Dave asked if I’d write a bit about my influences, some favorite mysteries. So I swiveled my chair, reached for the shelf. Books and writers I really like—they get to stay in the study. Others are vanquished to bookshelves elsewhere in this rambling old house.
So what did I come up with? It’s an eclectic mix:
So these are a few of the influences. Reading the work of writers like these, and spending more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, landed me in this chair. Today I continue with PORT CITY UNDERGROUND, the second Brandon Blake mystery. I’m pondering a character whose biggest flaw is a highly developed sense of right and wrong. Could that flaw be fatal?
- The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. First published in 1968 by the husband-wife team from Sweden. Their Martin Beck mysteries are solid police procedurals. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
- Just a Corpse at Twilight by Janwillem van de Wetering. The Zen master of mysteries, van de Wetering wrote mysteries set in Amsterdam. They have a dreamy quality to them that I find beguiling. A brilliant guy, van de Wetering lived all around the world before settling on the Maine coast. He died in 2008.
- Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. Enough said. I turn to these from time to time to witness wonderful writing. Every page has a sentence you feel you should remember. This one, picked because that’s where the book fell open. “He lay smeared on the ground, on his back, at the base of a bush, in that bag-of-clothes position that always means the same thing.” Nice.
- God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker. Chandler’s only true heir. I read the last Spenser, then reread some of this one, his second, published in 1974. I like the early books best. Parker was a gifted writer, known for his dialogue, but his descriptive stuff, which fell away over the years, was very good.
- Blitz by Ken Bruen. The UK’s master of dark and gritty crime novels set in South London and Galway. Inspector Brant, his amoral London detective, is a masterful creation.
- The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald. I’ve read everything MacDonald wrote and have a collection of his Travis McGee paperbacks with their quaintly lurid covers. A great storyteller, skilled at narrative, powerfully descriptive. “She was a tall and slender woman, possibly in her early thirties. Her skin had the extraordinary fineness of grain, and the translucence you seen in small children and fashion models. In her fine long hands, delicacy of wrists, floating texture of dark hair, and in the mobility of the long narrow sensitive structuring of her face there was the look of something almost too well made, too highly bred, too finely drawn for all the natural crudities of human existence.” Is that good or what?