Friday, July 12, 2019

More Books in Heaven and Earth

Do you read the kind of books that you write or do you tend to read books that are the opposite or different – and why?

by Paul D. Marks

These days I’m lucky to find the time to read anything. I don’t know where the time goes, but it goes. A lot of it is spent on writing and related tasks. Writing is a major time suck, but a good one. I also get asked to read a lot of books to blurb or for similar reasons, so that limits the amount of totally discretionary reading I have time for, though I’m trying to take a break from that so I have more time for pleasure reading, not that some of those books aren’t pleasurable. Plus, writing short stories I try to read as many of them as possible, too.

As to what I read, I read everything, though not as much of anything as I used to. Leisure time seems at a premium.

First, since the question asks in part “Do you read the kind of books that you write?” let’s start with what I write. I write various kinds of (mostly) crime fiction, from noir to traditional-hardboiled and even satire, with a crime-y bent. Nothing like having an audience laugh hard and hearty when you’re reading a story that you hope and pray is funny and find out others think it is, too. One of my best memories of this was reading a section of my story Continental Tilt to an audience and having them laugh uproariously. That was a good feeling.


I even write a series, the Ghosts of Bunker Hill stories, that has a paranormal element to it. So I’m all over the place. I’ve also written some mainstream, dare I say literary fiction, such as my story Terminal Island, published in Weber: The Contemporary West, and Endless Vacation, which garnered honorable mentions at both Glimmer Train and the Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition.

Before I get to directly responding to the question, let me turn it around and say that I write books and stories that I like and that I would want to read. So now that I’ve talked about what I write, let me talk about what I read.

I do read mostly in my genre these days, though not necessarily only the types of books that I write. But I like to read outside the genre too. I like to read mainstream fiction and non-fiction. I don’t like to mention names of people I know because inevitably someone is left out and feelings get hurt so let me mention some well-known faves in the genre: Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley, James Ellroy, Carol O’Connell, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, David Goodis and others.


On the other hand, I also read out of the genre. And, as I’ve also mentioned before my favorite book is far from a mystery-thriller type of book. It’s The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham, for a lot of reasons I won’t go into here. Other faves outside the genre include The Tartar Steppe (Dino Buzzati), Monte Walsh (Jack Schaefer), Journey to the End of the Night (Louis-Ferdinand Celine), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Milan Kundera), World’s Fair (E.L. Doctorow), Paint it Black (Janet Fitch), Bright Lights, Big City (Jay McInerney) and so many others, like Jonathan Franzen, Anne Tyler and John Irving.

I also like to read non-fiction. I recently read High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel. I’m fascinated by the blacklist, red scare and that whole era and this book hit that nail square on. I go through phases where I’ll read a lot about one particular subject. For example, a long time ago I read several books on the French and Russian revolutions and the Spanish Civil War. I’ve always loved history. My tastes run the gamut from reading about Los Angeles history and historical landmarks to Coney Island on the “other” coast. And I love reading rock history, especially the Beatles. Sometimes I’ll read about the history of the movie business—hell, I even made it into a book about the biz: MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot.


One of my current interests is in World War I, not so much the war itself but the aftermath and lasting effects and cultural changes that sprang from it.

And I would like to give John D. Macdonald a try again. I’ve read a couple of his books a long time ago and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t enthralled. But I’m up for another go.

So I read a wide variety of things. And even if I read a lot of different things from what I write, I think it influences my writing. My characters don't live in a one dimensional world of murder and crime, so I don't want to either. Like Shakespeare said there are more things in heaven and Earth.... Like pizza.

So, what about you—do you read the kind of books that you write or something else?

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

My story Past is Prologue is out in the new July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Available now at bookstores and newstands as well as online at: https://www.alfredhitchcockmysterymagazine.com/. Hope you'll check it out.




Also, check out Broken Windows, the sequel to my Shamus Award-winning novel, White Heat.



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

My reading is also all over the place. I return again and again to Rex Stout and Archie Goodwin. I love the Dortmunder novels, and who can pass on P.G. Wodehouse? Cow creamer, anyone? I read non-fiction, the subject matter depending on my mood and interests. Sometimes, I'll read several books on one subject. I do enjoy history. I like to read opinion pieces and about cooking. If I fall into a non-reading period, I dip into true crime. That usually pulls me out, and I'm off again.

I have always found it difficult to get into John D. Macdonald's series. I also tried him again recently. It was no go. However, I did enjoy his standalones.

Paula Messina

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I've got a similar list of crime and mystery authors that I like, and I read outside the genre as well. And I'll check out The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. Thanks for recommending it, Paul.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comments, Paula. Sounds like you and I do the same thing on history, delving into a subject. And your other choices are great, too. As for John D. Macdonald, I hope I can get into him, but if not there’s plenty of other good stuff out there.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Dieter. If you read The Razor’s Edge let me know how you like it. It just really struck me when I read it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Paul,

My preferred reading is mystery and thrillers, but I enjoy a certain amount of romance and women's fiction as well. I also read magazine and newspapers. I like variety.

Paul D. Marks said...

You know what they say, Jacqueline, variety is the spice of life :-) . And I totally forgot to mention magazines and newspapers, but also good choices.

Susan C Shea said...

I can't recall if I ever read The Razor's Edge although I seem to remember gobbling up several Maugham novels, perhaps in my teens. Would love to know why you pick it as a favorite. Maybe some day when I'm not totally backed up with yummy books to read, I'll check it out.

Cheri Vause said...

Your list is very close to mine, but I go in stages. Now, I'm reading some classics like E. M. Forster, but I'm nuts about Hammett, Chandler, and Michael Connelly (Bosch series). But I love Dick, Le Guin, Herbert, and Heinlein. I read a lot of nonfiction, too. That's everything from white papers from institutes or government agencies, science papers, and lots of books about fifties and sixties spycraft, psychology, history, you name it. I've even read about beekeeping, keeping chickens, and, of course, ducks (We presently have three feathered beauties). Because we're building a pond in our backyard, we've learned about bacteria, plants, the nutrients adhering to the gravel, and the particular size of rocks to use in a bog.

I see myself as a perennial student of life, questing into the unknown, and what do I write: Crime fiction and some of its subsidiaries, like psychological thrillers. I've written horror, and science fiction. And I have two literary pieces I've been working on, and have actually written some poetry (which was published within my thriller, The Truth and Nothing but Lies).

Lawrence Maddox said...

Great article, Paul! I’m like you. I read a little of everything. I always make my way back to the classics. I also make a point to read modern crime novels to see what I can steal, uhm, I mean be inspired by.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Susan. I like other Maugham novels, but I think when I read The Razor’s Edge the first time I was in a place where I related to the character of Larry Darrell, and his disillusion.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comments, Cheri. I like what you say about being a “perennial student of life.” I think that’s how I see myself, too. Just full of curiosity about all sorts of things. And, like you, I also go in stages. But I try to read both current and classic fiction, sort of alternating. Can’t say I’ve read white papers and such. But as long as you’re enjoying them. And that’s interesting about the pond. I never thought about that one has to consider the bacteria and other things. I guess it’s like a pool where you need certain levels of things. I’m sure all of that comes into play in your books and stories.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Larry. And you know what they say, “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” so you’re in good company. I would attribute that quote but I’ve seen it attributed to so many people I don’t know who actually said it.

Maggie King said...

I read all genres, whatever appeals to me at the moment. I too find the blacklist era fascinating. I have Razor's Edge on my bookshelf, patiently waiting for me to pick it up. Right now I'm reading innocent Strangers, a historical murder mystery by Millys Altman that's been on my Kindle for at least 5 years. I've rediscovered Mary Higgins Clark and love the way she keeps me turning the pages.

Paul D. Marks said...

I think we're kindred spirits, Maggie. I also have things on my Kindle, as well has paper books, that have been around for a long, long time. Eventually I do get around to reading many of them. And the blacklist era is interesting. I knew, a little, one of the Hollywood Ten, so it was interesting talking to him, too. I'm not familiar with Millys Altman. Hope you like the book though.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be interesting to look at how age or stages of life affect one's reading. Some books are better appreciated when the reader is young. And some books should wait until the reader has some experience under his belt. For example, I reread The House of the Seven Gables recently. I wished I hadn't.

Incidentally, if you're in Massachusetts, definitely take time to go to Salem and see the house. Salem is lovely.

Paula

Madeline Gornell said...

Excellent post, Paul, thoughtful and thought provoking. I read a lot of genre's because I'm in a book club and once a month I'm venturing outside of my reading-comfort-zone of mysteries. Love the book club for reading broadly. I must confess though, I do close some books before finishing. As you point out, time is a big constraint, and as P.D. James says (I quote her a lot!) "Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious."

Thanks for getting my mental juices back going this HOT afternoon...

Paul D. Marks said...

I agree with you, Paula, that reading a book, or the same book, at different stages of one’s life affect how one looks at it or responds to it. I know that things that meant a lot to me when I was younger no longer do, though there are some that do or even mean more today. Sorry that The House of the Seven Gables didn’t hold up for you. But I would love to go to Salem. It does seem like a very special place.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Madeline. I think the idea of a book club is a good one because it does get you reading things you might not want to. I know my mom used to belong to one and I’d get the books for her cause some were pretty obscure. But they covered a lot of ground. But it does get one out of their comfort zone, as you say. Though sometimes we’d prefer to stay there :-) . And, like you, these days I will close some books before finishing. I used to slog my way through to the bitter end, but there’s no time for that anymore. Great quote by PD James too.

www.vweisfeld.com said...

Because I write reviews for CrimeFictionLover.com, I read a LOT of new crime fiction. Otherwise I generally read prize-winning fiction, because life is short. And, since I write myself, I figure it can't hurt to subconsciously nurture the creation of effective prose! Authors I admire, Crime/Mystery/Thriller division: Alan Furst, Michael Connolly, and less well-known ones like Gin Phillips and Hannah Tinti. When I need a break from serial killers and woman-dismemberers, I have a hard time passing up books by Barbara Kingsolver or Michael Chabon, among many (too many!) others.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment Vicki. I’m sure reading for Crime Fiction Lover you get exposed to a lot of different types of new crime fiction. And I can understand your wanting to get away from the crime genre sometimes. I like what you say about subconsciously nurturing the creation of effective prose. That’s a good way to look at it.