Posts Tagged ‘reading’

“One Book” Kind of Woman

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

jennifer lawrence readingI’m a “one book” kind of woman. I know that multi-tasking has received very good press over the last several decades, but it’s not my preferred way to approach life and I simply cannot do it when it comes to reading. Yes, yes, I know lots of readers who love the challenge of moving with ease from novel to treatise and from short stories to histories. But this reader will take complete absorption over impatience-driven diversity any day of the week.

martha grimes strathmore mansion 2012For example, the charming and very approachable mysteries written by Martha Grimes. I’ve just begun Vertigo 42 and I know with delicious certainty that Richard Jury will exhibit all the quirks that set him apart—and keep him apart—from most of London’s finest. What’s more, the favorite haunts of his crowd of human malapropisms will be their usual pubs of choice where they will order predictable cocktails, which I have noticed they imbibe earlier and earlier with each book.

The mysteries are, themselves, approachable. They are less complex than those I write, but the settings, characters and language used by Ms. Grimes more than compensate for the slower and less demanding unraveling of the story.

P D James meets her readersP. D. James is also a British novelist whose tastes run to mysteries and decidedly more sinister and complicated ones, at that. Her willingness to extend herself in order to portray characters as close to three dimensions as is possible on the printed page rewards her readers with such richness that I have to applaud her generosity. She is a role model for me. And, speaking of “roles,” a friend of mine wrote her doctoral dissertation on “The Role of the Reader.” It is so important to remember that, like a good marriage or friendship, a book is a partnership.

I’m flattered by the wonderful reviews my newest book, Blame, has received, but I’m also open to learning how I can improve on this partnership that you and I enjoy.

Writers I Know and Love

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

When I was serving as a judge, I was regularly asked for my opinion of candidates seeking election or re-election to the Common Pleas Bench. It would have been impolitic, un-collegial and foolhardy to publicly broadcast my views and preferences. Now that I am an author, I am regularly quizzed about books and writers that I admire or would recommend. Happily, I have no hesitation about responding in both general and specific terms to these questions.

1scottturowIn my genre, legal thrillers, there is no contest.  In nine novels over twenty-six years, from Presumed Innocent (1987) to Identical (2013), Scott Turow has set the bar high for pace, characters, realistic legal conundrums and great plot twists. I admire his writing for its mix of literary and street language and metaphors.

There are too many writers of literature to single out anyone, but Elizabeth Strout is a sure member of my highly recommended list. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, Olive Kitteridge, might at first seem like little more than a quilt of short stories set in a small New England town, held together by nothing more than the unpleasant woman who figured in all of them. It’s so much more.elizabeth-strout-1 Read that book and move quickly to grab a copy of The Burgess Boys, her latest novel. It may be equally obvious in its construction but the power of its confounding subtexts can only be appreciated through the mind’s rear view mirror. I adored it the first and second time.

Speaking of multiple readings, I highly recommend re-reading literature you have enjoyed the first time out. You may be amazed at how much you’ve missed in your haste to turn the page.

grimesIf you’re looking for a great romp through English pubs and parks with an Inspector from Scotland Yard and his delightful coterie of amateur sleuths, then you must seek out the marvelous books by Martha Grimes. In particular, the Richard Jury series will keep you amused and intrigued, especially if you’ve been to London or the Cotswolds. Best to start with the first one, The Man with a Load of Mischief (1981). With just a touch of Downton Abbey, Grimes will delight those of you who think beans and toast actually sound appealing.

ian mcewanFinally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ian McEwan’s latest book, The Children Act. This tale of a British High Court judge puts the conscience of those who resist the most obvious stresses and strains in human relations on display with a notable lack of clarity, much like its companion in literary restraint, On Chesil Beach. What? Why would I like an author who celebrates obscure meanings and purposely clouds his characters’ purposes and motivations? Precisely because he makes me sweat for my reward—a prize that is well worth the effort. Thank goodness he writes very short novels!

Let me know if you’d like to hear more about writers I know and love.