You may not know or realize it, but I write books, too. I may have yammered about it in previous posts, or not, I can’t recall. It was a big part of my now-dead blog and author site, but since Cura, I’ve been hanging here and not talking shop so much, mostly because the six books I’ve written since 2008 are now with my agent, seeking good homes. Pray for their souls. I can’t think about them, or I head into alternate universes.
I’ve written eleven books, but the best ones start after I began reading Charlie Huston, and there’s a reason for that. I have many authors in my pantheon, and I’ll be addressing them here, I suppose, but Charlie Huston is the one that most profoundly influenced my style of late. He writes in short, clipped, minimal prose with dialogue that isn’t in your traditional quotation marks. He writes in first person present tense, at least, most of the time. He writes with a voice that is, to me, unmatched in fiction right now. There are other flavors I enjoy, but Huston has really hooked me with his voice for people.
In the Seattle Mystery Bookstore for a Greg Rucka reading some four or five years ago (I think it was for Patriot Acts, which you should also read), I walked around relatively naive to the mystery/pulp/noir genre, aside from Fletch, which I loved as a kid because of the punchy dialogue and the minimal prose.
I explained as much to the owner, and he handed me a slew of great books. There was a LeHane (A Drink Before the War), a Hammet (Red Harvest), a book by a southern author whose name escapes me right now, and Charlie Huston’s Caught Stealing. I honestly thought of them all, stealing would be my least favorite. Modern mysteries, or modern novels in general, don’t seem to please me. There’s a lot of cleverness going on, a lot of imagery. I don’t know what it is, but if something survives for twenty years, there seems to be about a twenty percent chance I’ll find it palatable over the five to ten I usually enjoy. And yes, I’m a finicky bastard. You get that way after about a thousand books and seeing the same trick over and over and over and over…
I usually read about five or six books at once and let the one that’s taking my attention draw me in, because life’s too short. I picked up Caught Stealing, read the first five pages, and from the first drop of piss running down Hank Thompson’s leg to the end of the book, I was hooked. Hank Thompson, you’ll note, is Charles Bukowski meets Hunter Thompson in much the same way that Charlie Everett is Charlie Huston meets Hugh Everett.
The book is basically a wrong man plot involving a cat and some mobsters, with threats to the main characters beloved people playing a huge part of the story. It continues in two novels, Six Bad Things and A Dangerous Man, and I might be screwing up the order, because I read the third book after the first, because I had to wait for the second in the mail while the book store had the third, and I couldn’t wait.
After that I found his vampire series, Joe Pitt and such, which I also recommend. I’m going to say a phrase you hear a lot, but in this case, it’s true. I usually don’t like ______, where X is vampire novels, but you’ll find that the Joe Pitt books justify that phrase, in the same way Walking Dead was.
He has other books, of course, and they’re great as well. I haven’t read a stinker from him yet, even when he drastically changes his prose style and narrative style (like in Sleepless).
It’s hard to describe his prose style without actually having you read it. It drives some people nuts, because, like me, he forsakes speaker tags in favor of having the character be so defined, it comes through in the words spoken. I love that convention, and had adopted it before I read him, but it was great to see another author using it. He is also often, to great effect, using first person present for GREAT action. That I stole from him whole cloth, and I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from it, because it makes action SO much better. if Hal Taylor ever gets published, it will owe a great debt to Huston’s writing style, because he taught me how to be free, fast, and loose with a lot of things.
Go buy one of his books, and be happy.