Wednesday, December 12, 2012

First Encounters

Once more I’m closing in on the end of a year--a chance to reflect on what I’ve read over the last 12 months ... and what I have not yet found the opportunity to enjoy. 2012 certainly offered many excellent reasons to bury my muzzle in freshly printed pages. But there are books still collecting dust on my to-be-read pile(s).

After the close of 2011, when I realized that I had unwittingly concentrated on crime fiction and history at the near-complete exclusion of mainstream fiction, I tried this year to make up for that imbalance. Thus, I spent many pleasurable hours before such offerings as Selden Edwards’ The Lost Prince (his first sequel to 2008’s phenomenal The Little Book), Thomas Mallon’s Watergate, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams, Kurt Andersen’s True Believers, Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Prisoner of Heaven, Mark Helprin’s In Sunlight and in Shadow, and John Sayles’ A Moment in the Sun. This doesn’t mean, though, that I ignored what was being introduced in the crime, mystery, and thriller fiction arena; I definitely did not, and can count Philip Kerr’s Prague Fatale, J. Robert JanesBellringer, Adrian Magson’s Death on the Pont Noir, and Mark Mills’ House of the Hunted among my favorite reads in the genre since January 1 of this year. Non-fiction attracted my attention too, as it usually does, and I delighted in a close study of Sally Denton’s The Plots Against the President: FDR, a Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right, Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor’s Mickey Spillane on Screen: A Complete Study of the Television and Film Adaptations, David Corn’s Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Battled the GOP to Set Up the 2012 Election, and Geoffrey C. Ward’s quite colorful historical work, A Disposition to Be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor’s Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States.

As has become my custom over the last several years, I also make a point of looking back every December at which authors were new to me during the previous 12 months. Below is a list of novelists whose work I first checked out in 2012. Debut efforts are boldfaced. Asterisks denote crime or thriller fiction.

Beryl Bainbridge (Every Man for Himself)
Robert Olen Butler (The Hot Country)*
Stephen L. Carter (The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln)*
Wessel Ebersohn (Those Who Love Night)*
Gerald Elias (Death and Transfiguration)*
Barry Fantoni (Harry Lipkin, Private Eye)*
Robert Goldsborough (Archie Meets Nero Wolfe)*
Alex Grecian (The Yard)*
Wolf Haas (Brenner and God)*
Mischa Hiller (Shake Off)*
Andrew Hunt (City of Saints)*
Mons Kallentoft (Midwinter Blood)*
Henry Kane (Peter Gunn)*
David Kowalski (The Company of the Dead)
Marek Krajewski (Death in Breslau)*
Janice Law (Fires of London)*
Gypsy Rose Lee (Mother Finds a Body)*
Peter May (The Blackhouse)*
Guillermo Orsi (Holy City)*
J.B. O’Sullivan (I Die Possessed)*
Anthony Quinn (Disappeared)*
Sax Rohmer (The Mystery of Fu-Manchu)*
William Ryan (The Darkening Field)*
C.J. Sansom (Dominion)*
John Sayles (Moment in the Sun)
Alex Scarrow (The Candle Man)*
Lynn Shepherd (The Solitary House)*
Marco Vichi (Death in August)*
Martin Walker (The Devil’s Cave)*
John Williams (Stoner)
Ariel S. Winter (The Twenty-Year Death)*

My inventory of non-fiction books consumed during 2012 and penned by authors new to me is quite a bit shorter, but there are definitely some gems here:

Hugh Brewster (Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World)
Molly Caldwell Crosby (The Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and
Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace
)
Sally Denton (The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right)
Robert Graysmith (Black Fire: The True Story of the
Original Tom Sawyer--and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco
)
Philip Greene (To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway
Cocktail Companion
)
Tom Reiss (The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Read Count of Monte Cristo)
Scott Andrew Selby (The Axman Conspiracy: The Nazi Plan for a Fourth Reich and How the U.S. Army Defeated It)
Alec Wilkinson (The Ice Balloon)

So that’s my rundown, but what about yours? Which authors’ work did you initially sample in 2012? Please let us all know their bylines and book titles in the Comments section of this post.

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