Posts Tagged ‘Bouchercon’

Reading Habits

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

This week is a “meme” (I’m still not sure I understand what the hell that is) that I’m did in advance of Bouchercon in Indianapolis.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Never eat while I read. Always drink Coke – these days, Coke Zero (it’s a man’s drink – it’s in a black bottle or can!)

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

With research books, I sometimes uses marking pens on them, college-student style, but usually replace the book with another copy when I’m done. Books I’m using for research tend to get pretty battered.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?

I never fold down the corners of pages (how could Rex Stout allow Nero Wolfe to do that?) though I will occasionally lay them face-down open, to mark a place. But not for an extended period of time, or in a spine-breaking way.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?

Mostly non-fiction, about half and half research and pleasure. I get no joy from reading the competition, plus it’s a busman’s holiday, so with a very few exceptions (Ed McBain was one), I haven’t read mysteries (other than to do so for awards committees or market research) since the early ‘70s. Barb reads primarily theater and show business biographies. Nate is a science-fiction and fantasy guy, but not exclusively — he’ll read anything that snags his interest, mainstream, non-fiction, etc.

When I do read mystery/crime fiction, it tends to be classic material. Some years ago I decided to read all the Perry Mason novels. I have re-read Hammett, Chandler, Cain, and Spillane countless times. Similarly the novels The Bad Seed by William March and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by Horace McCoy.

Hard copy or audiobooks?

Barb and I travel quite a bit — car trips to Des Moines (for many years I was on the board of the Iowa Motion Picture Association, and there was a monthly meeting) and Chicago (for pleasure and research). And we have done many midwestern book tours, travelling by car. Lately we’ve visited Nate in St. Louis. There are three to six hour trips, one-way.

So audio books are important to us. We have listened to pretty much all of Agatha Christie that way (great writer) and are on our second and sometimes third pass on Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels and novellas. Stout has been a fairly recent enthusiasm for me, and I now rank him with Hammett, Chandler and Spillane. For sheer enjoyment, spending time with Archie and Wolfe is tough to beat. See my novels A Killing in Comics and Strip for Murder to see just how much I like Stout.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

End of chapters or until I get too sleepy to comprehend what I’m reading.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Usually I figure out the meaning from context and try to remember to check on it later.

Are you the type of person who only reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one at a time?

One book at a time.

This is partly why I don’t read crime and mystery fiction much (other than not wanting to encourage the competition): I am almost always writing a novel, and that is the novel I’m “reading.”

Reading non-fiction while I’m writing a novel is not a distraction, though.

What are you currently reading?

We are about to listen to The Mother Hunt by Rex Stout on the upcoming Indianapolis trip, as well as my audio novel (an advance copy) of The New Adventures of Mike Hammer: The Little Death with Stacy Keach.

I am reading Geniuses of the American Theater: The Composers and Lyricists by Herbert Keyser. Tells about what dark lives most of the great songwriters had while they were inventing American-style romantic love.

What is the last book you bought?

That new book on the Universal movie monsters.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Late at night, and in the bathtub. Not necessarily mutually exclusive categories. (The shower works less well.)

Do you prefer series books or standalone books?

Hard to say. I have been attracted to series, both as a reader and a writer, but many of my favorite novels are standalone. A basic tenet of storytelling — broken routinely by series novels — is that the main character or characters should grow or change (or fail to), in other words take some kind of journey. Few series characters do that (though Nathan Heller and Mike Hammer have). Certainly Archie and Nero Wolfe never learn a damn thing. Or Perry Mason. Marlowe may learn something in The Long Goodbye.

Is there a specific book you find yourself recommending over and over?

The Maltese Falcon above all others. Of Mickey’s books, I often point to One Lonely Night. Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely. The Postman Always Rings Twice. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. The Bad Seed. Mark Harris’ baseball novels.

How do you organize your books?

By author. My office has the favorite stuff (Hammett, Spillane, Stout, Chandler, Jim Thompson, Horace McCoy, W.R. Burnett, William March, Erle Stanley Gardner, Mark Harris, Calder Willingham, Ian Fleming, Chester Himes, James M. Cain, a few others). My basement library needs work, but one area has Westlake, Christie, McBain, Block, Gorman, Randisi, Lutz, and other favorites.)

We’ve had another great review for QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE (which comes out this week).

At Bouchercon, I ran into Sharon Clute, who provided me a link to a “Behind the Black Mask” podcast I did a while back.

Also, I want to add to my Bouchercon memory book by mentioning my friend Robert Goldsborough, who wrote seven Nero Wolfe novels to continue the series (how I wish he were still doing it!) and is currently doing a first-rate historical mystery series about about Chicago PI Snap Malek. Other friends we ran into include writer/cop Jim Dougherty and writer Gary Bush, who has just published his Once Upon a Crime collection for Nordin Press (in honor of the great bookstore in Minneapolis); Barb and I have a story in it (“Flyover Country”).

Jim Winter with January Magazine‘s The Rap Sheet Blog posted two video interviews from Bouchercon — one with Barb about the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series and another with myself about the new Heller, Bye Bye, Baby.