a thoughtful reader is that he or she be willing to experiment with previously unfamiliar wordsmiths. Who wants to fall into a rut, right?
This has been an unusual year for me. I contributed to a crime-fiction encyclopedia project, and therefore found myself poring through multiple books by a few older writers I already knew, among them Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, and William Campbell Gault. Furthermore, I made a concerted effort in 2011 to fill in some of the gaping holes in my knowledge of the mystery/thriller genre, so I didn’t have the opportunity to explore as much general fiction as I might have liked. However, I was able to tackle a number of exceptional non-fiction works, many by writers I hadn’t sampled before.
So let’s get to the results of all this. First, my 2011 reading list of novels by authors new to me. Debut works are boldfaced. Asterisks denote crime or thriller fiction.
• Jussi Adler-Olsen (The Keeper of Lost Causes)*
• Quentin Bates (Frozen Assets)*
• Lou Cameron (The Outsider)*
• Gianrico Carofiglio (Temporary Perfections)*
• Rory Clements (Revenger)*
• Douglas Corleone (Night on Fire)*
• Arne Dahl (Misterioso)*
• Louis de Bernières (The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts)
• Richard Dougherty (Madigan, aka The Commissioner)*
• Dave Eggers (Zeitoun)
• Paul Grossman (The Sleepwalkers)*
• Rashad Harrison (Our Man in the Dark)*
• Anthony Horowitz (The House of Silk)*
• Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis (The Boy in the Suitcase)*
• Adrian Magson (Death on the Marais)*
• James McCreet (The Thieves’ Labyrinth)*
• M.J. McGrath (White Heat)*
• Russel D. McLean (The Lost Sister)*
• Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall)
• Carson Morton (Stealing Mona Lisa)*
• Thomas Mullen (The Revisionists)*
• Jim Nesbit (Dark Companion)*
• Joseph O’Connor (Ghost Light)
• Gerald O’Donovan (The Priest)*
• William Ryan (The Holy Thief)*
• Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (The Day Is Dark)*
• Roger Smith (Wake Up Dead)*
• Thomas Sterling (Murder in Venice, aka The Evil of the Day)*
• P.G. Sturges (Shortcut Man)*
Next is my somewhat shorter inventory of non-fiction works by writers I’d not read prior to 2011.
• Miranda Carter (George, Nicholas, and William: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I)
• Paul Finkelman (Millard Fillmore)
• James Garner (The Garner Files)
• Annette Gordon-Reed (Andrew Johnson)
• Charlotte Gray (Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike)
• Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks)
• Steve Turner (The Band That Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic)
• Frances Wilson (How to Survive the Titanic: Or the Sinking
of J. Bruce Ismay)
But how about you, oh thoughtful Rap Sheet readers? Which authors did you first discover in 2011? Please feel free to list those fresh finds in the Comments section below. Or, if you’d prefer to post your first-reads record in your own blog, just provide the URL among the comments here, so the rest of us can study your list as well.