Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Reading -- Part One

I have a plan for my reading in 2012.

The first part of the plan involves rereading. I’ll get to that topic in a future post.

The second part of the plan revolves around the need to reduce the pile of books to be read that are taking over my library like the tribbles took over the Enterprise.

Implementation of the second part of my 2012 reading plan is underway. I’ve decided that in January, and possibly February, I will focus almost exclusively on reading mysteries and thrillers. I enjoy the genre and books in that category generally prove to be a quick read.

The experiment is working. I’ve read eight books in 11 days, and, although the book pile is shrinking imperceptibly, I’m feeling better about all those books to be read.

Here’s one-half of a summary of my reading in 2012:

Book 1: North of Nowhere by Steve Hamilton

After reading The Lock Artist I resolved to become better acquainted with the work of Steve Hamilton. 

That resolve was strengthened after discovering that his Alex McKnight series was set in the U.P. I have vacationed in The Yoop two of the last three years. I’ve been to The Soo, Paradise and Whitefish Bay – all locations that regularly appear in Hamilton’s series.

Hamilton’s an entertaining writer. His plots move with the speed of a north wind out of Canada, McKnight is an appealing character and the location is unique.  North of Nowhere is the fourth book in the series. From my perspective, the books just get better and better.

Book 2: The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
Book 7: Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill

Two short story collections – from Daniel Woodrell and Frank Bill – that might be characterized as Hillbilly Noir.  

The Outlaw Album is the first short story collection from Woodrell, an accomplished novelist who is often compared to Cormac McCarthy. Crimes in Southern Indiana is not only Bill’s first story collection, it’s his first book.

Both are great; a disturbing serving of violence and depravity. Woodrell's collection is the strongest, but he’s been at it the longest. Crimes in Southern Indiana is an impressive debut. 

There are similarities in the subject matter. Both Woodrell and Bill explore a poor, marginalized segment of the American population that includes tweakers and drug dealers, the greedy and the victimized, hapless law enforcement officers and folks who simply see settling a disagreement with a gun as a logical and reasonable response.

I especially enjoyed The Echo of Neighborly Bones and Uncle by Woodrell; two stories as haunting and as disturbing as anything written by Stephen King.

Book 3: The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

Initially, I didn’t warm up to Ian Rankin’s new series, featuring Malcom Fox and the Complaints, Britain’s version of America’s Internal Affairs.   

The Impossible Dead, Rankin's second book featuring the Complaints, was slow taking off. Other cops don’t like the Complaints, practice a lot of passive-aggressive behavior and call it cooperation, etc., etc., etc.

But a third of the way into the novel, Fox starts digging into a long-forgotten cold case that appears to be connected to the current case of cop corruption he’s investigating and The Impossible Dead starts reading like an Ian Rankin thriller – flat-out riveting.

Fox isn’t Rebus, but by the time The Impossible Dead steams to its conclusion, it’s evident that Rankin’s new series, and his new cast of characters, has the potential to be just as compelling as the Rebus novels.

Tomorrow: A summary of books four, five, six and eight.

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