Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Favorite Authors and Why I Like Them

Every writer starts somewhere right? For many, including me, that somewhere was in finding authors that I really liked and wanted to read more. In reading multiple books from those authors I started realizing what it was I liked about the books and by extension, the authors. In no particular order, I've found Clive Cussler, Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, Jack du Brul, CJ Box, John D MacDonald, Randy Wayne White, James Rollins, and Steve Berry, to be authors that I seek out and look forward to reading.

Back in the day, someone told me about Clive Cussler. Origins remain fuzzy, but I read him and years after reading the first Cussler book, I think I can say that I have now read them all. At least the ones contained in the library system and its many branches that were kind enough to send books to my branch so I could check them out.
For lack of a better phrase, I think Cussler writes techno thrillers. Simple, clean, fast reading books, that I cannot put down. Maybe it's a guy thing. I first came to like that his characters always have partners. Dirk Pitt has Al Giordino, Kurt Austin has Joe Zavala. The Oregon Files falls away from the "pair" idea, but a close knit character cast preserves the theme of the main characters interacting with someone close to them. The second thing I like is the geography of his books. One of his earlier Pitt novels takes place in the PacNW. Big events happen in Lake Quinault, a place I have actually been, and even paddled.
The third thing I like about Cussler's style is that the plots involve big amazing world changing things, that are all private, non-governmental affairs. For the most part, the bad guys are captains of industry not civil servants, nor are they holy warriors burning for a religious cause. Also a welcome break from today's reality. Good stuff from one of my favorites.

One of Cussler's co-authors, Jack du Brul, became another favorite author of mine. Cussler and du Brul co-wrote several of the Oregon Files series, which are my favorite of all the Cussler books.
The main du Brul character, is Phillip Mercer. This guy is a consulting geologist, which is near and dear to the Geology major that I tote around (Univ. Montana, class of '90). Similar techno thriller style, all very readable. Wish he would hurry up and write another one!

Robert Crais is another big favorite. Again the notion of main character and close partner is present. Elvis Cole is the main and Joe Pike is the partner. Elvis also has an old cat that pops up in the books. I like that cat. I like reading about the character interacting with an animal they like. There's a bunch of books in their series. Read'em all. Great stuff.
Aside from the partner piece and the inclusion of an animal in Crais' style, what I like most in his books is the strong sense of locality. Crais writes about things that happen in the LA area for the most part. Cole lives in an A frame up in one of the canyons. How Cole and Pike get around the LA area is always part of the narrative. Where the crime is committed is described with street and avenues and neighborhoods. Love this kind of writing. The sense of place is well done. Again hurry up and write another one!

Harlan Coben is another in my list of favorites. He's a mystery thriller kind of author. One more writer who has kept me up all night, more than once.
Again, HC has his MC paired up with another strong character. Myron is the central character and Win is the sidekick. The nasty vicious sociopath sidekick, rich beyond belief who's there for Myron as needed. It may read cynical or sarcastic, but Win is all of that and then some and the duo work very well in all of the books I've read. And loved.
Two things stand out for me with Mr Coben's writing. First Myron is an injury ravaged former pro basketball player. Very interesting background for a character. Second, Myron comes from a very middle class upbringing and he is one of the very few characters in fiction that ever mention his parents, much less live with them like Myron does. Even better, Myron talks with his parents and even sleeps in his old childhood bed. All that makes him seems more real and, to me, more interesting.
Coban has Myron drinking 'YooHoo', whatever that is. It's one of Myron's favorite food things and is an interesting twist in character description that I like. The cat hanging around Elvis Cole and Myron drinking YooHoo are both 'personal' for lack of a better work and add unique touches to each of the characters. Cussler does not do that with his characters, at least to my recollection. Cussler offers little background to his characters, which is another contrast with Crais and Coben. Dirk Pitt does come to discover he has kids that he never knew about, but that's a different kind of plot twist in my mind. du Brul's character, Mercer, is friends with an old smoking, drinking, grandfatherly kind of minor character. Another twist that makes the MC seems more human somehow.

One more before this post gets too long. Randy Wayne White has a great series of books that he's written about Doc Savage. Doc is a quiet living flyfisherman (I think) spending his day in a stilt house just offshore Florida. The exact location I forget. He collects aquatic life for supplying laboratories. A little weird, definitely unique. You know he's got a whole hidden side and you're right. RWW tales about Doc Savage do not disappoint. Doc is quiet living most of the time and a whirling dervish when called into action. Fabulous reading.
Doc (and RWW) fit the sidekick them quite well. Doc's best friend is a pot smoking old hippie with his own side story and personality. Doc as character and story is only made more interesting with the inclusion of this partner - not in crime but in everyday living. A great series of books.

Like the thought bubble in a comic book - 'nuff said! Go read a book!

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