Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music ...
Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music Education from Truman State. Now retired, Rich enjoyed reading, writing music and short essays. He is the director of Kirksville Community Chorus.
MCKNOTES ON MORE READING SERIES
Earlier I wrote about reading series, and I noticed that all of the examples I gave were by female authors. There are certainly more authors, many of which I haven’t read at all. There are also male authors of series, and some of them are great. We have to talk about personal preference here. It’s no secret that Tom Clancy has written a whole string of highly successful novels, a number which have translated into hit movies. I have never been able to get into a Tom Clancy novel. That doesn’t mean he isn’t any good. There are just some authors that don’t appeal to some readers. One of Clancy’s hits is “Hunt for Red October.” His novels are full of action. I’ve read other authors that write in a similar style, and I’ve really enjoyed them, but for some reason, Mr. Clancy’s novels just don’t speak to me. Fortunately, this hasn’t hurt his writing career. It’s just kind of strange what appeals to us and what doesn’t. I’ve read several of Clive Cussler’s books. His main character is called Dirk Pitt. I find I am surprised that I like some of his books. Some of them have really drawn me in, while others of the same series just didn’t hit me right.
I actually like action novels. The Bourne series by Robert Ludlum has been extremely successful with a string of high action spy novels following the secret life of Jason Bourne, played on screen by Matt Damon. I started reading Ludlum novels a very long time ago. At some point, the style seemed to change. It was a subtle change. Now, the celebrated Mr. Ludlum has expired, but his series of novels continue with writers who have picked up his brand. This is not unusual. Young authors concentrate on a particular author and perhaps even become an assistant to them. After the death of the author, the brand is kept alive by these enthusiasts. I really liked the ones that were written when Ludlum was still alive, but have been less excited about the later novels that bear his name. I guess I haven’t seen a new one for a while, so maybe his brand has died out at this point.
I used to love Lawrence Sanders novels, i.e. “The First Deadly Sin,” “The Second Deadly Sin” and so on. Then Sanders came up with the McNally series. Archie McNally was a dandy who got kicked out of Harvard or Yale and couldn’t put together a career until he became a private investigator for his lawyer father. He was flashy and funny. Sanders is no longer with us, and his brand, too, was picked up for a while, but I haven’t seen any of his brand published for some time. He was a wonderful writer, but again, his brand seems to have expired with him.
John Grisham doesn’t write series novels. Some would say that all of his novels have the same plot line. That’s not true. Many of them find much of the action in a court of law, but he’s written some delightful books that have nothing to do with the law. One of the funniest books I ever read is “Skipping Christmas,” also by John Grisham. “The Painted House” is another that is not a legal thriller, but has more to do with American baseball. He also wrote a book about playing football in Italy. He’s clearly a very gifted writer. Grisham doesn’t revive his characters as a rule, but he’s started a series for children under the heading “Theodore Boone: Child Lawyer.” I’ve read all of them and then passed them along to young readers. Those are all about law and a precocious young man’s dabbling where he probably shouldn’t. I think there have only been three books in this series so far, but they are interesting and appeal to children even younger than me.
These days I’m enjoying Michael Connelly’s series of Harry Bosch novels. Bosch is named after the painter, Hieronymus Bosch, from the Renaissance period. The modern day Bosch is a homicide detective in L.A. He has a deep love of jazz music. He often mentions various jazz artists from the early days of jazz. One of them is Frank Morgan of saxophone fame. I played the piano at Morgan’s memorial service in Honolulu some years ago, so I have always felt a bit connected to this author. Connelly also writes a series based on Mickey Haller. Mickey is the lead character in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” played by Matthew McConaughey. Haller is an ace on the other side of law, providing criminal defense representation. Connelly can clearly write with knowledge of both sides of the legal system.
Lee Childs authors the Jack Reacher series. Reacher is a mercenary who will take up a cause for the greater good. His military background lends well too his ability to get out of tight places and escape the wrath of his enemies. Some of the action in Reacher novels is pretty graphic and one could say he takes no prisoners. If that scares you off, you should know that I got the name of this series from a 90 plus year old female reader. It’s difficult to picture this gracious and charming lady curled up by the fire reading of Jack Reacher’s slaughter of anyone who happens to get in his way.
Recently the movie, “Jack Reacher,” played in theatres around the country. This mercenary who seems have the ability to overpower several other men of considerable strength and cunning was played by Tom Cruise. Readers of this series had a difficult time picturing Tom Cruise as this larger than life superhuman. The Jack Reacher of Mr. Child’s novels is taller and far more rugged than Tom Cruise seems, even in his most gregarious roles. I didn’t see the movie, so I’m not sure how it turned out. I have read, however, that a number of screen heroes have been enhanced by choosing short women to make the leading man look taller than he actually is, as well as other cinematic tricks. The great Claude Rains had to stand on a box for some scenes with Ingrid Bergman. This is how Hollywood trickery manages to bring some writing to fruition. There’s no doubt that Rains was one of the greatest actors of his time. He was just short. Apparently it bothered him more than it did those responsible for casting him.
C. J. Box writes some interesting novels as well. He deals with some terrifying situations, but the descriptive writing is excellent. I feel like I’ve actually lived through some of the experiences his characters face.
I think I have read all of the Dick Francis novels. Most of his novels were set in the world of thoroughbred horse racing in England. He wrote forty novels at the rate of about one a year throughout his career. He was a favorite author of the Queen of England. Mr. Francis died in 2010. His widow and his son tried to revive his brand, but I’ve only seen a couple of their attempts surface. While this was an unlikely topic for me to get interested in, his books were compelling and fast paced like the horses he wrote about. His main character found himself investigating crimes that had something to do with the British horse-racing world after his own career as a jockey was blighted by an unfortunate injury, which became a recurring part of the back-story of his novels.
These are just some of the male authors of series. Naturally there are many more. I’m sure you find authors who peak your interest, but I have learned that there other readers can offer tips regarding who to read.