25 Writers

by JT Ellison

Before I start, I'd like to share some sad news. Louise Ure's mother, Jeanne Ure, passed away Wednesday night. I know I've treasured Louise's posts about Jeanne – told with such eloquence, detailing the hardship and agony of losing one you love piece by piece, and the beauty and joy that has been her life. Please join all of us as we send our prayers and condolences to Louise and her family.

It's fitting, really, that this post is about influences.

There have been a million and one memes floating around lately. I usually don't participate, for a variety of reasons. This one, though, is too cool not to participate in. I got it through Facebook, but it comes up on DorothyL sometimes, and other listserves.

Who are you influenced by? What writers have had such an impact on you that when asked to list them, you'll think of them immediately?

To satisfy the meme's mission, I decided to list mine out – along with the one book or story or play or poem that was the most influential to me with a random tidbit as to why. It was hard to keep the list to 25, as you'll see…

25 Writers:

1. Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita

I've never been as affected by a novel as I was Lolita. It taught me voice, and passion, and how an unreliable narrator can squeeze out your soul. Something I've never forgotten.

2. Virginia Woolf – A Room of One's Own

Because I've always ascribed to the belief that, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Amen to that, Sister.

3. Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird

My first moments of social awareness.

4. Mary Stewart – The Wicked Day

I've always been fascinated with the Arthurian Legend, and this book, from Mordred's point of view and partially set in Wales, is my favorite of the lot.

5. Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged

I read it at the suggestion of a boyfriend in high school I wanted to impress, and was blown away by the concepts. Her short novel Anthem is my favorite book.

6. Sun Tzu – The Art of War

I fancied myself a Taoist for a while, but the logic of the simple dictum make sure your enemy has a way to escape stuck with me. Fitting for war, and life. And how can you not love a book that's influenced the art of war throughout history?

7. John Connolly – Every Dead Thing

His first, and possibly one of the finest debut novels I'll ever read. Connolly has long been an influence on my writing – his literary style is unmistakable and effective.

8. John Sandford – Mind Prey

The book I was reading when I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing again.

9. Carolyn Keene – Nancy Drew and The Secret of the Old Clock

After reading the Nancy Drew' books, I spent several years insisting on being called George, even going so far as to sign my school photographs George M. To say I was a tomboy is putting it mildly.

10. Ernest Hemingway – Short Story: Hills Like White Elephants 

I've never been so affected by a story in my life. Possibly the best example of metaphor ever written, and certainly one of the best shorts of all time.

11. Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

I always hated the movie, because the book gave Frankenstein's monster a conscience. I've always felt that evil is a choice, and this book encapsulates that concept for me.

12. Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights

I'm in love with Heathcliff, mental illness and all. There, I said it. And I thought the most recent BBC offering of the story was grand, if a little off the mark.

13. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

I'm also a bit in love with Mr. Darcy. And I married my own, so this book was a helpful guide to the path of true love.

14. Diana Gabaldon – Outlander

The book that precipitated my shift away from politics and back to writing. Grand, sweeping, and another main character I've got the hots for.

15. Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince

The art of the State, an essential book for me when I was planning my political career.

16. A.A. Milne – The House at Pooh Corner

I felt a great affinity for Christopher Robbins, because my stuffed animals had lives too.

17. Lee Child – Running Blind

My first Child book, with one of the most incredibly effective and affecting scenes I've ever read. A true impetus to get it right.

18. C.S. Lewis – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

I was an imaginative child, so fantasy novels really worked for me. I cried so hard when Aslan died, and found joy again when he resurrected. I saw what power writers have and started writing.

19. Elizabeth George – Write Away

One of the first writing books I ever read, and a great influence on how to build a story.

20. Stephen King – On Writing

The most important book in my toolbox, simple, straightforward, and definitely a help in improving my writing.

21. Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias

This poem is one of my favorites – succinct yet powerful.

22. Alfred, Lord Tennyson – The Eagle, A Fragment

My all time favorite poem – I recited it for an assignment in third grade, my first speaking part. It spoke to me, touched something in my soul. It still does.

23. Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

A journey into the heart of man, one not easily forgotten.

24. Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea

The idea of one of the greatest novels of all time (Jane Eyre) having a backstory floored me. Lush and evocative.

25. Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night's Dream

This was impossible to narrow down, because I'm a Shakespeare fiend. But this is one of my favorites, along with Taming of the Shrew.

So what about you? Who are your influences?

Wine of the Week: A gift from a friend, the best way to enjoy wine.

2005 Nickel & Nickel Branding Iron Cabernet Sauvignon  Yummy!!!!! The tasting notes from the Nickel & Nickel website say it best:

The 2005 Branding Iron is very fruity with flavors of blackberry and cranberry prevalent on the palate. This sweet fruit is accompanied by some peppermint and earth, while the oak offers up a warm toast and spice. The longer growing season this year allowed for good resolution of the tannins. The wine is fat and velvety with a long, coating texture that progresses into a warm, lingering finish.

35 thoughts on “25 Writers

  1. billie

    What fun for a Friday – JT, many of your 25 would also be on my list.

    Heathcliff and Jamie Frasier – who could ask for more? 🙂

    Something you might enjoy is the audio book of the unabridged Pooh – the BBC one – we went through about a year and a half when my kids were young where we had to have that audiotape playing wherever we went in the car. Of all the audios they loved, that one was the only one I never got tired of. I got the DVD recently so I can listen to it on my own!

  2. J.B. Thompson

    Louise, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    JT, somehow, even as close as we are, you always find new ways to amaze me, Sister. The things I’m learning about you …

    A lot of these books influenced me as well, and the rest are now on my to be read list, as I realize I am woefully under-educated. What a fantastic testimony to the power of good writing. We all have so much to learn, and so much to thank these masters for.

  3. M.J. Rose

    A great list – I agree with a lot of them – But but but but… Atlas and not The Fountainhead:)??????

    I’m going to have to read the Hemmingway short story and the Connally now. I have to do one of those lists one day – I love reading them sooooooo much.

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    Reading influences/landmarks by the book:

    Trixie Belden, Reader’s Digests books of kid classics, Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid — my sister (4 years older) had the sets. I didn’t think it was fair that she got them and I couldn’t.

    FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss — I was a bit precocious in my reading, I started gothic romances in the 5th grade and this classic was the first.

    DUNE by Frank Herbert — Romances got old by junior high. DUNE blew me away and made me love SFF

    CURTAIN by Agatha Christie — the book turned me forever for crime fiction. In high school, I was babysitting one night and was scanning the family’s shelves for something to read. Voila, and for ever changed.

    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and PERSUASION by Jane Austen. My all time favorites. If I had to save a book, etc. These would be my choices.

    Just a handful for now. Our thoughts are with Louise and thanks for letting us know, JT.

  5. PK the Bookeemonster

    Shoot, I forgot mention my Atlas Shrugged story. I read this right out of college. I was stage managing a show in Virginia City, MT, in a 100 year old Brewery. I had to keep the building open in the afternoon for tourists but we were off the beaten path a bit and virtually had no visitors. It was a cold rainy early summer that year. I read ATLAS SHRUGGED and the FOUNTAINHEAD, as well as the M.M. Kaye mysteries, in that cold (the bottom of the walls were eaten away), dark (not a lot of electricity), moody (I had music going by Verdi, Brahms, etc.) summer. It was wonderful and definitely memorable.

  6. pari

    J.T.,We share many of the same influences, however I’ve got a few that are different:

    One Hundred Years of Solitude/Love in the time of Cholera — Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Turtle Moon — Alice Hoffman

    Each of the above are examples of lush and glorious writing, the kind I never knew existed before reading them.

    Almost anything by Orson Scott Card and Lois McMaster Bujold

    Card and Bujold are master storytellers; I have incredible admiration and respect for both of them.

  7. Dana King

    I would mention my writing influences, but, considering the state of my “career” at this point, I’ll do them all a courtesy and not mention them. 😉

    HAve you heard of the two newest additions to the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE franchise? PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and PRIDE AND PREDATOR? Honest to God, I’m not making that up.

  8. Wilfred Bereswill


    I always feel like an idiot when it comes to reading. Only because I’m not well rounded. I have read a few on your list and I have to say On Writing by the Master was a big influence on me, as well as The Stand.

  9. J.T. Ellison

    Hi Billie, I’ll look into it. I have a hard time with audio books, but I imagine one of my favorites would be more like being read a bedtime story. I hadn’t thought about doing that with my favorite children’s books. What a fun idea!

    JB, I have all of the books mentioned here, you should come peruse the Ellison family bookshelves (and boxes, and boxes, and boxes)

    MJ, I do count Atlas as my favorite of her big books – oddly enough, we watched “The Passion of Ayn Rand” last night, with Helen Mirren. Have you seen it? I kept hubby up much too late talking objectivism. : )

  10. J.T. Ellison

    PK, I loved the Little House books, but was entranced by the TV show. Man, I hated Nellie Olsen. It was one of the few shows my parents let me watch, and my first novel to TV experience, so it made an impression. I loved Dune, too. My Dad is a big sci-fi guy, so we had a lot of cool books around. Isn’t it funny that we all remember our Atlas Shrugged experience? Rand got her wish, after all.

    Pari, I need to capitalize on your reading background – yours is so much more eclectic than mine.

    Dana, I saw something about the zombie on PM yesterday but didn’t have time to read it. There are no original ideas, but that sounds pretty close.

    Will, funny, I feel the same way. I’m woefully under read in crime fiction, but that’s partially on purpose. I don’t want to be influenced too much by the old masters – Hammet, Chandler, Parker. When my writing career is done, I’ll go back and read them.

  11. toni mcgee causey

    Louise, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    JT, excellent blog. I see some of my favorites on your list and a bunch more that I now will be buying.

    Here are a few of mine:

    Eudora Welty’s WHY I LIVE AT THE P.O. (and everything else she wrote)



    James Lee Burke’s IN THE ELECTRIC MIST OF THE CONFEDERATE DEAD (which awed me, how right he got this book)

    Terri Windin’gs THE WOOD WIFE

    Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER (which I just re-read. That book is 17 years old, and I was surprised at how much detail I remembered.)

    Jean Auel’s CLAN OF THE CAVE BEARS (which impressed me with how she took a subject I couldn’t have cared less about at the time and made it real, living and breathing)

    Robert Ludlum’s THE BOURNE IDENTITY

    Dorothy Dunnett’s THE LYMOND CHRONICLES

    Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME (flat out brilliant)

    Frank Herbert’s DUNE (likewise)

    And then there were the classics (Austen’s still one of my favorites), Nabokov (I wasn’t as enthralled with Lolita, but I think his writing is amazing). Then there were a lot of movie years (reading film scripts in between writing them and school) and then the recent immersion in thrillers (Connolly, Crais, Coben, LeHane) and comedy (Crusie–Welcome to Temptation being my favorite–and Hiaason and Pratchett) and the tough old birds–Elmore Leonard being the best example).

    And still, I feel woefully behind in my reading.

  12. J.D. Rhoades

    Louise, I’m terribly sorry for your loss. Hugs…

    I normally, don’t do memes, but for you, JT, I’ll make an exception, because you rock.

    1. Mark Twain: It’s tough to pick one, and I’ll always love “The Innocents Abroad,” but as far as influences go, I’ll have to go with the classic “Huckleberry Finn,” for that one moment where, faced with the prospect of not just criminal charges but eternal damnation if he doesn’t turn in the escaped slave Jim, Huck thinks about the kindness that Jim has shown him and all they’ve been through together, then abruptly decides “All right, I’ll GO to Hell” and tears up the note that would betray his friend.

    2. William Faulkner, “Barn Burning”: if that ain’t redneck noir, I don’t know what is.

    3. Robert A. Heinlein: Another tough one to narrow down to just one book, but I’ll go with “Starship Troopers” because it most clearly illustrates Heinlein’s talent for making me think and question my own assumptions, while keeping me turning the pages. I may vigorously disagree with some of the arguments made in Heinlein’s books and agree with others, but in either case, he always made me think about why.

    4. Dashiell Hammett, “Red Harvest”: one of the Founding Fathers of hardboiled, with the other, of course, being Chandler. I like Chandler, but I still prefer Hammett because while both had aspirations to being literary, Hammett didn’t wear his on his sleeve quite so much.

    5. John D. McDonald-“The Deep Blue Goodbye” (or any of the Travis McGee books): I devoured the McGee books as a youth. For a lonely kid with a philosophical bent, McDonald’s philosophical loner who still kicked bad guys’ asses and got all the hot women was just the thing.

    6. Hunter S. Thompson, “The Great Shark Hunt”: There was a time when I thought I wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson, until it finally dawned on me that it wasn’t enough to stay wild and loaded all the time, you actually had to write something. Still, Thompson’s sometimes brutal cynicism arising out of his deep seated rage at what’s happened to the American Dream stuck with me.

    7. Harlan Ellison, “Deathbird Stories”: his short stories have been compared to a shot of straight tequila: they knock you on your ass, and quickly. And his essays and introductions are curmudgeonly, hilarious, and, more often than not, spot on. But underneath it all, Ellison also has that quality of compassion that I find irresistible.

    8. Molly Ivins, “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That Can She?” As Bill Crider is fond of saying, “Texas leads the way.” Smart, funny, and irreverent, Molly Ivins was the writer who first got me interested in writing about politics. RIP.

    9. P.J. O’Rourke, “Republican Party Reptile”: The guy who taught me that conservatives can be funny, too. I treasure the line “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.” Haven’t seen a lot of PJ lately, and if the GOP had relied more on O’Rourke and less on the smug, vicious, and cruel so-called ‘humor’ of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, they might have done better.

    10. Spider Robinson, “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon”: If Robert A. Heinlein had been cloned and the clone raised on a 60’s hippie commune, the result might be something like Spider Robinson. The same razor sharp gift for observation, shot through with a compassion (there’s that word again) that lets the reader find some sympathy even for an alien who’s come to destroy the world.

    11. Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: It begins with the destruction of the Earth to make way of an interstellar bypass, and gets crazier from there. Its absurdist worldview (in which the answer to the Big Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything turns out to be “forty-two”) had a major effect on my own.

    12. Elmore Leonard, “Rum Punch”: Another writer for whom it’s difficult to pick just one book, so I chose that one more or less at random. No one writes dialogue like Elmore Leonard. No one.

    13. Stephen King, “On Writing”: Ditto what JT says above. “On Writing” is one of the best books on the subject ever written, and one of the two that don’t bore me to absolute tears, the other being:

    14. Lawrence Block, “Telling Lies For Fun and Profit”: I wish I’d been able to tell Lawrence Block what a huge influence this book was on me when Ruth Jordan sat him next to me at the Anthonys. Unfortunately, he silenced me with an upraised hand when I started talking about it and didn’t speak to me for the rest of the meal. (Perhaps he didn’t get the humor when I asked “can you stand a few seconds of gushing fandom?”) His wife was quite gracious, though, and we had a lovely conversation. So Mr. Block, let me take this opportunity to thank you and hope we can try again sometime. I’m still a huge fan.

    15. Robert B. Parker: “Looking for Rachel Wallace” : the Spenser books were among the first I read when I started getting back into crime fiction after a long hiatus, and there’s no more classic a P.I. than Spenser.

    16. Dennis Lehane, “A Drink Before the War”: Suddenly I realized just how good P.I. fiction could be, how deep and complex and flawed characters could really come alive on the page, and how sometimes a tragic outcome, born of tough choices, could be the only one. Reading Lehane always makes me want to be a better writer.

    17. Katy Munger, “Money to Burn”: North Carolina can be a setting for great, funny, hardboiled fiction with a kick ass female character? Who knew? Katy Munger did, and she was one of the first people who encouraged me, and one of the reasons I still write about my home state. Thanks, Katy.

    18. Robert Crais, “L.A. Requiem”: Another one who showed me what crime fiction was capable of being. This is the book that also got me thinking abut the possibilities of what I called the “psycho buddy” in crime fiction: the bad-ass character (often with a past) who does the hero’s wet work for him. Jack Keller was at least partially born from the question I asked myself after reading “L.A. Requiem”: what if the main character WAS the psycho buddy?” (I hadn’t read any of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels yet).

    19. Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake), “The Hunter”: speaking of bad-ass…Parker is a great character. He’s sometimes described as amoral, but I don’t buy that. He just has his own moral code, one based on absolute loyalty to those who are loyal to him, and absolutely no mercy for those who aren’t.

    20. Laura Lippman, “Every Secret Thing”: Not just for her books, which are incredibly good, but for one long conversation we had at Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha one year where she gave me some very sound advice that boiled down to: take the long view of your career. Sometimes you build slowly. Be patient and keep at it. Thank you, Laura. You are truly a class act.

    21. Alexandra Sokoloff: I love her books, of course, but Our Alex’s recent posts on structure have really caused me to think a lot about how a story is put together. I recognized some things I’d been doing more or less instinctively (“hmmm, this would be a good time for the story to take a turn”) but Alex is showing me how to do it deliberately.

    22. Julius Epstein, Phillip Epstein and Howard Koch, “Casablanca” screenplay: I don’t know if it’s considered cheating to bring screenwriters into this (and it’s an open question whether director Michael Curtiz needs to be listed here as well), but I can’t ignore the influence that movies have had on me, and this is one of the biggies. Not only for the dialogue, but for the character of Rick, the archetypal reluctant hero who puts aside his own bitterness and cynicism and rises to heroism by the end, even though that involves sacrificing what he wants most in the world for the sake of what’s right (see Solo, Han).

    23. Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, screenplay for “Reservoir Dogs
    “: I saw an interview with Tarantino the DVD in which he noted that criminals, when they’re talking amongst themselves, don’t always talk about crime. Often they’re talking about stupid pop culture stuff, just like regular knuckleheads. The opening pages of “The Devil’s Right Hand” are a direct result of that.

    24. Lawrence Kasdan, screenplay for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”: “I don’t know, I’m just making this up as I go.” If ever there was a metaphor for the way I write, this is it.

    25. William Kent Krueger, “Blood Hollow”: I’ve said before that Kent Krueger saved me from noir snobbery. I was, I confessed, a bit miffed when “Blood Hollow” won the Anthony in 2005. How dare they overlook my friend Ken Bruen! Then I read it, and, while I’ll still argue about whether or not it’s better than “The Killing of the Tinkers,” it’s an awesome book, and reminded me that it doesn’t have to be noir to be great.

  13. Allison Brennan

    This is harder than I thought, because there are books I really enjoyed but I wouldn’t say had an influence on me personally, or on my writing. But the ones that really have stuck with me for a variety of reasons:

    TRIXIE BELDEN: Read them when I was 7 and 8 and have loved mysteries ever since.

    Judy Blume . . . especially ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET.

    THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger. My daughter just read it for school and thought it was depressing. I don’t know why I still remember this book so strongly, but I’ve never forgotten it.

    THE STAND by Stephen King. One of the few books I’ve read more than once. I was 13 and this was the turning point from kids/YA books to adult books.

    THE TALISMAN by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

    NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King. This book is everything a real-world supernatural thriller should be.

    WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? by Mary Higgins Clark. I think this was her first book. I was hooked. And terrified. And it’s still one of my all-time favorite books.

    ANTHEM by Ayn Rand. LOL JT when I saw ATLAS SHRUGGED (another great book) — I read ANTHEM first and it has stuck with me through the years.

    1984 by George Orwell. We’re living it.

    ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell. Had to read it in 8th grade and thought it would be the most stupid book on the planet. I was so very wrong.

    THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

    LUCIFER’S HAMMER by Niven (?) — comet hits the earth. Loved it. I was terrified every time I drove down I-5 for years, expecting to be submersed in the new San Joaquin Valley Sea.

    JD ROBB books–pacing, character, story. And still getting better. No real impact on me, except to remind me that you CAN write 100 books and continue to improve.

    PSYCHOPATH by Keith Ablow. It was shortly after reading this book that I started seriously writing, and his depth in his villains inspired me to go deep into mine.

    DIVINE EVIL by Nora Roberts. This might have been the first Nora Roberts book I read; it was a romantic suspense and that’s when I fell in love with romantic suspense.


    THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by CS Lewis (all the books, but this one stands out and I’ve re-read it each time my kids had to read it in school.)

    THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain. Social commentary without beating the reader over the head and while telling a great story.

    THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO by Edgar Allen Poe. Still freaks me out. Terrifying without gore. (Not that I’m opposed to gore!)

    IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote. Whether he took liberties or not, I don’t care–this book started my love affair with true crime.

    RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris. Sorry, I just think it’s a better book than SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and I like Will Graham more than Clarice Starling. This book reinforced my “lesson” after reading Ablow that getting into the mind of the killer is a difficult but potentially satisfying storytelling POV.

    Writing books . . .ON WRITING by Stephen King. Hands down the best and more inspirational for me. I’ve read it twice and listened to it on my iPod. He reads it. Worth twice the money.

    THE WRITERS JOURNEY by Vogler. I know Vogler was inspired by Campbell, which I also have, but I don’t want to think that hard and Vogler is like the cliff notes–accessible and understandable even for me . . . I read it after I sold and had several A-HA! moments . . .

    I’m sure there are others that have influenced me, but JT said off-the-top-of-my-head, and these are what jumped out at me instantly.

  14. pari

    Toni!Dorothy Dunnett is one of my favs. Did you read her Nicolo Rising series? I adored it, too. (But I didn’t like her mysteries, alas.)

  15. Jeff Abbott

    My thoughts and prayers are with Louise.

    I have to ask, JT, given what you said about Pride and Prejudice–does this mean your husband was aloof and proud, and did you prejudge him? 🙂

  16. toni mcgee causey

    Pari, I think I was almost afraid to — I’d loved The Lymond Chronicles so much, I was afraid that Nicolo Rising wouldn’t live up to it (at that time). [The chess scene in Chronicles will, to this day, make my heart ache with sadness, it was so well done.] And then, I forgot… but now, THANK YOU, I am going to go get it.

    Dusty, I loved the McGee novels, too, though I confess I started reading them for an entirely different reason. 😉

  17. rosebud

    Influence, I’m not sure, but several books I have enjoyed to the point I think about the story and characters for many days after. Sometimes to the point I have to give myself a good old-fashioned Cher from Moonstruck “snap out of it!”, these people aren’t real, slap. Guess you guys have done your job when that happens.

    Please take the following with the humor it’s intended. The mention of Atlas Shrugged (which I fully admit never even thinking about reading) made me recall James Born’s comments about it:

    “Last I tried to slog through Atlas Shrugged. Wow, I don’t have the words. Who is John Galt? Who freakin’ cares? I made to page 50 and felt like I had climbed Everest. Life’s too short. Atlas Shrugged is too long. Communists bad, capitalists good. Government has no role in regulation. There, that’s Jim’s cliff notes of Atlas Shrugged.”

    Well, there I have it all. He certainly cut to the chase. Guess I can skip that one now.

  18. Jake Nantz

    Hmm…I may have to come back to this when I have more time and do it right on Facebook, but I’ll give it a quick shot here for now. And since I just recently started in the genre, please forgive my woefully inadequate library. In no particular order:

    1) Alex Sokoloff – If a single soul wants to write, reads Murderati, and hasn’t printed every one of her story structure lessons yet, get thee to The Dark Salon. Even if you don’t follow any of the advice (which I am trying to do religiously), it makes you really think about your story, which can only improve it.

    2) William Shakespeare, Macbeth – Was it fate, or did the power of the Weird Sisters’ suggestions drive him to it? Just love that one above the othersfor making the reader/audience really think.

    3) Jeffery Deaver, The Empty Chair – First thriller I’d seen set in NC, which was extremely cool for me. I figured all good mysteries and thrillers had to take place in NY, Chicago, LA, or somewhere equivalent. And it let me know that people actually could care about a place like my home state. Boy did I have a lot to learn.

    Which Brings me to:

    4) Dusty, any Jack Keller book. You’ve helped me in more ways than you know. Thanks.

  19. J.T. Ellison

    Sorry, kids, I had to go get some work done.

    Toni, a great list. I should have had Clan of the Cave Bear on my list too – talk about a book that made an impression. Ayla’s rape has always stuck with me.

    Dusty, you’ve given me a number of books to put in my pile – and I was so happy to see O’Rourke on your list. He’s got cancer, and has been writing about the indignities of it – brilliant, heartbreaking and funny. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-orourke28-2008sep28,0,3317114.story

    Allison, I should have included Forever, by Judy Blume. I loved all her young adult books, but that one – well, I didn’t know what people actually DID when they had sex until I read that. Thanks for the education, Judy!

    Jeff – you know him. Can’t you see it? I think Darcy was just shy. ; )

  20. J.T. Ellison

    Rosebud, if Born’s name is involved, I’ll never take offense. That’s a great summary – though I would recommend actually reading it. It’s a wonderful book.

    Jake – you’ve got a great list started there. I’m a huge Deaver fan myself.

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    I was so sorry to get Louise’s news and sent my love.

    This was a very thought-provoking list. My own, in no particular order:

    THE MISFORTUNES OF MR TEAL by Leslie Charteris. The first ever crime novel I read and one I still own to this day. If your only experience of Simon Templar, ‘The Saint’ was the dreadful Val Kilmer movie, go back to the source.

    THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYAM – one of the world’s most influential poems, given to me on my 18th birthday, crewing a boat home from the Azores. I’ll never forget the trip, nor the book.

    DESIDERATA – well, you had Ozymandias, so I thought I’d sneak a poem in, too ;-]

    MYSTIC RIVER – Dennis Lehane, for the craftmanship.

    ABSENT FRIENDS by SJ Rozan. Still one of the most haunting books I’ve ever read.

    IMAJICA by Clive Barker. One of the few books that made me cry at the end.

    I CAN’T STAY LONG by Laurie Lee. Lee’s beautiful short stories are individual works of art. I read this – and CIDER WITH ROSE – and knew I wanted to be a writer.

    BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell. The author’s only book, published months before her death. Not often a novel can bring about changes in the law, but this one managed it.

    VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER – CS Lewis. Always prefered this one to TLTW&TW.

    1984 – GEORGE ORWELL. Yup, we *are* living it.

    LORD OF THE FLIES – William Golding. A salutary tale of human nature.

    Don Winslow’s CALIFORNIA FIRE & LIFE, or THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE. Still the best present tense books I’ve ever read.

    And I’d agree with you about the Stephen King, ON WRITING. Great book. My personal favourite of Lee Child’s is PERSUADER, because I love the way the back story interweaves into the book. And the violence, of course ;-]

    Apart from that, just about anything by Jeff Deaver, Robert B Parker, or Ken Bruen.

  22. Jake Nantz

    Okay, back home and have a few minutes before the hockey game. Before I go any further, Ms. Ure, our thoughts and prayers are with you at this terrible and emotional time. God bless you.

    To continue the list:

    5) Michael Connelly, The Black Echo – Showed what a fantastic detective able to solve true caper novel can be.

    6) King, On Writing. Nuff Said.

    7) Lawrence Block, Hitman – Made me realise that people would and could root for the “bad” guy.

    8) Thomas Harris, Red Dragon – I gotta say, as much as I love Hannibal Lecter, the way Will Graham is written in Red Dragon is so much better to me. Just my $.02

    9) Orwell, 1984 – What a great lesson to learn in terms of propaganda and learning not to trust ANY media outlet at face value. Why? Because they ALL slant the truth, no matter which way the slope leans.

    10) John Gardner, Grendel – Shows that there are always more sides to the story, and that the villain has his own path to blaze.

    11) Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game – No better way to show that the storyline you’re following may be misleading than to see it happen to Ender Wiggins during his “training”.

    12) Michael Crichton, Airframe – Any book that can keep me up all night, and never even think about setting it down, will always instill in me what I hope to one day instill in my own readers.

    13) An multi-published, bestselling author I won’t name, for showing me that even the great writers can mail it in with a stinker once in a while.

    14) If I can cheat like Dusty did, I’m gonna say the screenwriter of The Usual Suspects. How often can you see a film where the surprise twist at the end IS THE FILM, and still want to watch it over and over because of the beauty and complexity of the setup.

    15) Whether it was James Cameron, or someone working for him, whoever wrote The Terminator had a huge, profound influence on me as a kid.

    16) Ditto for Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels.

    17) J.K. Rowling, any Harry Potter book – For showing everyone that “children’s literature” and “YA literature” can be damn fun to read, and the stories can be as intricate as any “adult” books.

    18) Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses” – I don’t know about Joyce, but this poem is the only Ulysses for me. Odysseus as a king who’d rather die fighting on the seas than fade away on a throne, bored out of his mind? Sounds like my kind of warrior.

    To be concluded when we get back from a Hurricanes W-I-N (I hope).

  23. J.T. Ellison

    Zoe, excellent list. I love 1984 too . . . I tell you, 25 is too few. I had a hell of a time narrowing…

    Jake, I particularly like your anonymous listing. I think it gives us all hope. : )

  24. Kathryn Lilley

    The most impactful work during my coming-of-age (read: sophmoric) years was Plato’s Republic. Many years later, I discovered that I’d somehow managed to pass along certain “wisdoms” that I’d acquired during that phase of my youth to someone I known back then. They were good ideas, even though I’d long since left the ideas (and that person) behind.

  25. Judge Page

    Hey J.T.,

    Fun lists to read and some good reminders of authors missed. Thanks for the chance to reflect on the ones that continue to shape things.

    25 and counting…

    William GoldmanJames Lee BurkeDick FrancisBeverly ClearyThe Hardy BoysArthur Conan DoyleIra LevinStephen KingJohn SandfordThomas PerryRobert CraisMichael ConnellyBill BrysonWilliam Kent KruegerIan FlemingJohn D. MacDonaldWoody AllenJohn KatzenbachJames CrumleyBob WoodwardLawrence BlockPeter RobinsonJanet EvanovichJonathan KellermanT. Jefferson Parker

  26. J.T. Ellison

    Judge Page – damn good to see you! Hope you’re well. An excellent list, to be sure… many of my own favorites on there as well. I adore Crais, and Jeff Parker. Good stuff.

    Kathryn, I left Plato off, but his allegory of the cave is the basis for much of my philosophical mores. An excellent addition – thank you!

    Joylene, I haven’t read either of them. Obviously need to remedy that. Do you have a suggestion where to start?

  27. Jake Nantz

    4-1, take that Tampa!

    Anyway, sorry to do this in 3 parts, but awwaaaaaayyy we go.

    19) Robert Crais, for Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, and letting me know that PIs can be funny and cool instead of ONLY noir and destitute unless they solve THIS CASE. For the humor bit, I also have to throw Joe Konrath and our own Toni McGee Causey in as well…those are some funny-ass people, and Joe has several other feathers in his cap for newbie writers to take note of. (Yeah, so I cheated…screw you if ya can’t take it).

    20) Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird – Voice and setting. No one can get those two aspects of craft as right as she did.

    21) Ken Bruen, anything the man has ever written – Mr. Bruen is a poet, plain and simple. I’ve never seen him do it, but I’d be willing to bet he could scribble his address on the back of a torn-off beer label and make it poignant and compelling.

    22) Barry Eisler, Rain Fall – If you want to learn to write an intelligent protagonist without sounding arrogant or pretentious, read John Rain. Any John Rain.

    23) Lee Child, One Shot – Someone turn THIS BOOK into a movie, PLEASE. Hunter’s Point of Impact, which became the movie Shooter, was good, but One Shot would instantly become the ultimate sniper classic…with a hint of Shane or and old Eastwood thrown in (as is always the case with our main man Reacher).

    24) Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead – Wanna see how a plot can be turned on it’s ear? This may not be the most true example of an absurdist play (for my money, that’s Pinter’s The Dumbwaiter), but it’s got to be the most fun.

    25) Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee, Inherit the Wind – This play really made me think, forced me to analyze my faith, and helped me see that it isn’t blasphemy to be a good Christian and an evolutionist at the same time, if you understand the maleability of recorded history. That same mutability of the past can be useful in fiction, if it’s done right.

    Okay, guess that’s all I’m allowed, though I could keep going for a while yet….

  28. Fran

    So many great books!

    I’d add “The Clowns of God” by Morris West, which made me take a good, hard look at what it means to be human. I read this every year.

    “River of Darkness” by Rennie Airth, which lifted my level of awareness on how richly textured crime novels should be.

    “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell, because the sheer poetry of his writing brings me to tears. Every time.

    “Rebirth” by John Wyndham, for the good, clear look at what it’s like to look just like everyone else but be different in ways they can’t see.

    “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, because until then I didn’t realize how brilliantly stories could arc over multiple volumes.

    “Rite of Passage” by Alexi Panshin, which made me realize that being a responsible adult is going to mean making hard choices.

    “I See By My Outfit” by Peter Beagle, because that’s what friends do.

    The Ken Holt series by Bruce Campbell, because to me it’s what the Hardy Boys wanted to be, but I thought the writing was tighter as were the plots. And I thought this at about 15.

    Anything by Patricia McKillip for her use of language. I always find myself saying, “I know those words too! Why can’t I say that?”

    “Booked to Die” by John Dunning.

    Anything by Shakespeare. If I had to be on a deserted island with just one book, it would be the collected works of Shakespeare. It’s all there.

    What a great meme!

    And dear Louise, I’ll be in touch, but my heart goes out to you.


Leave a Reply to Kathryn Lilley Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *