As I write this, I’m on the 11th floor of the Hyatt Regency in Dallas attending Bouchercon. Last night, I had cocktails with Michael Barson and Warren Easley (both with Poisoned Pen/Sourcebooks) and Molly Odintz (an editor with Crimereads). One of the interesting topics of conversation was books we read when we were young who made us want to be writers.
It made me reach back and think about what writers inspired me to want to be an author.
The first that came to mind was Ian Fleming. I devoured every single James Bond Signet paperback that I could get my hands on. I vaguely recall that in those days they were an expensive sixty cents if you bought them from your local drug store. In school, all the boys (and some girls, too) would read their dog eared copies and then we’d trade them, like baseball cards.
To digress a moment, during our cocktail discussion, we talked about who has portrayed the best James Bond in the movies. We couldn’t come to a unanimous conclusion be the three we liked the best were Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and Timothy Dalton, not necessarily in that order.
We also talked about how, with the exception of From Russia With Love, the movies were nothing like Ian Fleming’s books. A good example that came up last night was Diamonds Are Forever. The book was about horse racing in Saratoga. There’s nothing about that in the movie.
Back on topic. One of the other writers who inspired me was John D. McDonald with his iconic Travis Magee series. He’s a beach bum who lives on a houseboat called the “Busted Flush” that he won in a poker game. He’s a self-described “Salvage Consultant” and “Knight Errant”. He makes his living by finding items that have been lost or stolen and taking a cut (usually half of what the item is worth).
Travis was a hero that didn’t seem to age although at the beginning of the series, he intimated that he was a Korean War veteran and somewhere along the way that subtly changed to being a veteran of the War in Vietnam.
I was impressed that, even in the ‘60’s, he was a prototypical environmentalist, waxing poetic on how damaging encroaching human development was on the Everglades.
It wasn’t until about 1979 in The Green Ripper that Travis starts to slow down. In the last book of the series, The Lonely Silver Rain, Travis learns he has a teenage daughter and takes all the cash he has on hand and puts it into a trust fund for her.
Who can’t love that?
The last writer I’ll talk about is Stephen King. I recall that the very first book I read by him was Salem’s Lot. It scared me so bad that I couldn’t go down into our basement for months. I’d never been that affected by a book in my life. I was amazed at how relatable he could make a fantastical premise be.
The next book that I was transfixed by was King’s The Stand. The villain, Randall Flagg, stands out in my mind and I use him as the bar for my villains. And the tunnel scene scared me right down to my socks.
But King’s finest book, in my opinion, is his non-fiction memoir called On Writing. If you’re trying to develop your craft, it’s well worth your time.
One more digression. If you google how many books has Stephen King written, the answer is a vague “At Least 95”. The man is prolific.
I’ve left out dozens of other writers who have inspired me to write, but hey, I’m at Bouchercon. I don’t want to spend the next three days in my hotel room.