I’m back from tour, for the most part, with only my Toronto Bouchercon leg remaining. I had a delightful time, met quite a few great readers, visited the blue and the red states, and had many drinks with booksellers (who tend to be happy inebriates like us writers). A lot of people had questions about mind control after my intro to The Program, and I was happy to expound on my undercover sojourns into cults, and some of the psych research I did—everything from studying influence techniques employed by used car salesmen to reading about strategies employed by the Chinese captors in American POW camps during the Korean War. A few people came up to speak to me privately afterward who were either in a cult themselves, or who had lost family members into cults and as usual, those personal connections were the most memorable and moving.
One of the advantages of going on tour, aside from delectable airplane food and sitting next to loquacious travelers who “don’t have time to read anything except for work journals,” is that I get to catch up on my reading. Packing and planning are key; nothing sucks more than realizing that ALL the books you packed for your Phoenix-SF-Sacramento-Madison-Milwaukee-Cleveland leg of your trip are boring, unimaginative, or poorly written (or all three). But I had a great run this time out. My companions were:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – A delightful first person voice, great ironic humor. I found it utterly charming. For those of you structure sluts out there (and I am one myself) – don’t go in expecting a perfectly organized mystery. It is whimsical and loose and just go with it and don’t bitch.
Manhattan Nocturne by Colin Harrison – This book blew me away. A beautiful, moving, insightful piece of crime fiction. The characters are razor-sharp, the writing couldn’t be better, and the dialogue sings. There are a few riffs where Harrison lets loose that are truly inspired. This is one of the best novels I’ve read in the past few years.
The Magus by John Fowles - All right, I know, it’s a little long. And flawed by Fowles’s own admission. But it does have this wonderful, youthful energy to it, and the degree of mind-fucking going on has rarely—if ever—been paralleled. Fowles’s wonderful cerebral voice really comes through, and is perfectly married to a narrative with roots in Jungian thought. A great book to read with Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I know, I know, I’m the last person in America (and Canada) to read this book, where have I been, what’s wrong with me, head-in-the-sand, etc., etc. It takes me a while to get to these smash hits – I like reading them once the heat dies down a bit and I can see them for what they are. And this was a delightful little read. The bit at the end with Japanese interviewers was truly hysterical.
California Girl by T Jefferson Parker – You just can’t beat Jeff. A beautifully textured book that’ll surprise you for its depth of reach. I’m always amazed by Jeff’s compassion for his characters—even his antagonists are richly, fairly drawn. I’m looking forward to the planned discussion I’m having with Jeff at the West Hollywood Book Festival Oct 3.
I hope you’re having as much luck as I am in your choices of late.