Sunday, January 06, 2019

Enlarging My Reading Circle

While this hardly seems possible, it has now been a full decade since I began keeping a record of the authors whose work I read for the first time each year. In the past, the number of such “discoveries” has varied with each 12-month period, from a high of 47 in 2015, down to a low of 30 in 2009. But never has it been as meager as my count for 2018: just 29 works by new wordsmiths to add to my lifetime inventory.

The cause of this decline is easy to pinpoint, and nothing to trigger alarm bells. For business reasons as well as by capricious personal preference, I tackled an abnormally large number of books this year by authors I’d previously enjoyed. One example: In order to compose a (forthcoming) column for Down & Out: The Magazine, I pored through all nine of the novels in Erle Stanley Gardner’s frequently overlooked series starring Douglas Selby, the scrappy district attorney for fictional Madison County, California, who was introduced in 1937’s The D.A. Calls It Murder. On behalf of CrimeReads, I re-read a variety of books featuring Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe, but written by authors other than his creator, Raymond Chandler. And again for Down & Out, I relished Stanley Ellin’s four gumshoe narratives, from 1958’s The Eighth Circle (which I’d savored before) and The Bind (a sometimes grim but remarkable yarn from 1970) to his two cases for John Anthony Milano: Star Light, Star Bright (1979) and The Dark Fantastic (1983).

In addition, this year found me wading back into the familiar oeuvres of John O’Hara (Butterfield 8), Frank Tallis (Mephisto Waltz), Walter Mosley (Down the River Unto the Sea), Laura Lippman (Sunburn), Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Killing Town), Tana French (The Witch Elm), Charles Frazier (Varina), Sujata Massey (The Widows of a Malabar Hill), Peter May (I’ll Keep You Safe), Jim Kelly (The Great Darkness), and … well, this list could go on and on; I read more than 75 books this year, and hope to up that tally over the next twelvemonth, as I shall have cause to critique a greater-than-normal quantity of shorter, vintage crime-fiction paperbacks in 2019.

So which authors were new to me in 2018? Let’s begin with the novelists, listed below. Debut works are boldfaced. Asterisks denote works of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

• Suzanne Arruda (Mark of the Lion)*
• Alex Beer (The Second Rider)*
Edna Buchanan (Contents Under Pressure)*
Rory Clements (Corpus)*
• Ralph Dennis (Atlanta Deathwatch)*
• Dominick Donald (Breathe)*
• Christopher Huang
(A Gentleman’s Murder)*

Marie Belloc Lowndes (The Lodger)*
Mike Lupica
(Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud)*
David Mamet (Chicago)
Richard Matheson
(The Best of Richard Matheson)
William P. McGivern (Night Extra)*
• Dervla McTiernan (The Ruin)*
William F. Nolan (The Marble Orchard)*
Lawrence Osbourne (Only to Sleep)*
Josh Pachter and Dale C. Andrews (The Misadventures of
Ellery Queen
• Thomas Polsky (Curtains for the Editor)*
• Elizabeth Speller (The Return of Captain John Emmett)*
• Scott Von Doviak (Charlesgate Confidential)*
James W. Ziskin (A Stone’s Throw)*

If I were reading purely for pleasure and enlightenment every year, I would find myself absorbed in a greater array of non-fiction books—especially history—than I do at present. However, my 2018 record of fact-based volumes by writers with whom I was previously unacquainted at least exceeds 2017’s count of five.

• Kate Winkler Dawson (Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City)
Margalit Fox (Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer)
Walter Isaacson (Leonardo da Vinci)
Noah Isenberg (We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Movie)
Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James (The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery)
Jon Meacham (The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels)
• William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce (Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America's Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective who Brought Them to Justice)
• A. Brad Schwartz (Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News)
Pete Souza (Obama: An Intimate Portrait)

Those, then, are my author discoveries for last year. How about you? Which writers did you have the privilege of sampling for the first time in 2018? I hope you’ll let everyone know by dropping a note into the Comments section at the end of this post.

1 comment:

Lee Goldberg said...

I hope you enjoyed ATLANTA DEATHWATCH.