Hard Cold Winter, Glen Erik Hamilton’s follow-up to his highly regarded debut, Past Crimes, puts his former criminal and soldier into even a tougher spot than in the first book. In Hard Cold Winter, Hamilton’s protagonist gets involved with the murder of a prominent Seattle citizen’s son and the sister of one of his shady friends from the past. In this guest blog post he sent along, Hamilton discusses his bookshelf, and how he uses different works for different forms of inspiration.
Friends with Words
© 2016 Glen Erik Hamilton
I have a bookshelf. Quite a few shelves, of course, but this one particular shelf is within reach of the little desk where I do most of my writing. Too easy a reach.
We’re not a procrastination, the books seem to say. Not like playing with the cat, or the horrible abyss of the internet. We’ll HELP you.
Shut up, you novels. Later. I’ve got an hour scheduled for reading later. That’s my reward for getting these pages done.
I turn back to the keyboard. Back to typing, with hands slightly shaky.
Some authors choose not to indulge in reading other fiction while they are hammering out the first draft of their latest work. A hardcore few go so far as to avoid reading at all, except between books. They fear that the phrases or plot twists or rhythms they read will somehow be replicated in their writing, and they might wind up with a pale imitation of their favorite author, or worse, a Frankensteinian mishmash of colliding styles. Better to abstain, and keep their pages pure.
That brand of austerity doesn’t work for me. I’m hardly ever between books, for one thing. Recently, I saw a quote from Lawrence Kasdan (Yes, on the internet; don’t judge me.) He said: “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
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True crime books may be a hop and a step away from their mystery and thriller cousins, but every once in a while, just as readers jump from fact to fiction, a crime writer will step across the bounds from fiction to non-fiction. The origins of detective fiction lie in the lurid pulp of yellow journalism, and crime fiction based on fact remains perennially popular. Here are five non-fiction crime reads by authors who started off writing fiction. The picks below range from recent releases to true crime classics.
LAPD ’53 by James Ellroy
Ellroy’s stunning collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Museum showcases the weird, wild and less-than-wonderful world of LA in 1953. The collection highlights a society marked by the dissonance and blurred lines between appearance and reality, cops and criminals, vagabonds and victims, and starlets and sociopaths. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this slim volume is a perfect shortcut to enjoying the work of America’s most violent and verbose writer (although Don Winslow and Greg Isles, with their recent work, have both been racking up a competitively high body count and even higher page count). You can find copies of LAPD ’53 on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
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Tonight’s Hard Word Book Club will not only be the last of the year, but will be the last for co-host Joe Turner. In his honor we’re discussing a favorite of his, Fredrick Forsyth’s The Dogs Of War. One of the first mercenary novels, it follows the detailed planning and execution of a corporation and soldier of fortune Cat Shannon (is there a more bad ass name?) as he sets off a military coup in an African government to get its platinum deposits. How detailed is it? Margret Thatcher’s son tried to use the book for his own coup.
After our discussion we’ll be splitting a six pack of Shiner and watching the film version starring Christopher Walken and the under-rated Tom Berenger.
Tough guys, guns, and beer. Is there a better way to blow off some holiday steam?