Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Best of 2006

I know you have been waiting all year to read my best of 2006 list, and so to satisfy your hunger, here it is. But first, a few remarks: 1) These titles weren't necessarily published in 2006, but rather I read them in 2006; 2) I tend to re-read some of my favorite authors / titles, and to keep the list fair, a book has to be new to me to be included; 3) I completed fifty books this year, down from 77 last year, and 75 the previous year--a slump, or am I just busy? The latter, I think.

Drum roll, please. And picture your favorite celeb at the podium in their best dress / tuxedo with a modest smile and outrageously expensive haircut. Ready? Here goes. (They are listed in descending order, and order in this case does matter.)

5) Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston. This was a two day wonder. I opened, I read and I damn near couldn't put it down. Damn sleep, damn school, damn work. Preston is best known for his collaboration with Lincoln Child, but Tyrannosaur Canyon is all Preston, and I liked it as well, and better than most, of his collaborations. The action is swift, the characters are likeable, and the story is sharp. I was disappointed when this one ended.

4) Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston. This is the first installment of Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy, and it rocks. If you want cool, Huston writes it. If you want adventure, crime, violence, scary-as-shit suspense, Huston writes that, too. Start at the beginning, and read them all.

3) The Narrows by Alexander C. Irvine. I read this one for SFReader, and I loved every minute of it. It is an urban fantasy / historical novel set in World War 2 Detroit. Irvine's descriptions of the city feel so real you can almost hear the slightly disgruntled baseball fans watching the Tigers lose again and again, and even better you can damn near smell the hot dogs and beer. If you like historical novels, fantasy, or just great story-telling read this book.

2) An Obituary for Major Reno by Richard S. Wheeler. I read this book in January, but its images of a haunted Major Reno and his role at the battle of the Little Bighorn is still fresh in my mind. Wheeler takes the much maligned Major Reno and gives him a face, a life, and allows the reader to observe the man as a man, rather than a scape-goat. Richard Wheeler is a master of the western story, and this book very well may be his masterpiece.

1) The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini. Pronzini is a master of the mystery, and while his Nameless Detective series is terrific, I always look forward to his stand alone novels because they have an atmosphere and tension that set them apart from his series books. The Crimes of Jordan Wise is part crime novel and part philosophy. The action is there, the atmosphere is sharp and haunting, but the story peels away to reveal something far deeper. My only wish is that more people read Pronzini. And he wrote several dozen a year.

Well, there you have it. For better or worse, was it worth the wait?

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