Thursday, June 13, 2013

The world outside crime fiction by James O. Born

I read a lot.  Any writer who doesn't read is at a huge disadvantage.  Now, I will probably part ways with my brothers and sisters on this blog.  I don't read much crime fiction.  I like the unusual and quirky.  The fantastical and in probable.  In short, I want to get away from the crime fiction I write and the crime fact I live.  So let me clue you into a few books off the beaten path and certainly not associated with crime fiction.

I just finished a book by the science fiction/fantasy imprint of the Hachette Book group.  Red Hook only has a couple of books out, but one is named Hawk Quest by Robert Lyndon.  It is a historical fiction based set

during the Norman wars of England, which is the late 11th century.  I found it to be a rousing and interesting adventure as a small party travels from England to Iceland then across Europe to modern-day Turkey.  Sweeping and dripping with details of the time, it is a great first novel. 

Now I have switched gears slightly and I'm reading a fantasy by Felix Gilman called the Rise of Ransom City, which is a sequel to his excellent the History Of The Half Made The World  To put it simply the books cannot be classified or summarize.  I just like them. 

For real, old school science fiction, I love John Scalzi's series that started with the Old Man's War.  Despite the awkward title, it is a military tale of war and regret in the far future.  The sequels are all of the same high caliber with a new one just released.

Science fiction breeds loyal fans and attracts smart, discerning readers.  Scalzi deserves the praise and success he had found.

A classic, which is required reading for many high school students, and has as many different covers as Seth Macfarland has animated shows is Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank.  I've noticed this is a particular favorite among some of my survivalist friends.  In short, it is a simple tale of survival of the family outside of Orlando after a nuclear attack in the 1950s.  No giant spiders or mutants, just an important tale told from an interesting perspective.

And finally, to prove I don't read just read fantasy, I'd like to point out the excellent historical novel, Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters.  Peters is a retired Army colonel and I can recall reading one of his novels about the future of warfare more than 20 years ago called War in 2020.  But this novel about actual events with many real people makes you feel like you're part of the great battle that occurred in western Pennsylvania in the summer of 1862.  I heard Colonel Peters speaking on book TV and he explained that nonfiction tells you about an event while fiction makes you experience that event.  Good book, good writer.  You can go wrong with that combination.

If these books tend to skew towards the Tor/Forge line you have to remember that they are one of my employers and I tend to get a lot of free books from them.  That doesn't diminish my appreciation for books whether they're given to me or, (God forbid), I pay for them.  I hope you have time this summer to try one of these gems. 

What about you guys?  Any hidden finds in the book world?

Until next time, which obviously I have no idea when that will be,
 your loyal servant,


  1. from Jacqueline

    I read at least two books that aren't mystery for every one that is - and those books are a blend of non-fiction and fiction. I love collections of essays, and have just read the new book by David Sedaris, which of course cracked me up. But I'm also deep into background reading for my next book, which is not a mystery! It was time to do something different. I've recently finished reading a novel, "Old Filth" by Jane Gardham, and after reading it, I bought the remaining two books in the trilogy. One of my favorite books this year has been Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter - what a terrific book! I think it's important to stretch your reading well beyond your usual writing domain - kind of like cross-training, which is equally important when it comes to writing. I must confess, though, that I have never been drawn to "fantasy" - and I did so much early English history in school that I come out in hives (my mother lives close to Hastings in Sussex, and one of my favorite coffee shops is in Battle, so we know all about those Normans!!!)

  2. Mr. Born, your reading list is somewhat of a surprise to me. Fantasy? Who knew? You are truly a Renaissance man.

    Last year I read nothing but crime fiction because I was the chair of a major awards committee. The year before I read nothing but non fiction, including: the biography of President James Garfield and Catherine the Great of Russia, Unbroken, Eric Larson's In the Garden of Beasts, just to name a few. All of them were as compelling as any novel.

    This year I'm reading a mix of everything. At the moment my nose is deep into Kim Fay's The Map of Lost Memories, which is set in Cambodia in the 1920s and which was nominated for a 2013 Best First Edgar. Steamy jungles. Steamy romances. Hidden treasures. Revolution. Something for everybody.

  3. I read everything but these are fairly recent and therefore stuck in my head.

    I do read crime fiction,just not all the time.


  4. I loved Old Man's War! It came in a book bundle (have you heard of those? They're great!). Need to read the sequels yet.
    I recently finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on audio book and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I too am all over the place with my genres, though I seem to have a soft spot for British writers from almost any era.

  5. My favorites outside the crime genre are Neal Stephenson and Naomi Novik. Stephenson's books are an amazing mix of sci-fi, fantasy and contemporary issues, and Novik writes about the Napoleonic Wars, only with dragons.