Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016: The Year in Reading

2016 was a great year for reading. I finished 56 titles, which is four short of last year’s mark. The majority of the titles were fiction and my nonfiction reading tumbled to only a few books; something I will need to correct next year.

I started 2016 with my two almost always recurring goals:

1. Increase the number of “new” authors (in 2015 I read ten authors new to me); and

2. Increase the number of female authors on my reading list (in 2015 I read a scant three female authors).

I doubled the number of new authors, twenty, and more than doubled the number of female authors from three to seven. The increase of both is due, almost entirely, to a full year of reviewing for Mystery Scene Magazine.

In the past I have listed each new author, along with the title I read, but this year the list is unwieldy; so, I decided instead to list the best reads by authors new to me (in the order read):

Reed Farrell Coleman (Where it Hurts). Read the Mystery Scene review;

Carla Buckley (The Good Goodbye). Read the Mystery Scene review;

Warren C. Easley (Not Dead Enough). Read the Mystery Scene review;

Elly Grifftihs (Smoke and Mirrors). Read the Mystery Scene review;

P. D. James (The Mistletoe Murder). Read the Mystery Scene review;

Marvin H. Albert (Operation Lila); and

J. Sydney Jones (The Edit). 

I returned to old favorites fewer times than I have in the past, but three authors accounted for 11 titles, which is approximately 20 percent of the total for 2016. I read five by Ed Gorman, four by Stephen Mertz, and two by Garry Disher. 

Now all that is left is my top five favorite novels of—at least that I read in—2016. No rules, except no repeats. If I previously read the book (which happens many, many times at my house), it is not eligible for the top five. It was difficult to pare the list to five, and there were two or three that were cut from the list that I wish hadn’t been. With that said, my five favorite novels of 2016:

5. Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London by Stephen Mertz. A Sherlock Holmes action yarn with zombies, flying machines and an evil plan for world domination. It is a solid, well-told, original tale that is both faithful—specifically in its tone and language—to the original stories and wholly new and unique. Read the Gravetapping review.

4. Backshot (2012) by Tom Piccirilli. A hybrid crime-western that is a touch Richard Stark, but wholly Tom Piccirilli. The plotline is Stark—the protagonist is betrayed by his partner and spends the rest of the story getting even—but it is stylistically and thematically Piccirilli. It is related to Ed Gorman’s short western novel, Backshot (1902). Read the Gravetapping review.

3. Dreadful Tales by Richard Laymon. A collection of twenty-five short stories that showcase Mr. Laymon’s talent as a writer. There are early crime stories, including “A Good Cigar is a Smoke” and “Roadside Pickup” with its clever and surprising ending, and horror stories, mostly the gruesome (and fun) type he is known for, like “The Grab” with a small-town bar setting and a deadly game played nightly and “Into the Pit”.   

2.  The Mistletoe Murder by P. D. James. This is an unusual title to see here, but it is an old school Agatha Christie-style collection of four superior stories by Ms. James. The plotting is tight, the puzzles exquisite with a playful and witty style. Read the Mystery Scene review.     

1.  Backshot (1902) by Ed Gorman. This is a brilliantly rendered noir western, by the best writer to ever write in the genre, and it reads very much like an old Gold Medal crime novel—a man trapped in a situation far out of his control, his downfall brought by a beautiful woman, and his redemption in the arms of another. It is developed with Ed Gorman’s masterful colors of humanity and it is entertaining as hell. Read the Gravetapping review.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Ben, the first thing that struck me about your year-end post is the quality of books you read. It's such an eclectic list. In 2017, I hope to read Ed Gorman and also introduce myself to the works of Stephen Mertz, Garry Disher, and Tom Piccirilli.

A very Happy New Year to you and your family!

Margaret Morse said...

Thanks for the list. The Sherlock Holmes zombie book and the stories by P.D. James sound good.