Recommended Reading -Some Of My Favorites.

Posted: December 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

The following is from my Author’s Note to “Death On The Pedernales”, Bill Travis #5.


(Please note that this introduction was written prior to the demise of my good friend, Milton T. Burton, to whom I have dedicated this volume.)

I discovered Raymond Chandler late in life.  Had I found him sooner, my life would probably have been a good bit different.  Before him, going back to what is for me the ancient of days (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) there was the 1960s republication by Bantam Books of the old Doc Savage pulps.  And before that there was Tolkien, Richard Adams, and sci-fi’s Larry Niven.  Fantasy and Science Fiction may have brought me to the dance, but I left the dance with Mystery and Adventure, and we have been together ever since.

Any author is shaped by what he has read, no matter how much he will attempt to deny it. And therefore, there are a few books which have shaped this author from numerous genres, both fiction and nonfiction. I have listed them here, just in case there is any curiosity on the subject.  My seventy or so favorite books, in no particular order, are as follows:

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze by Lester Dent
The Girl In A Swing and Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane by Laird Koenig
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Haunted Mesa by Louis L’Amour
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Up The Line by Robert Silverberg
Fever Dream by George R. R. Martin
Nine Princes In Amber and Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Kin Of Ata Are Waiting For You by Dorothy Bryant
Final Blackout and Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz
Voyage: A Novel Of 1898 by Sterling Hayden
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Greatest Salesman In The World by Og Mandino
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
World Without Stars and The Long Way Home by Poul Anderson
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh
Sho-gun and Taipan by James Clavell
Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale
Shadowlands by Peter Straub
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote
Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
The Mote In God’s Eye and Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Stand by Stephen King
The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
A Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Veils of Azlaroc and The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen
Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy by Dirk Benedict
City and The Waystation by Clifford D. Simak
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation and The Search for the Girl with the Blue Eyes by Jess Stearn
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
There Is a River by Thomas Sugrue
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly
The Rogues Game by Milton T. Burton
Jumper and The Wildside by Stephen Gould
East of Eden and The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosely
In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke
River God by Wilbur Smith
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard
The Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh
Booked To Die by John Dunning
Pearls Are a Nuisance by Raymond Chandler

So that’s the list. These are my favorites, those I have read and will read again and again and again.  I could go on to list hundreds, but you get my point.

I mentioned Raymond Chandler in the beginning not because I wish to be his copyist, but because I earnestly attempt (at every pass) to capture a scintilla of what he could do largely by instinct:  impart the essence of the world in which he moved and the world of thought and imagination he gave his characters.  For the mystery and action reader, Chandler is the incontrovertible king.  However, there are two modern authors (one of whom is a very good friend of mine) who both approach and in many instances surpass Chandler.  These are Joe Lansdale and Milton T. Burton.  Whenever I’m in town, I drop in on Milton.  We regularly email, call and harass one another, and exchange manuscripts.  But both Milton and Joe are decidedly in the Chandler category for the compelling tale, the turn of just the right phrase, and that sense of thereness I’ve always sought in my own writing.  And, to top it off, they are both Texas writers.  And that’s just as it should be.

As you’ll note, some on my list are “classics”, some are epics—what are now called “blockbusters”—while still others are quaint and brief sojourns.  For instance, Laird Koenig’s The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is no more than about 65 pages, about the same length as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Herman Melville’s Billy Budd. Comparatively, Steven Crane’s Red Badge of Courage is a tome.  So regardless of length, they are, all of them, true gems.

So, books.  Louis L’Amour thought it important enough to list his favorites in his Education Of A Wandering Man.  The thread running all the way through that autobiography was books, the books that influenced him, the stories for which he yearned as a young man and that gave him the best education he ever had.  Abe Lincoln, as the legend goes, walked for many miles to borrow a book (and it’s in my nature to wonder how far he walked—if ever—to lend one).  My wife Sallie recently gave me a satchel which bears a large imprint which reads:  “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”  And, of course, that’s Lincoln saying that.  He must have meant it.  It’s briefer than his address at Gettysburg, and tells far more about the man.  Interestingly enough, the flip-side of that bag reads: “When I have a little money I buy books, and when I have a little more I buy food and clothing.”  Erasmus said that, many, many years ago, and that about sums it all up.
There has never, in my recollection, been a time when I have not been either reading or writing, or both.  As my darling wife, Sallie, remarked once, these are the two things I will do, no matter what else is going on.  And while I might not be able to write anywhere, at any time (L’Amour once said you could park him down in the median of an Interstate highway, and he would write something) I have been known to carry a book to a movie theater, a political speech, and even a funeral.  Also, I have been known to read upwards of ten books at a time.  And sometimes (as the count begins to climb) when I dream, the characters and settings from these diverse milieus come together and pow-wow with me, and the results, to the say the least, are interesting.

The old saying is “a writer writes.”  I would amend that by saying he also reads.  He reads a lot.  And he probably can’t damned well help it—unless of course his vision has begun to fail him.  Some of us have the book bug pretty bad.  I’ve got an especially virulent case.  I even like very old books.  I don’t care if the text is ancient Latin, I’ll collect the damned thing and try to piece it all together in some way.

My father instilled in me a respect for the printed word at a very early age.  We never destroyed books.  We lent them or gave them away, occasionally sold them, or donated them to charity.  But trash them?  Unh-uh!  I once picked up a very nice limited edition of a very old Kipling sitting on top of a dumpster behind a used bookstore.  I snagged it and gave it to one of my friends as a gift.  It was a first edition.  A treasure.  So…  books.
Waxing philosophic now, I believe books—like music and art—are our links to immortality.  Someone thought it up and got it printed somehow.  Someone read it.  Someone passed it on, just as I’ll pass all mine on.  And somehow the genus of thought and wonder, the loving and careful turn of the page, is passed on as well.

And who knows, perhaps a hundred or a thousand years from now a fragment of my work will survive.  And the one reading it—or possibly translating it—will understand me in some profound way, all the way across that blackest of gulfs we know as time.
Right now a couple of good books (mysteries) that I am reading are:

Dutch Curridge by Tim Bryant
Outlaw Road by Billy Kring
Dog’s Run by Nick Russell

And for horror I recommend:

The Lascaux Nightmare by Robert A. Taylor


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