Recommended Reading List: May, 2023
I’m still behind on posting these, but I’m catching up, despite emergency vet visits and five dentist visits for me so far. (That’s so fun. Not.) I’m getting there, though.
May was a hectic month as well, with the end of school, the end of a cold, another workshop, and lots of visitors. I still managed to read for enjoyment quite a bit. Have to maintain our sanity somehow, right?
Even though I didn’t have anything to recommend from it, I need to note the demise of the paper edition of Mystery Scene. Yep, it finally went away. Apparently, they’re doing a web version, but for us paper readers, that’s not the same. I loved reading it and getting to see what was coming next. That’s not going to happen anymore, and I’m sad.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope to finish June’s Recommended Reading before the end of the month, but considering the weeks ahead, I can’t guarantee it. In the meantime, enjoy this.
Candaele, Kerry, “On The Road To Ali,” rjmagazine, Spring, 2023. Kerry Candaele took a journey a while back to “commune with the hero of my youth, the avatar of flow and grace and brutality, The Greatest himself, Muhammad Ali.” The essay is about the drive and the museum in Louisville where Candaele ended up. The essay is a beautifully written meditation on driving, Ali, personal journeys, and personal heroes. Worth reading.
Herron, Mick, Dead Lions, Soho Press, 2013. I am really falling in love—if that’s the appropriate phrase—with Mick Herron’s Slough House novels. They’re twisted and extremely well written and I’m learning a lot about technique as well. Because they shouldn’t work. This is the second book in the series. I’d seen it dramatized on the Apple TV show, but the ending is dramatically different (and better) in the book. These characters are growing on me and the sad world of the Slow Horses is as well. Dead Lions deals a lot with the legacies of the Cold War, which we’re living in now as well, maybe more so than we did ten years ago, when this book first appeared. I find lots in this book quite inspiring. Lots to think about for me here, lots to read for you.
Herron, Mick, “The Last Dead Letter,” Slow Horses, Soho Press, 2010. This is a bonus short story added as part of the deluxe 10th anniversary edition that I had purchased. I love this story. It’s as twisty as the Slough House novels. Because of that, I can’t say much, but do search it out. It’s amazingly good.
McDermid, Val, Still Life, Grove Press, 2020. The final book (so far) in the Karen Pirie series. Still Life is as twisty as I expected a McDermid book to be, although I was ahead of a lot of it. Didn’t matter. I still enjoyed it. The story’s filled with art and art theft, although that’s not immediately obvious. It’s also got a lot of great character interactions. Read the others first. I do hope she’s writing more.
Roberts, Nora, Identity, St. Martins Press, 2023. I really like the romantic suspense novels that Nora Roberts is writing for St. Martins. If you can call these books romantic suspense. They‘re more crime novels. The usual romance openings don’t work here. Our hero doesn’t show up for chapters and the relationship doesn’t start for pages. It’s more women’s fiction, maybe, by the old 1990s definition.
Anyway, she’s writing what she wants to write, and I’m enjoying the interplay between the characters and the ideas she presents. The suspense in the last several books has waned toward the end, as if she doesn’t really want to go for the logical big crime climax. The villain here more or less defeats himself, which might be how people behave, but it doesn’t make for great fiction. So why am I recommending this? Because everything else is good. The characters, the setting, the experience. I liked all of that a lot. If you like Nora Roberts, you’ll like this too.
Schulman, Michael, Oscar Wars, Harper, 2023. A lovely, dishy retrospective of the Oscars. How they started, what’s happening now. Schulman doesn’t really examine everything about the Oscars, just the stuff everyone fought over for whatever reason. Some of it is sad. For example, I had no idea how Mary Pickford ended up, nor what happened to Pickfair (which just makes me mad). Some of it is just plain fun. And some of it, I already knew, but not in depth. So if you like movies and you like the Academy Awards…or, scratch that. Even if you hate them, you’ll like this book.
Some interesting writerly tidbits: Howard Fast’s book Sparticus, the basis of the movie of the same name, was rejected by seven publishers, so Fast self-published it…in 1950. Made some money there.
Mary Orr wrote a story in three days called “The Wisdom of Eve.” The story sold for $800 (in 1944 money) to Cosmopolitan. Then it sold as a radio play, and was optioned (for $5000) for a movie. Y’know. All About Eve. Ah, those people who have something against writing fast. They’re proven wrong over and over again.
On the flip side, Oregonian Ken Kesey, who wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, ended up suing because he had a “verbal agreement” on some deal points in the movies. Of course he did. He was so dumb about business. Sigh. Anyway… Read the book. You’ll find all kinds of fun things.