I mentioned on Facebook how for Christmas I received a much needed new bath robe together with a couple of mystery novels, which were a timely item as I was nearly finished with the last from my bedside stack. Several friends expressed an interest in what authors I liked.
An interesting assignment on this day after Christmas. Perhaps a small gift for someone.
I was raised in a household awash in genre fiction. My father loved science fiction, my mother mysteries. As a kid I devoured science fiction, starting with Edgar Rice Burroughs and then Andre Norton. Living in a chaotic household where we moved so often I never attended a single school for two years running, my formal education was patchy. The current that ran strong and truly gave me some critical perspectives came from all those science fiction novels. Some of the authors from those years were, just randomly ticking off names included Issac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Harry Harrison, James Blish, Theodore Sturgeon, and, of course Robert Heinlein. Later I read Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny, Alfred Bester and Philip K Dick. Ursula Le Guin was probably the last of the science fiction authors I sought out.
I remain ever grateful for these and other authors of speculative fiction.
But as I aged my tastes began to change. And somewhere along the line I stopped reading science fiction, pretty much entirely.
Instead, for that relaxing reading, I took up mysteries. I notice I enjoy the idea of a mystery with a solution that I can hypothetically figure out myself, although I rarely try. I don’t like too much violence. A little sex is fine. But, this is for relaxation – so the thriller isn’t to my taste.
That acknowledged, here is an almost random selection of those authors I really, really like.
Probably the first mystery author that I found myself reading everything from was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series.
The next were Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. Nero Wolfe got me through seminary.
I’ve enjoyed various pastiches on these authors in the years following. In fact one of the books I was given for Christmas was another of Robert Goldsborough’s continuation of the Nero Wolfe series.
In fact probably my all time favorite mystery author is the writer of a pastiche series, a continuation of the Sherlock Holmes books. I wait breathlessly for the latest Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes from the pen of Laurie R. King. There are several reasons for my enthusiasm. Among them is the simple fact King is a good writer. But, also, she’s theologically trained, and which leads to theological issues occasionally popping up, which just sweetens the pot for me.
Returning to the classics. I fairly quickly found the California masters of the hard boiled detective novel, Raymond Chandler and the immortal Dashiell Hammett. If you haven’t read ’em, I think you will not regret finding a couple of their books.
Another classical mystery author I really liked is Dorothy L Sayers.
There are a number of one off mysteries that I count among my favorites. One of my all time favorites among these would be Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, which I guess also counts sort of as at least Sherlock Holmes inspired. Another of these one offs I find I remember is Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time.
For series authors, I have to admit while I love the film adaptations of her work, I’ve never enjoyed Agatha Christie, and I don’t think I’ve finished a single of her books. Among those I really have liked are Sue Grafton, Philip Kerr, Tony Hillerman, Walter Moseley, although he often is too violent for my tastes, and Steven Saylor, who interestingly I have almost all of his Roma Sub Rosa series in first editions.
Others, in no particular order, whom I adore, include Gyles Brandreth, John Dunning, Bruce Alexander, Donna Leon, Owen Parry, Jason Goodwin, and Iain Pears, (who is also a first rate literary writer, or, so says, my spouse).
I think there are some real treasures in this pile.
I hope you find one you like.