Thursday, June 25, 2015

More Mystery Writers Name Their Favorite Books

Today is the launch of my latest novel, Never Kill A Friend. More about that here

As you ponder your purchase, I will continue to provide lists of the favorite books by mystery writers. I had thought I had run low on sources for these lists, but recently came up with a means to find more.

Today: Dennis Lehane, Don Winslow, Michael Connelly, Polly Whitney and E.E. Kennedy.

Dennis Lehane

Lehane is the author of numerous bestsellers, three of which have been adapted to film: Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; and Shutter Island, attracting the directors Eastwood, Affleck and Scorsese. He also wrote for the acclaimed television series, The Wire. The following list of favorite novels (not only mysteries) is from a Barnes and Noble interview, 2008.

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez -- Part fever-dream, part reinterpretation of The Bible, politically and socially furious, bawdy, heartbreaking, extravagantly entertaining on every page. It's the most perfect novel I know.

2. The Wanderers by Richard Price -- For the reasons stated above.

3. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy -- Introduced me to Southern Literature and the philosophical novel in one fell swoop. Exceedingly gentle and humane, beautifully written on every page.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- I never met a writer who wasn't deeply influenced by this novel. Structurally flawless, full of incandescent prose and observations, pretty much an immortal achievement in under 200 pages.

5. Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth all by Shakespeare --I developed an addiction to Shakespeare's tragedies as an undergrad. There's nothing I could say about them that hasn't been said much better by others.

6. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy -- Seems utterly impenetrable when you first attempt to tackle it but gradually reveals itself as the Moby Dick of our time. Completely unlike anything I've ever read and yields new treasures every time I read it.

7. The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley -- The benchmark novel in American noir. Literature masquerading as a "genre" novel. The gold standard in crime fiction, as far as I'm concerned, probably never to be equaled.

8. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton -- War can be played out on a very quiet stage. Violence can be a misplaced whisper, a barely-heard rumor. At stake is love versus society, and society wins.

(Blogger's note: I am very impressed by his descriptions and book analysis.)

Don Winslow

Winslow is one of the great modern mystery masters. His 17 novels have been nominated for, or won, a total of 19 Edgar, Shamus, Maltese Falcon, Barry, Dagger and Dilys awards. The following is from Publishers Weekly.

1. The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins
The Friends of Eddie Coyle is the most realistic crime novel ever written, perfectly catching the world of small-time New England criminals without ever lapsing into either romanticism or bathos.

2. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
I was on a panel with Michael Connolly when someone in the audience asked ‘What’s the best private eye novel ever written?’ Michael and I answered simultaneously, ‘The Long Goodbye’ then looked down the table at each other and smiled.

3. The Guards by Ken Bruen
It’s a terrific story, but it’s the writing that gets you. No one does dialogue better, but that prose – oh my god, that prose. It sings.

4. L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
...Ellroy owns L.A. of the 1950's ... The characters – Exley, White and Vincennes – are so real, so finely drawn, such bundles of internal conflict. ... I vividly remember reading this book when I was trying to become a crime writer and thinking, “This is how it’s done, this is what I want to be.”

5. Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker
"A perfect morning in a city of perfect mornings; an artist would have worked, a god would have rested.”
I mean, come on - if [there's] any better than the opening sentence of Laguna Heat, I haven’t seen it.

Michael Connelly's Favorite Legal Thrillers

Just being able to spell Hieronymus Bosch should be an accomplishment enough for most writers, but Connelly has given us 28 superb crime novels featuring, among others, Detective Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller. Connelly has won virtually every mystery award and has served two terms as president of the Mystery Writers of America. From: Entertainment Weekly;10/17/2008, Issue 1016, p103.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"This great American novel also hits every requirement of a thriller."

2. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
"The high-water mark for the literary legal thriller."

3. A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
"Nonfiction, but as riveting as a novel."

4. The Firm by John Grisham
"Turned the genre on its ear. Momentum, action, and surprise in a story on the law."

5. El Niño by Douglas Anne Munson
"Obscure but beautiful — when the law is a hurtful thing."

Polly Whitney

Whitney has had a double career: writing fiction and teaching. Among her mystery novels, Until Death was nominated for an Edgar Award for best first novels. Among her other works, one book stands out, a literary coming-of-age novel and not a mystery: This is Graceanne's Book. Her website and her blog.

1.  In The Best Families by Rex Stout
I could almost have chosen randomly from the Wolfe canon—the routines in these novels are part of the appeal, after all. But this one does break Stout's own pattern, is a terrific puzzle, and (best of all) gives Archie room to roam—and it is, I think, Archie's distinctive voice that accounts for the lasting charm of the Nero Wolfe series.

2.  Dracula by Bram Stoker

3.  L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

4.  Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

5.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

E.E. Kennedy

Kennedy is the author of the Miss Prentice Cozy mystery series published by Sheaf House. The main character is a high school English teacher. Titles include: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and the upcoming Incomplete Sentence (spring, '16). Sample chapters are available at and her blog can be found at

E.E. Kennedy's Memorable Mysteries:

1. Mrs. McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie. Christie plays it completely straight with the reader; all the clues are in plain sight.

2. Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George. Wacky, hilarious cozy full of improbable (but true) local Alabama color.

3. Maigret and the Madwoman by Georges Simenon. Cynical Inspector Maigret is jaded, but uncannily perceptive and Simenon never wastes a single word.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The original Victorian Gothic mystery/romance, dark, overwrought, maudlin and fun.

5. Madame, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart. Fast-paced and completely politically incorrect; woman flees from, but is also attracted to, seductive potential villain. Yum.

Previous posts of mystery writers choosing their favorite mysteries.
  The first post: P.D. James, Andrew Klavan, Thomas H. Cook, John Dickson Carr, Arthur Conan Doyle
  The second post: Isaac Asimov, Robert Barnard, George Baxt, James Ellroy, Michael Gilbert, Sue Grafton, Reginald Hill, Tony Hillerman, HRF Keating, Peter Lovesey, Charlotte MacLeod, Sara Paretsky, Julian Symons, Martin Hill Ortiz
  The third post: Robert B. Parker, Elizabeth Peters, Peter Straub, Donald E. Westlake, Phyllis A. Whitney
  The fourth post: Aaron Elkins, John Gardner,  Michael Malone, Marcia Muller
  The fifth post: Robert Barnard (best recent), Jacques Barzun, Rex Stout,  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine 1950.
The sixth post: Jeannette de Beauvoir, Mary Reed, John Dufresne
 The seventh post:  Angela Zeman, Carolyn Wheat, Ann Rule, John Lutz, Dick Lochte, Laurie R. King, Tony Hillerman, Jeremiah Healy, Linda Fairstein, Jan Burke
 The eighth post: Agatha Christie (favorites among her own works), Julia Buckley, and 38 renowned authors choose their favorite forgotten books, including John Le Carré and Elmore Leonard.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. His latest mystery, Never Kill A Friend, is available from Ransom Note Press. His epic poem, Two Mistakes, recently won second place in the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Poetry Competition. He can be contacted at


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