Wednesday, May 16, 2018
My Summer Reading List
By Tim Smith
It’s time to compile that annual list of summer beach reads, the books you didn’t get around to reading when you were snowbound over the winter-without-end. The books you promised yourself you’d read, including the ones you received as Christmas or birthday gifts. Then there are the freebies from fellow writers, the ones you reluctantly agreed to read then post an online review.
The reading table next to my favorite chair has a continually revolving stack of books with bookmarks throughout. I have to be in a certain mood to read a book, mainly because of what I do all day. I’m the editor of a weekly newspaper, and I spend my days reading and editing the work of freelancers. I also have to write the occasional feature when someone bails on an assignment. This has caused me to not only ignore my own creative writing when I get home, but I usually don’t read anything longer than a newspaper or magazine article. This year, I’ve decided to get through some of the books that piqued my interest, while revisiting a few old favorites. Here goes, in no particular order.
“Dead Last” by James W. Hall. Hall is one of my favorite thriller writers, and I gravitated to him originally because we share a common theme in our writing. He lives in southern Florida and sets his stories in The Keys, like I do. His characters are well-drawn and his plots are suspenseful. No matter what his anti-hero, a former soldier of fortune named Thorn (no first name) gets into, it will grab my interest and hold it until the last paragraph.
“Dirty Money” by Donald E. Westlake, writing as Richard Stark. Westlake’s “hero,” a professional thief with a moral code named Parker (again, no first name) appeared in a dozen or so novels. Westlake/Stark had a way of depicting the action with a sparsity of words, and you actually find yourself rooting for the bad guy. In each installment, Parker is usually after someone from the gang who ripped him off after the robbery, and all he wants is his cut. His code of ethics is what sets him apart from other criminal characters, as in his assertion “You never kill someone unless they deserve it.” And in Westlake’s universe, someone always does.
“The Garner Files” by James Garner. I’ve enjoyed the late James Garner’s memoir since it was first published in 2011 and I still dig it out once in a while. Garner is one of my all-time favorite actors, and the backstage tales of his film and TV work, from “Maverick” to “The Great Escape” and “The Rockford Files” portray an average guy who never took himself or his work all that seriously. This is the only autobiography I’ve read where the main character gives all the credit to his co-stars. According to Garner, he never gave a good performance in his life and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I think his fans would disagree.
Selected books by Raymond Chandler. From “The Big Sleep” to “The Long Goodbye,” Chandler gave us an iconic private eye, Phillip Marlowe. Marlowe wasn’t your typical gumshoe. He was middle-aged, world-weary, cynical about the human race, and distrusting of just about everyone he met until he got to know them better over a drink. He had a code he lived by, but he wasn’t above breaking the rules to crack a case. Marlowe’s personal credo when dealing with the opposition? “My favorite weapon isn’t a gun or a knife. It’s a twenty-dollar bill. Sometimes you can get more with that than you can with a gun.”
“His Guilt,” by Shelley Shepard Gray. This one showed up at my office one day, sent by a publicist hoping for a review. The book is labeled as an Amish romantic thriller, which caught my interest since I’ve never read one of those before. I skimmed the first few pages and was intrigued enough to give the whole thing a try. I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve read it.
“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway. Only because it’s part of a set of first edition Hemingway’s I inherited, and I’ve never read it, but I think I should.
“Hurricane Punch” by Tim Dorsey. This is one of those favors I mentioned earlier. I met Dorsey during an author gathering in Key Largo a few years ago, he autographed his book for me, I signed one of mine for him, and we promised each other we’d read them. If he’s read my book, I have yet to hear about it. I know how to keep a promise, though, even if it is overdue.
Posted by Tim Smith at 12:01 AM