Friday, November 28, 2014

You Never Forget Your First Time

At the end of every year, I go back through the list I keep of books I’ve read and try to figure out where I went wrong.

For instance, in 2014 I pored over fewer non-fiction books than I had in 2013--apparently using what extra time that allowed me to blitz through an extraordinary diversity of crime, mystery, and thriller novels (most of which first saw print this year, though I also have an appetite for older criminal yarns, so works by Thomas B. Dewey, Harold Q. Masur, Day Keene, and other mid-20th-century fictionists figured into my tally). I was a bit light, too, in my joyful consumption of general fiction, which I hadn’t even been aware of until now. What else I realize is that, while there were plenty of books I enjoyed over these last 11 months, there were few that I repeatedly pressed upon my small circle of friends.

Maybe I’m just becoming more jaded, now that I derive a larger proportion of my income per annum from devouring books and writing about them, and don’t have as much time as I once did to sit down and relax in the company of each one. However, I still get excited whenever I discover a new storyteller whose style or focus makes me relish the prospect of following his or her work in the future.

Ever since 2008--and at the behest originally of Brian Lindenmuth, now with Spinetingler Magazine--I have been posting year-end rundowns on this page of the authors whose work I had not read before the preceding twelvemonth. What’s most striking, I think, is that even after all this time, I still come across soooo many debut (or at least fresh-to-me) writers turning out soooo many books I want to sample. There’s almost no way to keep up. (Of course, if that’s the worst problem I have, or that you have, how can we complain?)

Below you’ll find my 2014 reading list of novels by authors who were new to me. Debut works are boldfaced. Asterisks denote crime, mystery, or thriller fiction.

Chris Abani (The Secret History of Las Vegas)*
• Cilla and Rolf Börjlind (Spring Tide)*
Diana Bretherick (City of Devils)*
Wiley Cash (This Dark Road to Mercy)*
Andrew Coburn (Spouses & Other Crimes)*
• Kim Cooper (The Kept Girl)*
Michael Craven (The Detective & the Pipe Girl)*
Alan Duff (Frederick’s Coat)*
• Bob Forward (The Owl)*
David Fuller (Sundance)
Samuel Fuller (Brainquake)*
Woody Guthrie (House of Earth)
Terry Hayes (I Am Pilgrim)*
• Antonia Hodgson (The Devil in the Marshalsea)*
Gary Inbinder (The Devil in Montmartre)*
Tom Kakonis (Treasure Coast)*
Joseph Koenig (Really the Blues)*
• Jack Lynch (The Dead Never Forget)*
Donna Malane (My Brother’s Keeper)*
Phillip Margulies (Belle Cora)
Robert McGinnis and Art Scott (The Art of Robert E. McGinnis)
Liam McIlvanney (Where the Dead Men Go)*
James Naughtie (The Madness of July)*
Ben Pastor (A Dark Song of Blood)*
Paddy Richardson (Cross Fingers)*
Ben Sanders (Only the Dead)*
Harry Shannon and Steven W. Booth (All the Devils)*
Peter Swanson (The Girl with a Clock for a Heart)*
Blair Traynor (Widow’s Pique)*
Bob Van Laerhoven (Baudelaire’s Revenge)*
Urban Waite (Sometimes the Wolf)*
Andrew Williams (The Suicide Club)*

And here’s my somewhat briefer inventory of non-fiction books I enjoyed over the last year, all of them penned by people whose work I had not previously encountered.

John Baxter (Paris at the End of the World: The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918)
Dennis Drabble (The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took on the Notorious Central Pacific Railroad)
David Fromkin (The King and the Cowboy)
Philippe Garnier (Goodis: A Life in Black and White)
• Paul Green (Roy Huggins: Creator of Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files)
Doug Most (The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway)
Tom Reiss (The Black Count)
• Margaret Talbot (The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century)
Lucy Worsley (The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock)

So that’s my record for the year. What about yours? Which authors’ work did you try for the first time in 2014? Please let us all know in the Comments section of this post. Or, if you’d prefer to post your first-reads record in your own blog, simply provide the URL among the comments here, so the rest of us can study your list as well.

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