Thursday, April 16, 2020

Not My Bag by James W. Ziskin

From Jim

We all have favorite sub-genres in crime fiction, but do you venture beyond them in your personal (ie. not research) reading? If so, what do you read that’s not necessarily your usual cup of tea, and why?

I enjoy reading a variety of crime fiction sub-genres, from historical to procedural to humorous to legal to traditional. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life. I doubt I could ever settle on reading one type of book only. The same way I could never listen to the same song or artist for the rest of my days. In fact, I listen mostly to classical music, but I like international, big band, jazz, and classic rock as well. I don’t like country music, unless it’s what I think of as “authentic.” Depending on my mood, I’ll listen to and enjoy Dwight Yocum, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, all of whom I think are great. Oh, and the Dixie Chicks, too. Awesome. 

Also, I confess I’m not a fan of opera. The music is great, but operatic singing is an acquired taste. Now, if I didn’t make enemies with my thoughts on country music, I’ll surely make some here. Just last Sunday—Easter—the television was on CNN in the other room, and Andrea Bocelli was singing at the Duomo in Milan. I had to put in earphones to drown it out. I don’t mock others who enjoy opera. It’s just that I don’t. And still, there are some arias and overtures I find absolutely beautiful. Puccini, Verdi, Wagner, Mozart... But the voice is not my cup of tea. If you disagree with me about opera or country music, that’s fair. As I’m fond of saying, “That’s what makes a horse race.”

The same holds for my reading tastes. We all have our personal favorites and our dislikes. I really enjoy reading historicals, provided the author gets the sense of the time right. I can forgive the occasional anachronism; writers are human after all. But if the characters don’t feel right for the period, I’m drawn out of the story. Check out Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series, as well as James Benn’s Billy Boyle books. Both are superior series. I like police procedurals, too, provided the details are authentic and the bad guy isn’t a super genius. Do yourself a favor and read Frank Zafiro and Colin Conway’s Charlie-316 for a fantastic procedural. I find humorous mysteries To be a welcome change from grim, realistic, and true crime stories. Black humor and bawdy but clever humor especially appeal to me. Even farce. I often read traditional and cozy books, too. A legal thriller (for lack of a better word) I highly recommend is Robert Rotstein’s We, the Jury. And if you’re looking for something funny and smart to read, try Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series, Wendall Thomas’s Cyd Redondo, Jennifer Kincheloe’s Anna Blanc, or our own Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and Last Ditch series. I try to judge books by their merits, not their sub-genre.

Despite our comfort zones and personal preferences, some books manage to defy our usual standards and surprise us. A while ago I read a novel set in the world of extreme surfing. I don’t know the first thing about surfing and never thought I’d read a book about it. And yet, Going over the Falls by Amy Waeschle truly wowed me. I recommend it to anyone.

So, even though I have my preferences, I’ll give anything a try. Can’t promise to love it, but I’ll give it a try.


Frank Zafiro said...

Thanks for the kind mention, Jim.

Susan C Shea said...

I love opera but cannot stand Bocelli. He's no opera singer. Not crazy about country but love the Chicks. Don't get punk but can't resist the's a good thing that our tastes in music and literature range all over and resist being boxed in by genre names.

Kathy Reel said...

That's a great variety, Jim, and I read all different sorts of crime/mystery. I've read four of the books on your list and loved them, three are on my TBR list, and three are new to me. So, that makes it a good mix of a list for me to consider. Thanks.