Monday, December 12, 2011

First Contacts

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)*
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.


pattinase (abbott) said...


Robert Carraher said...

Amanda Kyle Williams " The Stranger You Seek" and Tom McDonald, " The Charllestown Connection" both first time authors come to mind right off. And both are tops in any category for favorite books of the year.

Jerry House said...

Three authors come to mind immediately, all highly recommended:

Alan Bradley

J. A Konrath.

J. R. Rhoades.

Mike Ripley said...

Discoveries of 2011:

BEN PASTOR, who writes series set during WWII and in 4th century Rome, both of which are excellent.

STEVE HAMILTON - watch out for "Misery Bay" next month.

DOMINGO VILLAR - "Death on a Gallician Shore" introduced a new, laid-back police detective duo and gave luscious descriptions of Spanish life and food! Warm, humane and thankfully not Scandinavian.

FRANCIS BEEDING - "Death Walks in Eastrepps" from the so-called Golden Age, this 1931 classic recently reissued in the UK. An absolute belter. Like "The Mystery of A Hansom Cab" from 1886"Eastrepps" is a book often referred to in studies of the genre, but rarely read!

ROBERT EDMOND ALTER - "Swamp Sister" (1966). I was unaware of the sub-genre of 'Southern swamp Gothic' until recommended this by a US blogger. A great find.

Anonymous said...

My reading treasures this year came by way of discovering Zoe Ferraris's Finding Nouf and City of Veils. Her crime novels are set in Jeddah, where her police protagonist characters are portrayed with great originality and sensitivity in their grappling with the traditional and the modern cultural worlds. Terrific writing.

Barbara said...

I read Tom McDonald's The Charlestown Connection and loved it too. Will certainly watch for his future books.

Another new to me author was J. Sydney Jones with The Silence. I was so impressed with this one, particularly his depiction of 1900 Vienna and his characters.

And Paul Grossman with The Sleepwalkers, one of the best books I read all year.

I reviewed all three on my blog at

John said...

In choronological order: Kate Morton, Sheldon Russell, Carol Carr, L.C. Tyler, John Blackburn, China Mieville, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Michael West, A. C. Baanjter, Bill Moody, Poul Anderson, Ben Aaronovitch, Michael Ayoob, Seishi Yokomizo, and Dave Zeltserman.

And a slew of writers whose work remains out of print that I won't bother listing in its entirety (well over 25 writers!). But my favorite discoveries of that group were Jonathan Craig, Andrew York, Helen McCloy and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. Holding's books are available from that fine reprint publisher Stark House. Andrew York's first Jonas Wilde thriller is available from Top Notch Thrillers selected by Mike Ripley published by Ostara. And more are coming he tells me. McCloy and Craig you have to hit the used book stores or the internet - absolutely none of their books are in print. And that's a damn dirty shame.