Month: December 2012

Monthly Review – December 2012

Posted December 31, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Now that 2012 has come to close, I find myself not reflecting on my year of reading but eagerly anticipating the books I get to read next year. All my reflections of 2012 seemed to have taken place in November. So now I want the Literary Exploration reading challenge to begin.

But as this is the end of December, let me quickly cover the important events of this month. Literary Exploration decided to read a travel/road trip book for the month; the book picked was the beat novel On the Road. This book had a lot of mixed reactions; even people thinking their own travel diaries would be more interesting. I’m now very concerned about what has happened when my wife goes travelling  For me I thought it was an enjoyable look at the beat generation and their ideals. Check out the conversations on Goodreads to find out what people said about this book.

A reminder that in January we will be reading Shadow of the Wind; I love this book and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the discussions will be like. I still haven’t decided if I want to reread it yet or wait till the series has finished before rereading it in its entirety. Either way, I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts.

As for my personal reading, I focused on reading non-fiction this month; well I started off that way but I got distracted. I’ve read some great books this month including; By the Book, a Readers Guide to Life which was a fascinating look at the author’s reading journey. Also I tried some dirty realism with Factotum by Charles Bukowski, a raw and gritty semi autobiographical novel which I highly recommend. What were your highlights of this month? Did you read anything great?

Monthly Reading

  • By the Book, A Reader’s Guide to Life by Ramona Koval
  • Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin
  • Factotum by Charles Bukowski
  • Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Through the Window by Julian Barnes
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Posted December 30, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Book of the Month, Classic / 0 Comments

On The Road by Jack KerouacTitle: On The Road (Goodreads)
Author: Jack Kerouac
Published: Penguin, 1957
Pages: 307
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

On the Road is a semi autobiographical novel about Jack Kerouac’s travels through America. Set in 1947 the novel documents the travels of Sal Paradise with his friend Dean on a quest of self-knowledge and life experiences. This novel is often considered as the definitive ideal of the Beat generation and living life postwar. The Beat movement is a cultural movement which rejected a normal life for a bohemian lifestyle; this movement inspired jazz, poetry and literature.  The non-conformity and spontaneous creativity as well as experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities and interest in Eastern religions lead to the hippy movement in the 1960’s even though there are many differences.

On the Road is a novel of friendship, not just between Sal and Dean but the people that come and go from your life. Hitchhiking through America gives an opportunity to see this quickly; Sal meets new people all the time and just like that they are gone from his life; their impact on Sal may very but it really is a good way to show the effects people have without having to scratch a story over a few years. Then there is the friendship between Sal and Dean, it’s clear to me that Sal is idolising his friend and his need to be just like him is really not helping him to grow. Sal does grow through the book but it never feels like Dean has, this really changes the dynamic of their friendship as the book goes on.

This is also a book on the ideals of the beatniks; they are young and wanting to experience life, learn from their experiences. But underneath it all Sal feels unhappy. Either alone, in a relationship or just having casual hook-ups, Sal is never content. The only time I ever feel like Sal is enjoying himself is when he is having intellectual conversations, but he never really works out how to channel that passion to make his life mean something, I did think he would find contentment in writing but he never really does. The characters feel they should learn from life instead of books and this leads more to sex, substance abuse and even madness seem to be the end results of their experiences rather than knowledge.

While some might think this is a rather boring novel, I tend to think there is so much in the book worth exploring. I like the style and feel of this book, it reminds me of dirty realism and the quest for knowledge and satisfaction in life really hit home for me. My past experiences are nothing like those of Sal or Kerouac’s but there is something so real and raw about this book that I enjoyed. Overall it was interesting to read the book as a manifesto to the beat generation.


What Books Have Been Trending – October-December 2012

Posted December 29, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Book Trends / 0 Comments

As the year closes, let’s look at the books that have been trending for the past three months. I’ve been looking forward to doing this again; I’ve had so much fun with the other posts in this series. The only problem is, I tend to think it’s been a little slow over the past three months but let’s have a look anyway.

October

The Casual Vacancy was released at the end of September and continues strong this month. This novel sees J.K Rowling try her hand in adult fiction; When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Grimm Tales is a beautiful book of classic fairy tales. Author Philip Pullman has chosen his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm and retold them in his unique and brilliant voice. This retellings are apparently ‘clear as water’ and engaging.

 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is a gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore.

 

What are you reading? Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne in The End of Your Life Book Club. Sitting in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favourite books.

 

The epic story of The Passage continues with The Twelve by Justin Cronin. The two year wait had everyone wondering what happens next with the viral plague that had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare.

 

November

Harry Dresden is alive (spoiler alert) in the 14th book in the series; Cold Days. After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad.

 

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – Days of Blood and Starlight
continues the series after Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. A YA novel filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices.

Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, Flight Behaviour tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a petite, razor-sharp 29-year-old who nurtured worldly ambitions before becoming pregnant and marrying at seventeen.

 

The first five stories in the Wool series have been put together in this omnibus. An epic story of life, love and survival at all odds and one of the most-talked and anticipated books of the year. In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies.

December

The Darkest Minds finds Ruby waking up on her tenth birthday, something about her has changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.”

 

Either this is a planned Christmas gift or the perfect holiday reading but I’ve seen a lot of mentions of Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French. Who is in Coma Suite Number 5? A matchless lover? A supreme egotist? A selfless martyr? A bad mother? A cherished sister? A selfish wife? All of these. For this is Silvia Shute who has always done exactly what she wants. Until now, when her life suddenly, shockingly stops.

I thought it was a bit of a slow month for reading, I guess everyone is either busy or playing catch up with books missed though out the year. But then I noticed that there were a lot of classics being read. A Christmas Carol and for some weird reason Les Misérables and The Hobbit.

This year really has been a great year for books, not just for me but I’ve seen so many great books been talked about and read. I’m sure there are a lot of books coming out next year that are anticipated, so I would love to know what you are looking forward to as well as what hyped books I might have missed for the past three months.


My Top Five Reads of 2012

Posted December 27, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Top 5 / 0 Comments

top-5I’ve already done a post about 2012 but I wanted to do another. The typical top five post of the best books you’ve read in 2012 but because I split my books into released in 2012 and all others, I think I need two top five lists here. So here are my top reads for the year;

Top Five Reads Released in 2012

5. Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

4. Dare Me by Megan Abbott

3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

2. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

1. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Honourable mentions need to be made to Colour of Milk, The Yellow Birds, The Cocktail WaitressTigers in Red Weather, The Dinner and The Age of Miracles.

Top Five Reads in 2012

5. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

4. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

3. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

With honourable mentions to When Gravity Fails, The Little Prince, Factotum, He Died With His Eyes Open, The Devil All the Time, The Master and Magarita and Ethan Frome.

Now it’s your turn to let me know of your favourite books, the new releases and the older books. It doesn’t matter; just what you discovered and loved.


Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Posted December 24, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Classic / 0 Comments

Ethan Frome by Edith WhartonTitle: Ethan Frome (Goodreads)
Author: Edith Wharton
Published: Penguin, 1911
Pages: 128
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

An unnamed narrator from a fictional New England town tells us about his encounter with Ethan Frome; a man with dreams and desires but stuck in a loveless marriage. His wife, Zeena is a hypochondriac whom he married out of a sense of duty. When Ethan falls deeply in love with Zeena’s cousin and their maid Mattie things start truly falling apart.

I’m going to put this out there, this book really reminds me of a Russian novel; the love triangle reminds me of Doctor Zhivago mainly. Then there is the bleak, cold winter climate that makes the book as dismal as the current environment. These elements are what really appealed to me. When Stephanie (from Read in a Single Sitting) called this book the most depressing novel ever written, I was sold, I brought the book right away and spent the day reading it.

Ethan Frome is a working class man trying to make ends meet, he is really struggling financially and having to deal with a wife who is constantly ill isn’t helping him much. He lives with his secret desires but then slowly moves towards taking action, then quietly submitting to life’s circumstances, this seems to be the endless cycle for him. This struggle turned this into a novel of the forbidden, as well as one of morality and duty.

Ethan Frome is full of symbolism; the cat and the pickle dish I believe was a symbol of their failing marriage, the gold locket represents love and finding it in Ethan. Finally there was the most obvious one which was the colour red that I think was used to represent adultery, similar to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. There were some more in the book but I won’t go into all of them, I just found it an interesting literary device to express elements that the narrator left out.

I know this may be the cynic in me, but I felt like this novel was a romance; the passion between Ethan and Mattie was strong and powerful; that’s what made this book so devastating. Zeena was a cunning woman that held all the power and while at times I felt sorry for Ethan for being stuck in a terrible marriage there was a part of me that thought he was just making it harder for himself by putting himself in a situation and dragging Mattie into all this mess.

You will either love or hate this book. It is truly depressing but yet in the midst of all this disaster it remained elegant and beautiful. The words were like poetry, I got swept away with the prose only to find myself heading for a devastating crash. It’s like a horror novel of obligation and no matter which way Ethan or I looked at the situation there was no escape. For a book under 150 pages, I’m surprised just how much it said.


The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein

Posted December 20, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi and Alex SteinTitle: The Artist as Mystic (Goodreads)
Author: Alex Stein, Yahia Lababidi
Published: Onesuch, 2012
Pages: 86
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Author

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’m going to have to borrow the blurb for this book, because I think it best summarises this book. The Artist as Mystic is a set of lyric conversations between aphorists Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein. These conversations constitute what Australians call a ‘Songline’ — a set of sacred songs that allow the reader/listener to navigate through an unknown terrain, in this case, populated by tortured and ecstatic souls: Kafka, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Rilke, Kierkegaard and Ekelund.

I’ve never really read something like this, blending biographical elements with literary criticism, but then it takes it a bit further by documenting conversations between Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein and adding a reflective poem to each essay by Lababidi. It’s like being a fly on the wall and listening to two very intelligent people bounce thoughts and ideas off each other about literary ideas.

While it often felt more like an interview rather than a conversation, I never felt bothered by it; Yahia Lababidi has a lot of insight and knowledge and I think Alex Stein made a very strategic move by stepping back and letting Lababidi run free with his thoughts. While this may come across as very dense book, I found the book very accessible.

The Artist as Mystic is a thought provoking look at people I’ve had a real interest in understanding better; Kafka, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard as well as an insight into a few new ones I need to learn about. I’m not a very intellectual person, I do try but what I got out of this book was just how well it helped me understand the ideas it wanted to get across. Yahia Lababidi never talked down but rather mentored the reader along, making this the most impressive aspect of the whole book. I felt inspired by this book and plan to read this book with a highlighter and a notepad sometimes in the future.


The Best of 2012 Survey

Posted December 19, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 0 Comments

I saw this survey over at All The Books I Can Read but it turns out Bree stole this from The Perpetual Page Turner. I thought this was a nice way to reflect on the year, so I wanted to join in on the fun. Most people would know I was a cultural blogger (I’m sorry I’ve neglected it a little) and now blog about my reading journey and random book thoughts. I’ve only started this blog in April and I’ve have some much fun, I can’t wait to share my future thoughts with the readers.

Best In Books 2012

 1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)  

This is a hard question to answer, do I pick my favourite book released in 2012 or overall? I would say Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky was my all time favourite out of all the books I’ve read this year, with honourable mentions to Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway and Swimming Home by Deborah Levy .

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

It’s not that I didn’t like this book, but I felt that Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan really lacked the elements needed to make it great.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?

I went into Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann thinking it would be a generic family drama, but found some very dark elements to it that really pleased me.

 4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

I think I recommended Swimming Home by Deborah Levy and Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway a few times but I think my top recommendation was either The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

 5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

A little late to the party but The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin, were great reading highlights in 2012 and I’m eagerly waiting the final book in the trilogy.

6. Favourite new authors you discovered in 2012?

I tend not to entrench myself too much but some new authors I’ve discovered that I can’t wait to read some more of their works include; Deborah Levy, Nick Harkaway, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, Jeffrey Eugenides and Michael Chabon.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I really try to read books in all genres so this question was a little hard for me to answer, but The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon was something I wouldn’t normally pick up but ended up loving.

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I was up to 4am at night wanting to know what will happen next.

 9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The main one I plan to re-read would be The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi, there is a lot to it and I want to explore it further.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2012?

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, it really stands out.

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Peter Brown from Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell because the autofibulectomy scene has left me traumatised.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

Currently the first book that comes to mind would be The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Trial by Franz Kafka and even The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us”  by Franz Kafka, discovered while reading The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi.

 16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?

Les Misèrables by Victor Hugo is the longest (followed by 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami) if picture books count for the shortest it would be I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (if not it’s A Life with Books by Julian Barnes).

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?

The Dinner by Herman Koch; luckily it was a book I read for one of my book clubs

18. Favourite Relationship from a Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)?

Wouldn’t that have to be Augustus and Hazel Grace from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green?

19. Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously?

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?

From a co-motorator of Literary Exploration; When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger and The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach.

Book Blogging/Reading Life

 1. New favourite book blog you discovered in 2012?

Still Life With Books; I know she hates blogging but I always value her opinions on books.

2. Favourite review that you wrote in 2012?

I’m proud of my Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky review

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

My Experience with the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List where my favourite blog post that sparked some interesting comments, maybe Confessions of a Reader too.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?

I think I would say; go read Still Life With Books for thought provoking reviews.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Can I name drop and say Supernova, where I met Melina Marchetta and John Birmingham as well as got to hang out with people like Rachel Caine and Felicia Day?

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?

As a new book blogger my blogging highlights include emails or tweets from authors thanking me for reviews and Publishers interested in having me review some books.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My ArmchairBEA posts got a lot of activity; Introduction, Best of 2012, Top Tips for Book Blogging and A Positive Experience with Books. It was an amazing experience and I found so many great book bloggers.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Expected some love for He Died with His Eyes Open but didn’t get any.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

The Folio Society, it has so many beautiful books that I would love to own.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I started off with my regular 100 book challenge but half way through the year, I increased it to 150. I completed this challenge in November and now taking the time to read some bigger books.

Looking Ahead…

 1. One Book You Didn’t Get to In 2012 but Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013?

 Nothing comes to mine, I feel like I accomplished what I wanted this year. There are some review copies I need to read but I’m sure I’ll get to it.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013?

By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan (I hope it’s still scheduled for 2013 and doesn’t get delayed) I love this series and want to see how it ends.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?

I hope that the Literary Exploration challenge is a huge success; I plan to complete that as my reading challenge (as well as 100 books). As for my blog, I hope it continues to be entertaining.


San Miguel by T.C. Boyle

Posted December 18, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

San Miguel by T.C. BoyleTitle: San Miguel (Goodreads)
Author: T.C. Boyle
Published: Bloomsbury, 2012
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

T.C. Boyle tells us the story of a family on the San Miguel Island. The desolate island makes for a backdrop for the trials and tribulations of family. Boyle takes us on a vivid join of hard living and stubborn people in a novel of love and hate.

I’ve never actually read a T.C. Boyle novel before but I’ve heard he is a great storyteller, so I was excited to read this novel. This is a book of major family drama, I get the feeling that being stuck on a desolate island off the coast of California isn’t really helping the situation at all. The feeling of isolation is almost like having a cabin fever effect at times and this makes for highly emotional situations.

San Miguel follows the point of views of two different characters, giving us an insight of their inner thoughts and desires. Inspired by historical records, Boyle blends the facts with his own take of the story to bring us a character driven novel of the trials of this family. While at times I found this a highly emotional and somewhat endearing novel, I found myself thinking about novels like Shipping News and remembering just how that was a similar type of novel, only better. It is hard to immerse myself in a novel when I’m too busy comparing it to better novels and I truly think if I was in the right state of mind, this book would have been more enjoyable (perhaps enough to warrant 4 stars).

The characters within this novel are just wonderful; Boyle really knows how to write personalities, desires and inner thoughts, giving them real depth. Marantha and Elizabeth are great protagonists and the isolated location was the perfect backdrop for this story. But I never connected fully with the story, and I think it left too many questions unanswered.

T.C. Boyle is a great storyteller; I will be checking out some more of his work in the future, I’m hoping I can connect with them more than I did with San Miguel. It really didn’t help my enjoyment of this book. So I hope people who decide to give this novel a go, find themselves enjoying the characters and the trials that come there way.


Guest Post: Brief Overview of Pulp Fiction – Part 4 (1990’s & On)

Posted December 16, 2012 by Guest Post in Guest Posts, Literature, Pulp / 0 Comments

There are currently many prolific authors working in crime fiction, whose names will not be mentioned, that occasionally find themselves labelled as noir by fans and critics alike and quite simply are not. They write about cops who have problems with their superiors or former military men with vengeance on their mind, they pile up the bodies and solve dark cases but they border on fantasy and as we’ve seen in the previous three parts to this overview true noirs are realistic and bleak with very few happy endings.

After assessing fifty years of noir and hard-boiled writing it becomes quite obvious that the fourth generation, the contemporary American hard-boiled and noir writer are yet to truly find their own unique voice or societal change to rail against.

If you accept that 9/11 changed the world completely in the same way that WWII and the threat of nuclear war did to previous generations we should expect a dramatic increase in distinct creative output from the next wave of authors.

What is clear is that, as with the rise in popularity of dystopian fiction, contemporary hard-boiled and noir authors are looking to their genre heritage and their countries past for settings and places to escape to. They are almost a lost generation, dreaming of a time when things were friendlier, less scary, less connected and invasive, that time when there was still some hope for the American Dream.

I discovered the work of Megan Abbott this year, she’s approximately 3 feet tall and specialises in reworking dark noir stories with a female centred twist. If you saw her on the street she’d probably be the last person you would imagine writing such dark novels. Her debut, Die A Little (2005), is set in 1950s LA and steeped in atmospheric suspense and voyeuristic appeal. She wrote four of these excellent period re-workings and then along came The End of Everything (2011) in which she updated her noir styling’s to teenaged girls in 1980s suburbia to amazing effect. It is a tale of lust, revenge, guilt, and my favourite four noir words; secrets, lies, passions and repressions.

Walter Mosley created the iconic hard-boiled hero Easy Rawlins in Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) and went on to write ten more books about his black private detective in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, ending with Blonde Faith (2007). Utilising the style of Chandler and MacDonald Mosley manages to craft top quality hard-boiled mysteries and blend them with analysis of the social inequalities of the time.

George Pelecanos is one of the most famous names from this list, especially for his time writing for the HBO series The Wire. He came to prominence however for his D.C. Quartet, a series of four historical crime novels set in Washington D.C.. He also created two fantastic hard-boiled series featuring first Nick Stefanos in A Firing Offense (1991) and then the pairing of Derek Strange and Terry Quinn with Right as Rain (2001) which has built him a reputation for his gritty depiction of street life and a focus on hard-luck criminals.

James Ellroy, the King of Sinnuendo, the Demon Dog of American crime writing, knows how to write bleak noir filled with hard-boiled characters like nobody working today. His work is generally set in the 1950s and 1960s, featuring densely plotted criminal behaviour from all sides of the law with his tone relentlessly pessimistic. Perhaps his best work (or at the very least the best place to start) is L.A. Confidential (1990) and should be followed up with the first part of his Underworld USA trilogy American Tabloid (1995). But nobody can describe him better than he describes himself:

“Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I’m James Ellroy, the demon dog, the foul owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far right, and the slick trick with the donkey dick. I’m the author of 16 books, masterpieces all; they precede all my future masterpieces. These books will leave you reamed, steamed and drycleaned, tie-dyed, swept to the side, true-blued, tattooed and bah fongooed. These are books for the whole fuckin’ family, if the name of your family is Manson.”

Another black private investigator, Lew Griffin, got his start in The Long-Legged Fly (1992) by James Sallis, a novel that starts in the 60s and moves through to the 90s and would lead to five more outings. Sallis has his own way of writing these hard-boiled private detectives, they’re complex and often poetic in their structure. He would go on to create another great of modern noir, Drive (2005) about an unnamed stunt driver who also works as a getaway driver for criminals.

Don Winslow might be most widely known for his brilliant and brutal modern noir Savages (2010) but he also created the surfing private detective Boone Daniels in The Dawn Patrol (2008). Winslow is known for his adrenaline-fueled novels and unique prose style, his subject matter is nothing ground breaking but he entertains like nobody else in the genre.

That leaves us with only Dennis Lehane to draw part four to a close. Lehane might just be best known for his psychological thrillers turned in to Oscar bait movies but his six Boston based noir thrillers featuring male/female investigation team Kenzie & Gennaro are some of the best in modern hard-boiled crime writing. Their first outing A Drink Before The War (1994) set a high standard to live up to but he reached incredibly bleak heights with Gone Baby, Gone (1998).

I’ll reserve special mention for another Brit, Philip Kerr, the creator of the Bernie Gunther novels. These books are a fantastic throwback to classic hard-boiled novels. Bernie starts as a private detective in Berlin as Hitler is consolidating his power and witnesses some truly awful things. His first three adventures are collected as Berlin Noir (1989 to 1991) and are well worth your time.

This is a guest post by blahblahblahtobyYou can find him discussing books on Goodreads, discussing movies on Letterboxd, tweeting nonsense as blahblahblahtoby and on his blog blahblahblahgay, feel free to say hi.

There are literally dozens of great authors and great novels that could have been suggested as essential reading for this guide. The writer of the article went through agonising decisions over who to leave out and is more than aware that your favourite author probably hasn’t been mentioned but feel free to start a discussion in the comments.

This post is part of a four post series exploring the history of Hard-Boiled and Noir Fiction, for recommendations check out each post;

The 1930’s – 1940’s

The 1950’s

The 1960’s – 1980’s

The 1990’s – Onwards


Introducing The 2013 Literary Exploration Reading Challenge

Posted December 15, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literature / 0 Comments

logoAs the year starts to come to a close, we readers start to think about what we would like to read next year and for some of us, we look for the reading challenge that excites us the most. As most people know, Literary Exploration tries to explore all different genres in the hope to become a well-rounded reader and even discover something new. So in 2013 we would like to challenge you to explore further.

Instead of increasing the book club to two books a month we decided we wanted people to read what they wanted to read; but we also want people to explore. So we are challenging everyone to dedicate either 12, 24 or 36 books that you would normally read to different genres. We have compiled a list which hopefully will give you a chance to explore literature a little deeper.

It’s real simple; below you will see an easy (12 books), hard (24 books) or insane (36 books) challenge. Each genre links to the Goodreads genre page if you need some suggestions on what to read. We want you to have some fun and explore; hopefully you might find a new genre that peaks your interest. To sign up either join the Literary Exploration book club on Goodreads and talk about your progress with others involved or for the bloggers out there, if you want to add it as part of your blogging experience simply let us know with a link (to your Literary Exploration Challenge page) in the comments below so our readers can see how you are going.

This is the first year doing this and if all goes well we might expand and make it a yearly challenge. If we do decide to do this on a yearly basis and you feel that there are some genres are either too heavily focused on or not mentioned at all, please let me know. The idea of this challenge is to have a well-balanced list of genres and not focusing on one genre more than any others.

Good luck all who decide to join in. I personally am going to go for the 36 book, insane challenge and I’m really looking forward to it. While there are some genres I’m not looking forward to reading, it’s all part of being a literary explorer. What could be wrong with that?

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