Monday, December 16, 2013

Getting to Know You

For a long while now, I have maintained annual records of the books I read. But it’s only been since 2008, and an indirect invitation from blogger Brian Lindenmuth, that I’ve kept track of the authors I read each year whose work is new to me. Some years have brought me many of these “first encounters.” Others, like 2013, leave me with far fewer such personal “discoveries.”

I didn’t consume or enjoy any fewer books than is normal for me over the last 12 months. However, an unusually large percentage of them came from writers whose prose I had previously sampled, everyone from Martin Cruz Smith (Tatiana) and William Boyd (Solo) to Daniel Woodrell (The Maid’s Version), Kevin Baker (The Big Crowd), Theresa Schwegel (The Good Boy), Anthony Quinn (Border Angels), Ed Gorman (Flashpoint), Doris Kearns Goodwin (The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism), Max Allan Collins (Ask Not and Complex 90), and Robert Wilson (Capital Punishment). This was certainly not by design; that’s just the way things worked out. I’m not usually somebody who makes New Year’s resolutions, but one of mine should probably be to acquaint myself with more new wordsmiths in 2014.

Below I have inventoried the novelists whose work--mostly new, but with some older titles in the mix--I first checked out in 2013. Debut efforts are boldfaced. Asterisks identify crime or thriller fiction.

Siân Busby (A Commonplace Killing)*
Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries)
Paul Cleave (The Laughterhouse)*
Spencer Dean (Murder After a Fashion)*
• Gregory Gibson (The Old Turk’s Load)*
David Gordon (Mystery Girl)*
Allen Haden (My Enemy, My Wife)
Richard Helms (The Mojito Coast)*
• Anne Hillerman (Spider Woman’s Daughter)*
• Ewart Hutton (Good People)*
Henry Kane (Peter Gunn)*
Pierre Lemaitre (Alex)*
• Derek B. Miller (Norwegian by Night)*
Julian Novitz (Little Sister)*
Thomas Perry (The Boyfriend)*
Marisha Pessl (Night Film)
Robert Ryan (Dead Man’s Land)*
• John Sandrolini (One for Our Baby)*
Theresa Schwegel (The Good Boy)*
Vanda Symon (The Faceless)*
Paul Thomas (Death on Demand)*
Sam Toperoff (Lillian and Dash)*

My list of non-fiction books read during 2013 and produced by authors new to me isn’t quite as long, but most of these works brought me great delight in addition to information:

Edward Ball (The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures)
Molly Caldwell Crosby (The Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace)
Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. (Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune)
Judith Flanders (The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime)
Paul French (Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China)
Andrew C. Isenberg (Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life)
Greg King and Sue Woolmans (The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World)
Ann Kirschner (Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp)
Sam Roberts (Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America)
John Taliaferro (All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt)

OK, so there’s my count. Now, what about your own? Which authors’ work did you initially sample in 2013? Please let us all know in the Comments section of this post.


Kelly Robinson said...

I love reading other bloggers' best-of lists of the year. They're almost always far better than the big media lists.

Norman Conquest said...

John Banville (as Bejamin Black) was new to me...I just finished devouring an advance copy of THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE and loved it...will now try and find his other novels.

Ditto for Jim Nisbet & SNITCH WORLD.

Talk about being late to the hard-boiled punch bowl!

Kent Morgan said...

I tried 13 new fiction writers this year. The best was Paul Doiron and I read the first three books in his mystery series set in Maine. The others were Ron Rash, Craig Davidson, Richard Castle, Chris Earle, Marc Strange, Joseph Collum, Don Keith, Marc Combes, Charlie Memminger, Scott Mackay, Jim Patton and Francois Barcelo. As for non-fiction I tried around 20 new writers, primarily in the area of sports, so the content was more important than the author.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Please correct Flanders: Her first name is Judith. Several people told me, in re to my review of _The Invention of Murder_ for the _Washington Ind Rev of Books_, that they also enjoyed her previous book, _Inside the Victorian Home_.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Whoops! Thank you, Elizabeth, for pointing out that typo. It has now been fixed.