By Brenda Buchanan
Fall is now rushing into view. When I gaze at my shelf of just-read and to-be-read books I wish there were more hours in the day.
My writing schedule keeps me in front of the keyboard until 9:30 or so on weeknights and many hours on weekend days. Honoring my writing routine is essential to staying in the flow, but reading others’ work is how I wind down before bed. While some of my MCW colleagues prefer to read anything but crime fiction when they’re immersed in a book of their own, I like to nourish myself with the familiar.
That said, I kicked off the summer with a novel that you won’t find shelved with mystery or crime fiction, Lisa Carey’s wonderful The Stolen Child. Set in 1959 on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, it’s a superb tale of women with mystical power living in a close community.
Lisa Carey lives in Maine and in a couple of weeks will be teaching a Maine Writers & Publisher’s Alliance class on the Anatomy of a Novel. I’ve not only signed up but plan to sit in the front row.
In October I’m going to Bouchercon in Toronto—the big Mama of mystery conventions. I’m thrilled to have been chosen to moderate a panel discussion called The Reporters: Enemies of the People or Champions of the Oppressed?
Five terrific crime writers who’ve done time in the journalistic trenches will discuss their fictional reporters and how their own real life experience informs their fiction.
In preparation for the panel I’m reading the panelists’ work. I inhaled Julia Dahl’s stunning Conviction, about a freelance reporter exposing the wrongful conviction of a man imprisoned for murdering his foster family when he was just a boy.
I’m in the middle of Gwen Florio’s Disgraced about a female soldier who returns from Afghanistan with secrets and emotional wounds.
Next up will be Finnish writer Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine, about a reporter’s efforts to expose the environmental devastation of a mining operation in a small town in Northern Finland. Then Christina Kovac’s The Cutaway about a television news producer investigating the disappearance of a Washington D.C. lawyer, and Rich Zahradnik’s Lights Out Summer, featuring a journalist working during the 1977 blackout in New York City.
I had the pleasure of reading MCW colleague Richard J. Cass’s second Elder Darrow book, In Solo Time, actually a prequel to his Maine Literary Award nominated Solo Act. I’m crazy about Dick’s protagonist, a recovering alcoholic who finds salvation owning a bar, and I love the Boston jazz scene he evokes with his smooth prose. If you haven’t discovered Elder Darrow yet, it’s high time.
I suspect many readers of this blog are well-familiar with MCW alum Paul Doiron’s Mike Bowditch series. Knife Creek is the eighth book and boy-oh-boy does it deliver. Paul’s creepy characters burrow deep, and his handling of the deepening relationship between Mike Bowditch and Stacey Stevens is deft. If you love Maine, especially its outdoors, you’ll love this book.
I’m also doing some reading in preparation for New England Crime Bake in November. This year’s Guest of Honor is Lisa Gardner, who’s called the Queen of Suspense for a reason. I recently finished the latest in her Pierce Quincy/Rainie Conner series, Right Behind You. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.
My current read is Stuart Neville’s mesmerizing Those We Left Behind, which kept me up late over Labor Day weekend. The Belfast (Ireland)-based crime writer builds characters like nobody else. Neville’s prose is powerful, the plot is riveting.
So what’s lined up for fall?
First, two visits with old friends imagined to life by MCW colleagues.
I’m a longtime fan of Thea Kozak, Kate Flora’s fascinating protagonist in a series I was afraid had ended. But now Death Warmed Over, Thea #8, is winking from the top of my TBR pile. I can’t wait.
Bruce Coffin’s follow up to his first John Byron novel, Beneath The Depths, is also beckoning. It’s such a pleasure to read a police procedural by someone who really knows the life of a detective. Bruce has that world nailed, and I look forward to exploring it with him again.
I plan to read Louise Penny’s newest Three Pines mystery—Glass Houses—before I head to Bouchercon, where she’ll be the Canadian Guest of Honour.
I downloaded Lisa Alber’s Path Into Darkness this week. Family complexity dropped into a crime novel that unfolds in Ireland, where I spent a bit of time last spring. How can I resist? I’m also keen to read my pal Amy Reade’s newest, Highland Peril. Set on a loch in Scotland, I look forward to diving in.
Speaking of Scotland, I also plan to reward myself soon (for what? I’ll think of something) with Ann Cleeves’ Cold Earth, the seventh book in her Shetland series, which has me dreaming of a trip that remote archipelago.
What books did you enjoy this summer? What’s on top of your TBR pile? For the writers among you, does reading books in your genre feed your muse or overwhelm your creativity?
Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available through the Carina Press website, http:// carinapress.com and everywhere else e-books are sold.