January 7 – 13: “Which authors have inspired you?”

Start off the new year right! Join ITW Members Jennie Bentley, Derek J. Goodman, Robin Burcell, Toby Tate, Ashok Banker, Tace Baker, Rick R. Reed, William McCormick, Chris Allen, Judith Cutler, Sharon Alice Geyer, Amy Lignor, Maynard Sims, Catherine Jordan and Jason Dean as they discuss which authors have inspired them.


William Burton McCormick’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and the anthology “Blood Promises and Other Commitment” edited by Jim Snowden. He was a finalist for a Derringer Award in 2012, and will be a Hawthornden Fellow in 2013. A world traveler, William has lived in seven countries including Latvia and Russia to research and write his debut novel “Lenin’s Harem.”

Dubbed Birmingham (UK)’s Queen of Crime, Judith Cutler began her working life as a college lecturer. She is a prize-winning short story writer: her work has been widely anthologised. Most of her full-length thrillers feature contemporary female protagonists, but Tobias Campion, a nineteenth century clergyman, has joined the women in their fight to right wrongs. Her latest novel is Burying the Past, featuring Detective Chief Superintendent Fran Harman.

Sharon Alice Geyer lived and worked in both Iran and Israel from 1963 to 1989. She returned to the United States and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Arizona State University. She lives in San Juan Capistrano with her husband, an archaeobotanist and research fellow at the Sinman Institute. She is currently working on the third book in the Samson Option Trilogy.

Toby Tate has been a writer since about the age of 12, when he first began writing short stories and publishing his own movie monster magazine. LILITH is his second novel. Toby is also a songwriter and musician. He currently lives with his family near the Dismal Swamp in northeastern North Carolina.

Edith Maxwell (Tace Baker) writes the Local Foods Mysteries. A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE introduces organic farmer Cam Flaherty and a group of local-foods enthusiasts (Kensington Publishing, June, 2013). Edith once owned and operated a small certified-organic farm. SPEAKING OF MURDER (Barking Rain Press, September 2012, under pseudonym Tace Baker) features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau. Edith, a mother, linguist, and technical writer, lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats.

Len & Mick writing as Maynard Sims have had numerous novels, novellas and stories published over the past thirty five years. They have run a small press, been editors, essayists and reviewers. Currently they are writing novels, screenplays and stories.

Chris Allen writes escapist action thrillers for realists. A former paratrooper, Chris retired from the Army as a Major in 1996, transitioned into humanitarian aid work during the East Timorese emergency, served with three major law enforcement agencies in Australia, protected the iconic Sydney Opera House in the wake of 9-11 and between 2008 & 2012 was the Sheriff of New South Wales. His novels DEFENDER and HUNTER feature Alex Morgan of INTREPID.”

Robin Burcell, an FBI-trained forensic artist, has worked as a police officer, detective, hostage negotiator and criminal investigator for nearly three decades. The Black List is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. Face of a Killer was the first in the series and received a starred review from Library Journal. It was followed by The Bone Chamber, and The Dark Hour.

Catherine Jordan is a Pennsylvania author of paranormal thrillers. She is a wife and mother of five children. Born in Indiana, she was raised in Northeastern PA. She is a graduate of Penn State University with a BS in Finance. Catherine has been writing stories since learning to hold a pencil. She loves family, travel, good food, great stories, and writing. “I do what I love.”

New York Times bestselling author Jennie Bentley/Jenna Bennett writes the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and the Cutthroat Business mysteries for her own gratification. For Entangled Publishing, she writes a variety of romance, from contemporary to futuristic, and from paranormal to romantic suspense.

Derek J. Goodman trained as an industrial designer (hence the interest in robots and speculative fiction), and when he’s not writing he is surrounded by books in a Wisconsin library. THE REANIMATION OF EDWARD SCHUETT is published by Permuted Press.

Ashok Banker’s books have sold over 1.4 million copies in twelve languages and fifty seven countries. He is currently best known for his multi-volume retellings of epics. But long before he became India’s favourite epic storyteller, he was the author of the first Indian crime novels in English. With Blood Red Sari, Ashok reinvents the action thriller in a new global all-female avatar.

Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a two-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his partner and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

As the daughter of a career librarian Amy Lignor grew up loving books; ‘Patience & Fortitude’ at the NYPL were her heroes. Beginning with Amy’s first book of historical romance, her career flourished when her YA series THE ANGEL CHRONICLES arrived on the scene. She began developing the storyline for this new seven-book series which moved her into the world of action, adventure and romantic suspense. Working as an editor in the publishing industry for decades, Amy is now the Owner/Operator of The Write Companion, as well as a contributor to various literary publications and websites.

Jason Dean was born in London and raised in the south-east of England. After spending much of his working life as a graphic designer, he finally decided he wanted to try writing the kind of American thrillers he’s always loved reading. Now a full-time author, Jason lives in the Far East with his wife, making occasional trips to England or the States whenever the need arises. BACKTRACK is his second novel.

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  1. My degree was in English literature, with a course on American literature thrown in. Thereafter, for nearly thirty years I taught English literature to students taking A levels, UK university admission exams. So you might say that I have been influenced by the whole canon of great literature in the English Language. Certainly for inspiration, I still turn to authors like Jane Austen and George Eliot.

    For sheer pleasure when I’m feeling low and need a sort of fine ice cream for the aching brain,it’s Georgette Heyer every time.

    Maybe it’s better to have so many influences: imagine what my prose would have been like if I’d had an unadulterated diet of Henry James (you should have seen my sentence length after a protracted wrestle with The Gold Bowl)!

    When I made a conscious decision to turn to crime, my great idol was – IS – Sara Paretsky. I wanted to be the Sara Paretsky of Birmingham (UK). I only lack a couple of things: her enormous talent and her huge capacity for research. Apart from Paretsky, when I have a historical novel or story to write, you’ll find me reading Andrew Taylor, Amy Myers and my other half, Edward Marston. But I’m not sure how many of them influence my ‘voice’. That’s for you to judge.

    1. As a huge fan, I have to say it’s nice to see Jane Austen mentioned. I’m a huge fan of hers! Not to mention Sara, who helps me when it comes to wanting my historical research and study to be at its best.

  2. Hello,
    I’d just like to welcome all of you to our first Roundtable of 2013.
    A big thank you to participating authors and readers alike.
    Now, on with the programe!

    ITW Roundtable Coordinator

  3. I think that few people in my life as a writer inspire me more than other writers. From Homer to Shakespeare, from Charlotte Bronte to Stephen King—they all have something to teach me. My own create writing professor, Stephen March, also an author, was a huge influence on me.

    Though I have read classics like Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Fountainhead, I have always leaned towards the more fantastic, the authors who liked to delve into the alien and otherworldly. One of the first books I seriously read as a teen was The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. That was the book that also influenced Michael Crichton to write Jurassic Park. I soon read the entire Pellucidar series by Edgar Rice Burroughs and began to get into the works of Ray Bradbury, especially The Martian Chronicles, one of my all-time favorites.

    Edgar Allen Poe was another favorite of mine, especially The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado. The weirdness of H.P. Lovecraft has also been a big influence on me. No one creates an atmosphere of dark, brooding horror better than he does.
    When I eventually read Stephen King’s Carrie, I was hooked. I read pretty much everything King wrote after that. He was really one of the authors that made me consider becoming an author myself, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

    Now, if I could just get him to endorse my next book…

  4. With Len Maynard (as Maynard Sims) I write thriller novels – supernatural, crime and action, and also ghost stories. When I was younger my thriller reading centred around Ed McBain, Morris West, Wilbur Smith, Dick Francis, to name but a few. I still have all the 87th Precinct books in hardcover, and a couple of audio tapes read by the author which I picked up in Florida. These days I tend to read a lot of Sandra Brown, Mark Billingham, Peter Robinson, Robert Goddard, Simon Kernick, Linwood Barclay, Harlen Coben, and many others on my Kindle. Our current thriller, The Eighth Witch, is a supernatural story about witches and revenge and although there are no direct influences on it I suppose the novels we enjoyed such as Hell House, Angel Heart, Burnt Offerings and Ghost Story do have a bearing.
    With ghost stories we have been told we write in the style of M R James but I think that is an inevitable comparison for anyone who writes traditional English ghost stories. I enjoyed the James stories when I first read them; the restraint and the atmosphere in particular. As influences though, I would say H R Wakefield, A N L Munby, L T C Rolt, E F Benson and Robert Aickman. I still get a huge thrill from even picking off the shelf one of our ghost story books from our collection and I constantly strive to write the perfect ghost story. The stories in A Haunting Of Ghosts are the closest I have got yet.

  5. Big question, depending on how far back you want to go. Third grade I picked up L. Frank Baum and “Carolyn Keene” books. Baum for opening up an amazing world of make believe so far removed (literally!) from anything I’d ever read. And of course, Nancy Drew mysteries that had me shaking beneath the covers as I read by flashlight (when I was supposed to be in bed), introducing me to the mystery.

    It goes without saying that I was also entranced by the Sherlock Holmes series. Decades later, I remember being amazed by Ken Follett and his world WWII spy stories, especially, Eye of the Needle. And then, years after that, for the police procedurals, Michael Connelly. All in all, I think you can see their influence, since (other than Oz, and perhaps Nancy Drew) there are definite shades of intrigue and spies, sleuthing, and police procedure in my thrillers.

  6. The very first author that ‘struck me’ when I was a kid was Judy Blume. It was as if she (like John Hughes was in the movie world) knew exactly what pre-teens and YA’s were thinking and feeling. As an adult, it was Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas was a character that simply did not disappear from my mind when the book was over, which is what amazed and thrilled me about his writing. It was Koontz, in fact, who made me want to create characters that absolutely no one would be able to forget; characters who they’d continually want to follow on their next suspenseful adventure. After all this time, Mr. Koontz is still an inspiration to me, and between him and the masters, like Douglas Preston & Lee Child and their incredible Pendergast, I still strive to make killer characters.

    When it comes to strength, courage and absolute ‘female’ determination, I have to give a huge shout out to J.D. Robb’s, Eve Dallas. And for pure imagination, I must mention J.K. Rowling. The Potter series did us all in. We were mesmerized, and her writing was the reason for that. One of Rowling’s characters said that, “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic,” and I believe that pretty much ‘nails’ what writing is all about.

  7. Like most little girls, I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. In my teens I moved on to Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers and Quentin Patrick. The classics, in other words. It’s hard to be a mystery author without being grounded in the classics.

    In 1994, I discovered Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz/Michaels), and felt like that cartoonish lightbulb went on over my head. I think her mixture of mystery, romance, and adventure has done as much as anything to influence the kinds of books I write, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

    On the other side of the question, the personal side, there’s Tasha Alexander. We met back in 2005, when her first book was about to be released, and I got to go through the process with her. The first signing, the first TV interview, the first review. She took me under her wing at a time when she had plenty of other things to keep her busy, and it was Tasha who told me that if she could do it – write a book and get it published – I could too. If she hadn’t taken the time to nurture and guide me, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.

    And finally, a quick pitch for the ITW Debut Authors program. I was privileged to be part of it in 2008, the year my first book was released. My assigned mentor was Hank Philippi Ryan, while our author liaison was C.J. Lyons, and the two of them – along with a lot of other writers who unselfishly gave of their time – did a lot to put those of us just starting out on the right track, and gave us inspiration and something to aspire to.

    1. Hi Jennie:

      I just want to say after reading your entry I looked up at the bookcase with my Nancy Drews in one place and my Agatha Christie (movies) in another. I love the way Nancy Drew created YA, as did Blume, without the ‘benefit’ of the vampire love LOL. Thank you for reminding me of the good old days when I sat in the corner of my Mom’s library after school and went with Nancy on a new mystery. Have a great week!

  8. Ira Levin is my greatest inspiration because he managed to weave humor into dark topics with his pen’s fine needle. The Stepford Wives is a 145 page classic. The title itself makes me giggle. Yet, how horrifying (and gratifying on some sick level) to be known as a Stepford Wife. Deathtrap, Rosemary’s Baby, A Kiss Before Dying. His writing is concise, precise, and so much fun to read.
    Anne Rice brought new life to a dead topic with her Interview with the Vampire novels and that is something I tried to do with my demonic anti-Christ, Eva van Hollinsworth, in my novel, Seeking Samiel. She takes risks with her imagination and I like that.
    Stephen King has inspired me with his tenacity. He spiked rejection slips to his bedroom wall and used those slips as motivation. He didn’t give up. Carrie was rescued from the trash can before it wound up becoming a bestseller. I love that factoid and paid homage to it by becoming Carrie. For Halloween.
    I have tried to emulate all these authors. Their success may never be mine. But, I’ll have fun, Mr Levin. I’ll take those risks, Ms. Rice. And I won’t give up, Mr. King.

  9. John Le Carre was the first to intrigue me with his subltle but menacing threat from Russia. More recently, Daniel Silva’s spy/art restorer, who carries out secret, but deadly missions for the Mossad, is a winner in the thriller/terrorist category. Then, there is Matt Rees, the creator of the Omar Yussef mysteries. This is “Yassar Arafat meets Miss Marple.” The protagonist humanizes the conditions and struggles of the West bank Palestinians. Which brings me to my Samson Option trilogy where I have created a new twist to the genre with the element of conflicting religious aspirations.

  10. As a writer, I get asked the question about favorite authors a lot. And that’s a somewhat easy question to answer, because I love to read and have many, many favorites. But the ones which inspire me, the ones who make me want to do better work? Four names come to mind immediately. These four are not only writers whom I’ve read almost every word they published–and hunger for more, they have truly made me want to be a better writer and that, for me, is what inspiration is all about. So the four writers are: Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith, Flannery O’Connor, and Stephen King. I admire them all for many of the same reasons, but each has a particular strength that inspires me. Ruth Rendell (aka Barbara Vine) is, in my estimation, not only the best mystery and psychological suspense author working in the genre today, she is simply a brilliant novelist. Period. Her prose is crystal clear and deceptively simple. Patricia Highsmith walks in the darkness with her writing and never settles for easy answers when it comes to human nature. Flannery O’Connor, too, has an almost poetic voice without ever being flashy. Her unique–and dark–southern worldview comes out clearly in how she brilliantly arranges words on a page. And Stephen King has been with me since I was young. From him, I learned a writer’s best question–what would happen if?

    All of these writers have a twisted, dark world view that I admire. Their characters are always flawed, living, breathing people that come to life and that I can always care about. They all taught me that character is key in any fiction.

  11. Within the broad definition of thriller, I can say that Alistair MacLean was my first major inspiration. I read The Guns of Navarone when I was eleven or twelve, then quickly devoured its sequel Force Ten from Navarone. I liked the well-paced stories, with heroes of few words, a traitor or deadly interpersonal conflict in their midst, the adventure always taking place in some European setting so far from my boyhood Nevada home. They were grittier and more realistic than MacLean’s near contemporary Ian Fleming, and the locales and characters always felt more authentic than Fleming’s fantasy land. I go back and read MacLean from time to time just to touch base as it were. He was very adept at slipping in tidbits of politics, culture or history without ever slowing his pace or dulling the adventure’s edge. I think my first short story “Blue Amber” had a lot of MacLean in it.

    Because almost all my stories have a historical setting, I’m always inspired by writers who can really transport the reader to another time. James Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet” so completely took me to 1940’s and 50’s Los Angeles, that I was challenged to see if I could match his dark authenticity in my own Cold War and World War works. Ian McEwan’s Atonement, too, was a perfect period piece with complex characters and a chancy narrative structure that I really tired to emulate (unsuccessfully) when I began writing.

    I’m also inspired by many classic writers of genre fiction like Hammett and Conan Doyle in mystery, Stoker and M.R. James in horror, and Ira Levin who straddled both worlds. I’ve also learned a lot from narrative nonfiction, particularly Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and the narrative style of Ken Burns in his documentaries. In fact, I think I get a lot of my inspiration for fiction from nonfiction books. As I gazed over the historical accounts by William L. Shirer, Allan Bullock, and Edmund Morris I was always asking myself “what would it have been like to have been there? To witness this history when it was still undetermined? When you didn’t know it was historic, but today’s events?” I find this gets my mind going and generates many stories. More than I’ll ever write.

    Lastly, being an old Ancient Studies major, I reread a lot of Greek tragedy. Powerful, dark narratives unencumbered with setting or description. I think there is a universal nature to these works that have allowed them to survive for 2500 years. I admit, I love doomed characters, and nobody did it better than Sophocles and Euripides, though Melville centuries later comes close.

  12. I read voraciously as a kid, but I wouldn’t say that any of those authors inspired me until I was twelve and I discovered Stephen King. I think there was something about his earthy every-man tone that caught my eye. My decision to actually do something serious with my writing came along just a couple months prior to the release of On Writing, and that more or less became my bible for years after. I still have that same original beat-up hardcover, and I still read from every couple months.

    Neil Gaiman was another writer that struck me hard. I was introduced to him during my first attempt at college and I was blown away. I didn’t know what to think of his mythic yet modern approach to storytelling, and I honestly to this day have trouble articulating just how his writing had an effect on me.

    Beyond just books, I would also have to give credit to the writing of Joss Whedon. I was late on the bandwagon when it came to him, but once I discovered him I immediately saw how his ways with dialogue changed my own writing. Had I never watched my first episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m sure that my voice as a writer would have evolved into something completely different.

  13. Similar to William’s post above, Alistair MacLean was probably my first exposure to the world of thriller fiction. Especially those great novels of his from the sixties. As a kid, I was amazed that a British author could write so confidently about American characters. And in believable American settings, no less! That must have left a big impression on me since I now do pretty much the same thing. And although nowadays I find his prose a little too flowery, his dialogue stilted and his female characters to be somewhat less than one-dimensional, I can’t deny the guy was an absolute master at plotting. His skill in holding back important information from the reader for the longest time to produce the maximum suspense was unparalleled. In fact, if I’m honest I’d have to say my latest novel, BACKTRACK, contains its own fair share of MacLean-esque moments – especially in the first few chapters.

    Ira Levin’s another inspiration, and another great plotter. His first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, with its fantastic twist halfway through, still remains one of my favourite thrillers. And his other books aren’t too shabby, either. Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys From Brazil, The Stepford Wives. All great concepts, containing smart writing and believable, well-drawn characters. I learned a lot from Ira.

    And then there’s William Goldman, of course. Two words: Marathon Man. Great title for a wonderfully constructed book with superb characterization throughout. Even the film version triumphed. And for such a relatively short novel the author manages to fit a hell of a lot in, while also creating an unforgettable villain in Christian Szell.

    Who else? Well, Dashiell Hammett is my favourite author so I have to give him a mention. He only wrote five novels, but the first, Red Harvest, is something I can pick up read every couple of years without ever getting bored. Always seem to find something new in there too. The action’s first rate and the economy in his writing is something I constantly strive for in my own work.

    And finally, Donald Westlake. The man definitely knew how to write. And write often. It’s amazing how consistent he was thoughout his career in terms of quality, and that’s something that I always keep in the back of my mind whenever I start a new novel. To always give my best. Because to attempt anything less is a cheat, and not just for the reader.

  14. I’ve been a mystery/thriller reader since I was a young child. I read Poe and Conan Doyle and gave myself nightmares in the fourth grade. Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and others inhabited my mother’s bookshelves and I lost myself in all of them (well, Nancy probably came from the library).

    As an adult, Dorothy Sayers, Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and lately our fabulous crop of New England writers have inspired me: Sheila Connolly, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hallie Ephron, Kate Flora, Roberta Isleib (writing as Lucy Burdette these days), Julia Spencer-Fleming, plus Louise Penny from Quebec – I aspire to be any of them! They produce richly drawn characters, intriguing plots, and the quirky historical local color of the New England setting.

  15. Hi, Bill,

    In the more recent crop of suspense writers, I’ve read Lee Childs, John Sanford and Michael Connolly among others. Jance and Paretsky are fine mystery writers that I follow as well.

    Jacqueline Seewald

    1. I had to chime in here – I loved the Cabinet of Curiosities by Preston & Child. As I remarked below I have to give them total credit for Pendergast because he’s a character I just can’t get enough of 🙂

  16. How could I forget Poe? And reminiscent of Poe is W. W. Jacobs… I remember summer camp, 6th grade, when the cabin counselor read The Monkey’s Paw. I’m fairly certain I have never been more scared in my life.

    1. Oh yes, Poe too. I first read him when I was too young to truly get what was going on, but the imagery stayed with me, especially in “The Tell-tale Heart.”

  17. I loved Poe when I was a teenager with angst by the bucketload. Now …. I had to talk about him on a panel not so long ago, and I wonder, I just wonder…

  18. Growing up in Mumbai (then Bombay), India, my choice was restricted by what was available locally. There were very few bookstores back then and aren’t too many around even now. The best place to get books were the circulating libraries, little clapboard-fronted stores with yellowing American and British paperbacks piled floor to ceiling. You paid a deposit of maybe $5 and could borrow three or four books a week for a few cents each. (The rates were in Indian Rupees and Paise, I’m just using US currency for a reference.) I always went for the crime, mysteries, thrillers because once I found a good author, I knew there would be many more by him or her to be read. Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner were favorites in my single-digit years. When I hit my teens I discovered India’s favorite thriller author of all time: James Hadley Chase. Or Dames Hardly Change, as we used to call him. I guess everyone knows that Chase was a British author who barely visited the States, and that too only briefly after he became a bestselling pulp meister. But to hundreds of thousands of English-educated Indians, his books were a grimy window into real, gritty authentic USA. Today, I’d say LOL to that! I outgrew him very quickly though other pulpers like Carter Brown, Nick Carter, and various macho thriller series with numbers on the spine were always a fall-back when nothing else was around. In my mid teens I moved up to the better circulating libraries where the librarians actually read the books they lent out and I discovered Ed McBain and Evan Hunter, Donald Westlake and Richard Stark, Joseph Wambaugh, Patricia Highsmith, Robert B. Parker, Ira Levin, Georges Simenon, Ruth Rendell, Stephen White, Edgar Wallace, Robert Ludlum, Alistair Maclean, Elmore Leonard…the list ran into the hundreds. I devoured thrillers by the handful, often taking home two dozen on a Friday evening and going back for more on Saturday night, racing to the library on my bicycle before the library closed at 9 pm. More than once, they locked up and waited for me to finish selecting so they could go home!

    It was only in my 20s that I went back and discovered the classics at last – Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, the great and wonderful noir authors of the 30s, 40s, 50s. I’m now collecting them in the Library of America editions and appreciate them far more than I did then as a novice. To me, the texturing is always as important as the story. I love so many present day thriller novelists, so many are listed at the bottom of this web page itself that I’m thrilled just to see my name in proximity to their names! My present day favorites are John Sandford whose Prey novels and now his Virgil Flowers novels are superb entertainment. I’ve followed Michael Connelly since the very beginning, as also Stephen King. Dennis Lehane is a marvel. I was among the very first to buy and try The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo when a visiting friend lent me an advance copy of the first translated edition and it knocked my socks off.

    To me, the best thrillers today do a lot more than just thrill. The milieu, the people – even the minor ones brushing shoulders with the protagonists briefly, the careful handling of the plot unfolding and pacing, the dialogue, the city or town and its sense of place, the issues underlying the murders or crimes, everything matters far more than just breakneck action and melodrama. The best thrillers are windows to other places, other lives, and in a global village, crime thrillers enable us to look over into another country’s backyard and see what it’s like over there.

    I’m constantly influenced by the authors I read before, and the ones I read today. It’s not a fixed thing that happened way back when. It’s a process and it’s constantly happening. I feed on great writing, great thrillers and it’s a constant marvel that even with so much having been written, the best writers keep finding new ways to tell old stories or tell new stories that haven’t been told yet, not in quite that way.

  19. I enjoy the work of a great many writers within the action thriller genre, Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins, Clive Cussler, Alistair Maclean, Frederick Forsyth etc, and it’s impossible not to be influenced by them all in some way. But my absolute stand out favorites, those who have actually inspired me to pursue a career as a writer, are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming. Both of these writers are iconic in their own right and their respective signature characters – Sherlock Holmes and James Bond – enjoy unprecedented and enduring popularity. However, I think it’s a great shame that their work is remembered more due to the films based on their stories than their actual stories. I’ve been devouring their books since I was a boy and I continue to read them to this day with equal enthusiasm. I feel a great affinity with them as ex-servicemen who became writers and both managed to incorporate into their writing elements of their military service coupled with liberal doses of escapism and excitement. It is the balance between realism and fantasy they both achieved that so captured my imagination and, ultimately, inspired me to write and create my own stories. In my own humble way, within my work I attempt to pay homage to the genre and style they have so majestically influenced.

  20. Ashok, I loved reading about your reading adventures growing up! I could picture everything. You should be a writer! 😉

    Even though there was a real library where I lived as a girl, it was too far away. Our school, however, contracted with the “bookmobile” which was the library on wheels. Once a week, each class would file out, get to take their turn in a van that would be somewhat larger than the size of a taco truck. (Those large vans where they cook the food inside, and you order at the window.) We were limited by the number of books we could check out, and I was always disappointed, because it was never enough for me to last the week.

  21. Robin,

    Thank you! I know I enjoy reading the more personal insights into other writer’s lives and experiences and so thought I should delve a bit deeper. We had bookmobiles too in Bombay, well, at least one that I know of, run by a circulating library in the suburbs called Lamour (after Louis L’Amour). I also used all the public libraries in the city, especially the ones run by the consulates here. The USIS was my favorite. I spent all Saturday there during my teen years and remember hating to have to go home. They used to re-bind the books with those colored heavy-duty hardcover laminate-like covers – smelled like linoleum! I read my way through the American classics there, but sadly they had a limited selection so there was a very limited crime fiction section and those were among the most-borrowed books. I remember peeping out from my carrel to catch the librarian when she/he brought the returned books to shelve them, and literally popping out to filch them off the book trolley before they were shelved and someone else borrowed them first!

    My grandfather was also a major crime thriller buff and because he was from an older generation (he was born in 1898, wore a suit and a hat every day even in retirement, smoked a pipe, carried a walking stick and listened to old 30s swing and big band records on his Grundig – his name was Polycarp Joseph!) he would read the old pulps every night. He would borrow them from his old company’s library where they apparently had a huge selection, settle into bed every night around 8 with his pipe and his stack of books – my Nana May, would always say ‘One night you’ll burn the house down around us, that pipe’ – and read through the early hours. I remember seeing his bedside lamp cast long shadows on the floor and wall each time he turned a page or shifted, and was always desperate to read those books especially because of the ‘broads’ and ‘molls’ and ‘gumbahs’ on the paperback covers. But he would never let me even look at one of them because he said they were not for kids.

    Now, I wish I could get hold of every book he ever read, in those exact same original editions. 🙂

    Ah, the things we miss!

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