Mystery and fantasy writing

Posts tagged ‘Favorite Authors’

The Series Appeal

I have always liked a strong woman character who comes to the rescue. I can trace this back to when I first saw “The Avengers.” Those of you of a certain age will remember the clever British spy adventure about “top professional” John Steed and his partner, “talented amateur,” Mrs. Emma Peel. Every week, Steed will announce, “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed,” and off they would go to tackle eccentric inventors, robots, and crazed villains of all kinds. Steed wore a proper Englishman’s suit and bowler hat and carried an umbrella that doubled as a weapon, and Mrs. Peel, played by the very attractive Diana Rigg, wore tight cat suits and could karate chop the hell out of anyone who messed with her. But that wasn’t all. In an amazing and exciting way—to me, anyway—she was always rescuing Steed. Up until then, there hadn’t been a TV show that featured a tough yet beautiful woman who could protect herself and her male partner. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Which brings me to the Foreigner series by C.K. Cherryh. Bren Cameron is the only human allowed on the atevi part of the world and the only one fluent enough in the atevi language to translate for the leader. In the ever-shifting political atevi society, high ranking officials have bodyguards, and Bren has two, a father daughter team, Banichi and Jago. Throughout all the adventures, take-overs, trips to space, alien contact, and the pranks and schemes of the leader’s mischievous young son, Jago is there to protect Bren in her extremely efficient fashion. They also have a clandestine love affair.
I liked this series so much, I couldn’t wait to read Cherryh’s other books, of which there are many, including one of her most famous, Downbelow Station. But I found to my surprise that I couldn’t get into them. Now, this is certainly not the fault of Cherryh, who is a fantastic writer with an unbelievable output. I think because I like the Foreigner series so much, I want to read more about those characters, and that’s that.
Through no planning on my part, I’ve ended up with two different series, the Madeline Maclin Mystery series, which is written from a female point of view, and the Grace Street Mysteries, which is written from a male point of view. Some readers will like one better than the other, and that’s okay. One set of characters will resonate with one person, but not another. You can’t please everyone. I’m happy when a reader likes anything I’ve written. If you do, thank you! If you don’t, may I recommend the Foreigner series by C.K. Cherryh?

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Ffabulous Fforde

Ffabulous Fforde

Jasper Fforde is another author whose books I can read over and over, but they are hard to describe. Fforde has said himself he isn’t really sure how to describe his work, and that was a stumbling block to publishing, where every book has to fit in some neat little genre. Fforde’s books are delightfully inventive mixtures of mystery, fantasy, time travel, and wonderful word play. As an English major, I love finding all the literary references.
Fforde’s first published books feature investigator Thursday Next, who discovers she has the ability to read herself into books and jump from one book to another. In her first adventure, The Eyre Affair, Thursday has to rescue Jane Eyre, who has been kidnapped from her book. Thursday finds herself in the Book World, where all the fictional characters are real, and is paired with Miss Haversham of Great Expectations to solve the crime. This isn’t the typical crazed left at the altar Miss Haversham, however, but a feisty senor with a love for fast cars. There are six books in this series following Thursday’s investigations in and out of Book World.
My favorite series is the Nursery Crime Division, featuring investigators Jack Spratt and Mary Mary. Their first case involves the murder of Humpty Dumpty and is titled The Big Over Easy. If you know your nursery rhymes and your noir, you get this reference. There are aliens in this book, too, and an extremely evil Gingerbread Man.
The second nursery crime book is titled The Fourth Bear, and Fforde has another in the works about the tortoise and the hare titled The Great Race.
Fforde’s Shades of Grey is set in a future world where your social standing depends on what color you can see. Eddie Russett, who can see red, is about in the middle of this color-dependent society, and trying to move up. But when he meets Jane Grey, who is on the bottom, she shows him how the strict color codes keeping his world at peace also keep people from learning the truth about What Happened Before. Fforde has two more books planned in this series. I want to tell him to hurry up!
I had the opportunity to hear Fforde speak at a bookstore in Raleigh. A former actor, he is just as entertaining a speaker as he is a writer. Check out his website, too, which is full of photos, games, and contests: http://www.jasperfforde.com.

From the Discworld and Beyond

This is the first in a series of posts on What I Am Reading. In my case, it’s What I Am Re-Reading, because I can read the Discworld books over and over and never get tired of them.
I like authors who can mix humor and drama, and nobody does this better, in my opinion, than Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is a world famous author of fantasy novels, but to call them fantasy is to do the books a disservice, for they are clever, funny, sad, touching, satirical, insert your own emotion here stories. Most are set on Pratchett’s Discworld, a wonderful alternate universe where he can riff on rock music, the post office, the printing press, equal rights for women and golems, Jane Austin, the phantom of the opera, soccer fans, and more.
I came to the Discworld by way of The Truth, a novel about a young man who inadvertently becomes the first editor of the very first newspaper in the capital city of Ankh-Morpork, a sprawling city filled with humans, dwarves, trolls, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and every other fantasy creature, all trying to get along. The humor and suspense drew me in, and I was hooked. There are over thirty Discworld novels, but you can hop in anywhere. A couple of my favorites are Masquerade, a satire on opera with the requisite phantom, and Going Postal, in which a reformed rogue has to get Ankh-Morpork’s defunct and abandoned post office up and running again, despite a villain’s schemes to destroy it. Going Postal is also a dead on satire about the Internet.
Pratchett also has a series about a young witch named Tiffany Aching and her adventures with the wee free men, a clan of blue-skinned pixies whose idea of a good time is to fight men and/or animals much larger than themselves, but who are fiercely loyal to Tiffany, their “wee big hag.” His most recent book is Dodger, a re-imagining of Oliver Twist, with Dickens himself as a main character.
When I write, my goal is to have the characters you care about, the sparkling dialog, and the amusing as well as suspenseful plots that I find in Pratchett’s books, but from my own imagination. His work is definitely an inspiration and just fun to read.
Thankfully, Sir Terry, who was knighted in 2009, is still writing, so there will be more Discworld novels to come.