Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fuel for the writer

by Dietrich Kalteis

If time were no problem, what books (by other people!) would you read again a) from your childhood, b) from your young adult life and c) from the last five years. Why?

I will always make time to reread a great book that I loved the first time around. And I vividly remember some of the books I read when I was a kid, recalling some of the strong images they evoked. Maybe I’ve outgrown the Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy Boy novels, but back when I was a kid I couldn’t wait for the next adventure from Frank and Joe. Although I was somewhat disappointed when I found out years later that Franklin W. Dixon wasn’t a person, but a pseudonym for a collective of ghostwriters who wrote the series over the years. 

And I loved reading westerns back then, authors like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. And I read my way through heaps of comics like Dell’s The Lone Ranger and Marvel’s Gunsmoke and Rawhide Kid. It was the silver age of the comic book, so like every other kid I always had my nose in the latest from DC Comics or Marvel. I had stacks of them, and we used to trade them when we were kids. I haven’t read a comic book in a long time, but I might reread some of the novels I loved back then, like The Call of the Wild, Howard Pyle’s tales of Robin Hood, or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Later, when I found myself in the halls of higher learning, I was influenced by what everyone else was reading — like Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  And I remember novels like Go ask Alice, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the novels by S.E. Hinton. Although my taste for westerns never faded, I got into those by Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, and of course, the early Elmore Leonard westerns like Hombre or Gunsights. And then there were the teacher’s assigned novels which led to some of my all-time favorite books: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, Animal Farm, 1984 and The Lord of the Flies. All of which I have reread at some point. 

After my schooldays, I discovered other great voices like Bukowski, Kerouac, Hunter S, Thompson, and I read everything by these authors that I could get my hands on. I also got into the crime novels of Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins and Charles Willeford, and thrillers by Ian Fleming and Ken Follett. And I’ve never tired of reading and rereading them. And despite how much I read, there are plenty of books by authors I loved that have slipped by me over the years, and I’m still catching up on some by Robert B. Parker, George V. Higgins and Donald E. Westlake. The trouble with going back and rereading any book is that there are so many new novels coming out all the time, it comes down to a question of having the time to do it. 

Nowadays, I’ve been reading a lot more Canadian crime by authors like William Deverell, Marc Strange, John McFetridge, Owen Laukkanen and Sam Wiebe. And there are many other Canadian writers that are on my to-read list that I’m looking forward to checking out.


So, if an author has a voice that resonates with me, I search out everything he or she ever wrote, and any novel that I consider great will get reread at some point. Reading inspires me to write, and what I choose to read influences my own writing, so reading and rereading can be kind of like fuel for a writer — this one anyway.

4 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Dieter, there's something to be said for re-reading things we like. Once we know the basic plot and characters we can get get more into the nuance of things. But, much as I enjoy doing that, I also feel guilty that there's so much new out there that maybe I should focus on that. It's a tough life...

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Yeah, we need more time to read all the good books out there.

RJ Harlick said...

I enjoyed the Hardy Boys too. Rumour had it that one of the writers lived right in our neighbourhood, which had all of us excited. Good post Dietrich. Many good reads here, though they do seem to be slanted towards one side of the gender divide.

Gram said...

I enjoyed the Hardy Boys too. I liked them better than Nancy Drew!