When the term “Texas writer” comes up it’s hard not to think of Joe R. Lansdale. His voice, humor, and knack for entertaining make him one-of-a-kind, but here are some that come close for that Lansdale fan you may be holiday shopping for.
Tim Bryant – A former student of Joe’s, Tim Bryant has turned his unique voice toward his series character private detective Alvin “Dutch” Curridge, whose beat is postwar Fort Worth, brought alive by its music and people (First Book- Dutch Curridge). He also has a couple of great westerns featuring John Wilkie Liquorish a psychopath who becomes a hero in The Flashman vein. Bryant has colorful characters to spare and one hell of a voice.
Frank Bill – Much like Joe Lansdale, Frank Bill uses the vernacular of his region, Southern Indiana, as a part of his tales of crime and violence. His short story collection, Crimes in Southern Indiana, and Donnybrook, a novel of several ne’er do wells on their journey to an illegal fight competition, not to mention it’s apocalyptic sequel The Savage, which will unsettle you in the best way.
Ralph Dennis- Dennis created the Hardman series in the seventies. Its lead, Jim Hardman, was a disgraced ex-cop working the mean streets of Atlanta as an unlicensed PI with his more able-bodied back up, ex-NFL player Hump Evans. Gritty and blue collar with great banter between the two men, this series served as an influence on Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard.
First, if you don’t see a doctor. If there is any complaint about this author of exquisitely dark fiction that puts noir in a female perspective it’s that she doesn’t have as high an output as her contemporaries. If you need something to read between books or getting a gift for that Megan Abbott fan, here are some like minded authors doing some great things with the genre.
Allison Gaylin- Few cut into the dark side of family and “ideal” society like Allison Gaylin. her plotting is both complex and clean with stories that often don’t truly reveal themselves and their characters until the final paragraph. Either her Hollywood thriller, What Remains Of Me, or her look at crime and community in the social media age, If I Die Tonight, this reader will take you down some dark emotional paths, having you enjoy it all the way.
May Cobb- Consider her the Pine Curtain Megan Abbott using the East Texas setting to provide the gothic mood for Big Woods, her debut novel dealing with a young girl looking for her sister in her small town during the eighties scare of satanic cults. She builds incredible tension in her relationship between point of view and setting.
Patricia Abbott- Yes, she is related. Megan’s mother proves she shares the gift of dark mood and compromised characters. Her gifts as a short story author an be found in the collection I Bring Sorrow: And Other Stories Of Transgression and she is also an accomplished novelist with her books Concrete Angel and Shot In Detroit.
With holiday shopping in full gear, we thought it would be helpful to give a few reading or buying suggestions with books that share commonalities with some favorite authors. We’re starting with our store favorite Craig Johnson, whose Sheriff Longmire series mixes action, mystery, the western, and humor for a rustic, character driven thrillers like The Cold Dish and his latest The Depth Of Winter. Fans of his should enjoy these authors-
C.M. Wendleboe- A protege of Craig’s who put decades of law enforcement experience out west before he picked up the pen, C.M. Wendelboe mixes believable humor as he looks at different western societies. His series characters include Lakota FBI agent Manny Tanno (Death Along The Spirit Road) and Arn Anderson, a private eye out of Cheyenne (Hunting The The Five Point Killer), as well as a cool western hero, Tucker Ashley (Backed To The Wall).
Terry Shames – Terry Shames’ retired police chief, Samuel Craddock, often gets called back to duty in his town of Jarret Creek Texas, since his replacement also doubles as the town drunk. Much like Johnson’s Longmire, Shames looks at the relationship between the lawman and the town he protects. The first book in the series is A Killing At Cotton Hill. Louise Penny fans would also enjoy these novels.
Adrian McKinty- You may wonder what the author of a sheriff in Wyoming has in common with an Irish crime writer who writes about The Troubles in Ireland. McKinty approaches his books featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic police detective in Thatcher era Belfast, with similar attitude and humor. While bleaker, his Ireland is as rich and full of as many colorful characters as Johnson’s Wyoming. The first book is The Cold, Cold Ground.
Many of you have already heard of Louise Penny’s impending visit to our fair city – this event’s going to be so big, we’re hosting her outside of our store and over at the Central Texas Presbyterian Church. Tickets are now SOLD OUT thanks to our wonderful mystery community.
For those looking to get their Louise Penny fix another way, here are a few more atmospheric series, some Francophone and some Canadian, to please the Louise Penny fan who’s all caught up with Inspector Gamache.
Fred Vargas’ Commissaire Adamsberg series
Fred Vargas writes the Commissaire Adamsberg series, set in provincial France in a small town that both mimics and parodies the political fractures of the nation. She came to writing from archeology and history, and like Margaret Atwood, her fascination with the plague, mythology, medieval history, and ancient fears has translated into brilliant modern fiction. You can find copies of Fred Vargas’ works on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police series
Walker is known for his Bruno, Chief of Police series, wherein Bruno must tackle crimes both petty and perverse while engaging in more politicking than he can stand. He takes plenty of breaks to consume the provincial delicacies of his small French town and meditate on Francophone culture. Fans of Louise Penny will enjoy the quirky cast of characters that populate Bruno’s little fiefdom. You can find copies of Martin Walker’s works on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Community Policing series
For those looking to keep up with the best in Canadian crime fiction, try Ausma Zehanat Khan’s community policing series featuring Detective Esa Khattack and his partner Rachel Getty. The two tackle crime solving in an empathetic, very Canadian way – no swashbuckling, just skillful crime-solving respectful of civil rights and minority communities. This series should please those who appreciate Louise Penny’s series for both its conscientious morality and Canadian settting. You can find copies of Ausma Zehanat Khan’s works on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Don Winslow’s epic cop novel The Force is one of the must-reads of the summer. If you’ve gotten caught up in intricate tales of police plagued by moral ambiguity we suggest these three books on three different continents.
The third in Loehfelm’s Maureen Coughlin series has the newly minted NOPD patrol woman dealing with gangs, white supremacists, and her corrupt fellow officers, all connected to one New Orleans. Loehfelm shows the difficulty in navigating through a corrupt police force and staying clean yourself. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The head of an Italian police that also works for one mafia family cuts a deal with an ambitious government agent to stop a war between the families right when his men kill an officer when breaking one of their own out of a police van, forcing him to play every dangerous end against the middle. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
American crime fiction sometimes seemed defined by intentionality – cops are either effective or corrupt, but certainly never incompetent. Not so in Japanese crime fiction, or at least, in this sprawling Ellroy-esque take-down of a vast police conspiracy designed to cover up a single, stupid mistake. After a botched kidnapping rescue resulting in the death of the victim, a department’s urge to prove professional competency plus the need to save face lead to a cover-up that goes all the way up to the top. Years later, a cop transferred to media relations puts aside his former departmental loyalties to continue the kidnapping investigation and discover the shocking truth behind the initial investigation. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
- Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
Daphne du Maurier was best known for her perennially best-selling gothic romance Rebecca, adapted to the screen by Alfred Hitchcock, who also based his film “The Birds” on a short story of Du Maurier’s. Like Patricia Highsmith, many of us today come to du Maurier’s work through film, astonished to discover how fresh and compelling her stories are today. She might not have assigned her fiction to the mystery category, but her gothic settings and destructive relationships fit right in with our current obsession with domestic suspense. The works below are united by their gothic sensibilities, disturbing romances, and dramatic settings. While each has a sense of the mysterious, the novels below acknowledge that what truly haunts us is within us.
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
For those who like their crime fiction cinematic, try Security by Gina Wohlsdorf. Told from the perspectives of a hotel’s security cameras the night before opening as the staff are hunted down by nihilistic killers, Security is perfect for those who who like their settings creepy and luxurious. Named Manderlay, the luxury resort that becomes a killing field in Security deliberately evokes the haunted mansion of Rebecca, and as in Rebecca, the estate is as much of a character in the novel as any person. You can find copies of Security on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Margaret Millar’s The Stranger in My Grave, included in Collected Millar: Legendary Novels of Suspense, the second volume of Syndicate Books’ release of Margaret Millar’s collected works, is the perfect California twist on Southern Gothic. Daisy Harker dreams again and again of her own grave, the date marked four years earlier. When she meets a private detective while bailing her father out of jail, she hires him to reconstruct the date on the tombstone – December 2nd, 1955 – in her life and the lives of those around her, leading to shocking revelations of hypocrisy from Daisy’s closest companions. You can find copies of Collected Millar: Legendary Novels of Suspense on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The Dollhouse, by Fiona Davis, has a gothic setting worthy of any Du Maurier tale. Set in New York City’s famed Barbizon Hotel (in its heyday a residence for glamorous models and secretaries) the novel begins with a journalist’s decision to research the history of her creepy abode, and discover the story behind her neighbor’s unexplained scar and shut-in lifestyle. Flashback sequences to the 1950s describe the professional and sensual awakening of a young secretary just arrived in the big city, caught in a love triangle with a jazz singing maid at the Barbizon and an army vet chef at the local jazz club. Perfect for those who like their romances realistic and their mansions mysterious… You can find copies of The Dollhouse on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
- Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz
There are plenty of sharp-eyed, sober Miss Marples just waiting to witness a crime, but isn’t it rather more realistic to assume a boozy halo to the recollections of many a looker-on? Do we trust our own memories, or have they been warped by those who wish us harm? Unreliable narrators, disturbing domestic scenes, and the burden of witnessing are the hallmarks of Paula Hawkins’ runaway bestseller The Girl on the Train, and all are front and center in the books described below.
When the feds break into her home, arrest her husband, and take her daughters from her care, Clara Lawson has no idea why – after all, she’s always tried to follow the rules, even the strict and rather disturbing regulations that marred her childhood in what she thinks was a loving home. Through flashbacks and interrogation sequences, the reader and Clara together discover her memories, and the people she once called her family, cannot be trusted… You can find copies of The Girl Before on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
I’ll admit it – I’m a huge fan of locked-room mysteries, whether they be set on a country estate, on a moving train, or as in the case of Ruth Ware’s gripping second thriller, on a luxury cruise ship’s maiden voyage. A travel journalist joins a host of other travel professionals to celebrate a miniature Titanic’s first cruise around the fjords. When she witnesses a woman’s fall off the side of the ship, she alerts the other passengers, yet the ship’s owner is more interested in questioning her sobriety than tracking down a missing woman, especially one never on the passenger manifest to begin with. You can find copies of The Woman in Cabin 10 on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Cortazar’s novel of a fashion photographer who may have accidentally photographed a murder was the basis for Antonioni’s emblematic 1960s film adaptation of the same name, and through comedic lineage, the fashion photographer scenes in the first Austin Powers film. Those who enjoyed the self-doubting witness of The Girl on The Train should enjoy the photographer’s agonizing over the maybe-murderous contents of his camera. You can find copies of Blow-Up: and Other Stories on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.