People who write fiction naturally enjoy reading fiction. I suppose that’s almost universally true. Certainly, the consensus among writing coaches is that no one can be a good writer who is not also an avid reader. I won’t argue. Reading helps writers in countless ways. That being said, I’m a very picky reader. So what’s made its way onto my recent reading list?
Would you enjoy reading what I read?
I’m not a huge fan of Lee Child’s trademark character, Jack Reacher. I used to be. Over time, however, I’ve come to conclude that Reacher and I don’t share certain values that I consider to be indispensable. Still, no one can deny Lee Child’s strengths as an author. He skillfully carries his readers deep into Jack Reacher’s world. His economy of words is admirable.
With those things in mind, I just finished reading the latest Reacher novel, The Midnight Line. The story started with an intriguing premise, but I almost put the book down about 40% of the way in. Uncharacteristically, Child let the plot sag. Nevertheless, I plodded on and was glad I did, as Child brought the story to somewhat satisfying (albeit somber) ending. The Midnight Line probably had more substance to it than the average Jack Reacher novel. It was thought-provoking. It surfaced a troubling real-life issue with no easy answers. Would I recommend the book? Not to my wife. But to another reader, perhaps.
I’m a James Scott Bell fan.
James Scott Bell is a guru for writers, and in his novels, he practices what he preaches. I recently read the last book in his Mike Romeo series (Romeo’s Rules, Romeo’s Way, and Romeo’s Hammer). The hero is a philosophical former mixed martial arts fighter with a secret he must keep hidden. His confidant–a wheelchair-bound ex-Mossad agent–is every bit as amusing. Sound far-fetched? Believe me: it works.
What about Westerns?
I really enjoyed the first novella in C.M. Curtis’s new Amado Lopez saga, Night Wind. Lopez is a supporting character in Curtis’s earlier work Return of the Outlaw. This new novella tells the tale of his earlier struggles when, as a young man on death’s doorstep, he had to decide whether remaining alive was worth it after outlaws killed his wife and sons. It’s a quick read and quite engaging.
As a huge fan of the late Elmer Kelton, I’m afraid I was not very enthused about his 2005 novel Six Bits a Day. I simply couldn’t find a character in this morose classic Western who I could cheer for. Kelton’s Shadow of a Star and Other Men’s Horses were far better, in my humble opinion.
Erin Bowman was a new author to me. I don’t recall how I came across her second Western, Retribution Rails, but I’m glad I did. If you’re looking for a Western featuring a feisty and determined female lead, then I believe you’ll find this one really enjoyable. (Don’t worry, gents, the other protagonist is a reluctant, plenty-manly-enough outlaw.)
Retribution Rails is categorized for teens, but I wouldn’t call it juvenile literature. While I don’t ordinarily care for novels written in first person, and while the use of God’s name in vain doesn’t sit well with me, I otherwise found Retribution Rails to be a masterfully crafted story penned by a very skillful writer. The prose was rich, and the plot was beautifully constructed using elements both fresh and familiar.
Also categorized as teen fiction, but as far as I’m concerned, not suitable for teens, were Gordon L. Rottman’s The Hardest Ride and Ride Harder. The core story is excellent, but the sexual content seems inappropriate for younger readers. Nonetheless, Rottman knows how to up the ante and raise the stakes in a story, which he does to great effect in both books.
So there’s some of my recent reading, folks. Some, I’d highly recommend. Some, not so much.
I’d love to hear from you. What books–Western or otherwise–would you recommend? Let us know.
And don’t forget…
Strong Ambitions (Emmett Strong Western #3) is now available in paperback, Kindle, and Audible editions.