Wednesday, July 19, 2017

All over the Map

by Dietrich Kalteis

You probably have favorite sub-genres in crime fiction, but do you venture beyond them in your personal reading, like, for example, from urban noir to village cozy?

The first thing that draws me into any book is the writer’s voice. And I could read just about anything in any genre if it was written by one of the greats like Bukowski, Burroughs, Hemingway, Kesey, Orwell, Salinger, Steinbeck, Thompson, Twain and more. I’m not even sure how many times I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird.

Oscar Wilde said, “You are what you read.” If a book doesn’t light me up, I set it aside within a few chapters. Reading somewhere between forty to sixty books a year, I know I can’t read them all, so I want to make every one memorable.

I lean toward reading crime fiction — make mine gritty with some levity on the side. And it’s amazing how many sub-genres there are about as many as Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors — everything from the locked-room mystery, whodunit, cozy, spoof, caper, historical, hardboiled, police procedural, forensic, legal thriller, psychological thriller and spy story. Then there are regional divisions: Nordic noir, Emerald noir, tartan noir, Euro noir, Mediterranean noir, and so on.

At times I like to let my mind travel and go for a book in a foreign setting, someplace I’ve never been, or in a time gone by. Other times I like to read something set closer to home, so I go for something written by a Canadian author, and there are a lot of really good ones out there, some right on this blog.

Whatever the sub-genre and no matter where the story is set, some voices just resonate for me: Elmore Leonard, Don Winslow, George V Higgins, Robert Crais, Carl Hiaasen, James Crumley, Charles Willeford, George Pelecanos, James Lee Burke, James Ellroy are among my favorites. And while I do have favorites, it’s always a pleasure to discover a talented author I’ve never read before. 

The mood I’m in at any particular time also weighs on what I choose to read. When I feel like a quick read, I might go for something by Robert B. Parker or Richard Stark. And when I feel like something deeper I might pull a James Lee Burke or Cormac McCarthy off the shelf. And when I don’t mind scaring the hell out of myself, I read Stephen King who may be the king of horror, but he’s also written some terrific crime novels like Misery, Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch, and Joyland.

Sometimes picking up a book and reading a few chapters is the best way to get to sleep, although if it’s a really good book, it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll just stay up a while longer and keep on reading.

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