A guest post by Kate Naylor
It’s easy to get in a rut. You discover a crime writer you can’t get enough of. You gobble down their latest book. You adore the style and feel, characters and plotting, settings, emotional landscape, back stories, gore levels, morality, amorality, sense of place, whatever. So you stay on the straight and narrow, consuming everything they’ve ever written, the entire back catalogue. When the orgy is over, weeks or months later, you’re left exhausted and spent. But give it a few days and you’re champing at the bit again, ready for the next round of fine written entertainment.
I thought I’d look at finding new crime writers to tickle your fancy in 2014. New year, new thriller author… here’s how to track down fresh talent and spice up your reading life.
Picking crime writers to suit your taste
There are literally millions of books out there, probably hundreds of thousands of writers, and thousands of crime fiction authors. Which makes choosing your next brilliant read a bit of a challenge. You could take a scattergun approach, stick a pin in a list, shut your eyes and randomly point at your computer screen to make a choice. But there’s nothing worse than wasting time on a crime writer you don’t rate. How about approaching the quest for authors methodically and logically instead?
Escaping your crime stories comfort zone
How do you get out of your comfort zone? First, you need to know what it is. Which means identifying your reading habits and preferences to give yourself a benchmark to work against, a reference point against which to measure a change of direction.
Do you habitually read uber-gory blood curdling tales of terror and violence from a suspense author right at the far end of the thriller writers line? Maybe you prefer to stick to the legal side of things, with a focus on intricate courtroom drama rather than blood and guts. Perhaps you’re right at the other end of the scale, stuck on Miss Marple and Murder She Wrote-style innocence and far too farty to venture anywhere scarier. Do you want more of the same? Or do you want to try something completely different and go off-piste into pastures new?
Finding recommended books
How do you identify similar authors to those you already love? Thank goodness for the internet. For a start, you can search the web using ‘books like’ queries like this and see what pops up:
- Authors like Catherine Coulter
- Mystery writers like Michael Connelly
- Crime writers similar to James Patterson
What if you want to hunt down something completely different from your usual taste, sub-genre or style? How on earth do you make value judgements about thousands of authors’ work without going slowly, steadily and inexorably mad, never mind spending months at it? You could head for a mammoth session in your local book store, reading book jacket bumph ’til you go blind, but t’internet comes in handy here too. You can:
- Email friends, colleagues and family to ask about recommended books
- Post a question on your social networks and other online communities for book recommendations – what are they reading?
- Take the lead from your telly – is there a new crime fiction series coming up and if so, can you snag the book first?
- Go genre-mining, for example using search terms like ‘Scandanavian noir crime novels’ to find more of the stuff you like
- Look to see if your favourite suspense author also writes under a pseudonym – some do, including Stephen King and Ruth Rendell, and it opens up a host of fresh treasures to read
Book review websites to help your research
Some people don’t give a monkeys what others think about the books they’ve read. They’re independent spirits who prefer to make up their own minds. Other folk take opinions very seriously, which makes online book reviews very useful indeed. Just bear in mind that books are subjective. One person might adore an author, another might rather eat worms than read a word they’ve written. And keep an eye open for dishonest reviews written by sock puppets… sadly, they’re rife.
Here’s a list of book review sites to help your search:
- Amazon’s Editors Picks
- Love reading
- Book browse
- Kirkus reviews
- Manic readers
- Reader reviews
Last but not least, here in the UK our quality newspapers, publications like The Independent, Times and guardian, regularly review books. And the Richard and Judy reading list is followed by millions, always a source of excellent recommended books.
Who is your latest crime writer discovery?
Go on, spill the beans. Who have you discovered recently who has knocked your literary socks off?