How I Spent My Summer Vacation

by J.D. Rhoades


One of my favorite things about vacation is the amount of uninterrupted time it gives me to read. And oh, boy, do I read. I usually take a Big Bag O’Books with me to the beach, and I start filling it with paperbacks at least a month in advance. See, I don’t speed-read as such, but when I have the time to really sit down and concentrate (and no Interweb to distract me), I plow through books at a clip that makes my wife shake her head in disbelief. My record is seventeen novels in one week (and I’m sure some of our loyal readers out there can top it).

This year, I had a particularly fine selection. Here are some of the highlights:

  • SOLOMON V. LORD, Paul Levine: Ironic, isn’t it, that after my post on why I don’t generally get into legal thrillers, one of the books I fell in love with happens to be just that? Well, that’s summer love for you.  I did say that I didn’t mind the legal inaccuracies when the book was a comedy, and there’s plenty of comedy in SOLOMON VS. LORD. There’s also the fact that, when the characters pull shenanigans in the courtroom, they end up exactly where you would in a real courtroom, to wit: in the little holding cell "backstage". In fact, that’s how this romantic comedy/legal thriller opens: with its bickering protagonists in opposite cells. Now THERE’S  a meet -cute for you! There’s some great snappy  dialogue, some quirky characters, some real emotion, all in all, a perfect beach read. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
  • HARD REVOLUTION, George P. Pelecanos: Pelecanos’ Derek Strange is one of my favorite P.I.’s ever, a flawed but, in the end, a righteous man. This book goes back to the time of the Martin Luther King assassination (and the  riots that erupted in reaction to it) to partially explain how Derek became the man he is.  It’s tragic, it’s moving…hell, it’s Pelecanos. There’s no need to say more.
  • PAGAN BABIES, Elmore Leonard: By tradition, I always take at least one Leonard on vacation with me. This one has a contemporary angle, beginning as it does in Rwanda a few years after the genocide. But once the action moves back to the States, the usual Leonard cast of characters manifests itself: the  weary middle-aged guy who’s seen too much, the younger (but not too much younger) female love interest who’s got a past of her own, the wise-ass tough guys, etc. I enjoyed it, because I always enjoy Elmore Leonard. When I read him now, though,  I start to get the feeling about halfway through that I’ve heard all this before.
  • WICKED BREAK, Jeff Shelby: How can you NOT take a book about a surfing P.I. to the beach with you? I thoroughly enjoyed Jeff’s debut novel, KILLER SWELL, and this one is even better. San Diego Private Eye Noah Braddock and his tough-as-nails buddy Carter deal with a missing persons case that turns into a battle with some truly nasty white supremacist types. Shelby deftly weaves the surfing bits and local color into the book without slowing down the plot, and the characters here take on more depth than in the last one. The writing and plotting is tighter, too. This series gets better and better.
  • HEART OF THE HUNTER, Deon Meyer: I finally got around to reading this one, which was in the goodie bag at my very first Bouchercon two years ago. It’s an excellent cloak and dagger thriller with a fascinating protagonist: a six-foot-three African named Tiny who used to work as an international assassin and whose preferred weapon was the traditional bayonet-like short spear known as the assegai. (He’s an excellent marksman, but he likes that personal touch). Frankly, the book had me at this point. I mean, come on. You can’t hardly get more bad-ass than a guy who kills people on streets of Paris with a damn spear. When an old friend in trouble calls Tiny out of  his peaceful retirement, it starts a white knuckle chase across southern Africa. The stuff about post-apartheid South African politics is a little confusing at first, but worth the trouble it takes to puzzle through.

So what are you guys reading this summer (other than SAFE AND SOUND, the third Jack Keller novel, available July 10th)?

8 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. Alex Sokoloff

    Hah, I love this – I guess we really do read what we write.

    Seventeen novels in a week sounds about right.

    At the moment I’m loaded down with several each of John Connolly (at your suggestion, Rev!), Jeffrey Deaver, Denise Mina, Tess Gerritsen and British horror novelist Sarah Pinborough.

    I also just very much enjoyed A GOOD AND HAPPY CHILD, by Justin Evans, and THE POST-BIRTHDAY WORLD, by the amazing Lionel Shriver.

  2. Karen Olson

    I took Anthony Neil Smith’s THE DRUMMER to the pool yesterday. I just finished Peter Spiegelman’s RED CAT. Have Patty Smiley’s SHORT CHANGE on deck, along Bob Fate’s BABY SHARK and Sean Doolittle’s BURN. Oh, and Patrick Quinlan’s much touted THE TAKEDOWN.

    And if Shelby could read faster and get the damn thing in the mail, I’ll get a sneak peek at Alison Gaylin’s TRASHED, out in September.

  3. Mike MacLean

    17 BOOKS IN A WEEK!!!

    I couldn’t read 17 books in a month. I couldn’t read 17 books in 2 months.

    My summer reads:

    HARD MAN by Allan Guthrie (my interview with Guthrie will be posted Sunday).

    BAD THOUGHTS by Dave Zeltserman (my interview with Mr. Z will appear soon).

    BUST by Ken Bruen and Jason Star.

    REQUIEM FOR AN ASSASSIN by Barry Eisler.

    And finally, SAFE AND SOUND by some guy whose name I don’t recall.

  4. Stacey Cochran

    I’d recommend The Colorado Sequence: said of it: “I didn’t want to put this one down simply because of the suspense and wondering who would make it out alive. With strange creatures, harsh elements, and deadly tests, danger seems to lurk around every corner.”

    And to see me reading it at a packed Borders event, go here:

  5. pari

    I don’t really get a summer vacation — the kids are home and I’m working. When we go on a trip, it’s with the whole family.

    But,I’ve started the ARC of The Girl with Braided Hair — Margaret Coel’s newest book due for a Sept. ’07 publication. Three pages in and I’m loving it already.

    After that, I’m going to read Steven Havill’s new book, Final Payment.Can’t wait.

  6. Louise Ure

    Who could resist a book called PAGAN BABIES?

    Right now I’m stuck into the fabulous BELONGING, from Scotland’s Ron Butlin. Eddie Muller was raving about it in his crime fiction column in the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend. Man, oh man, was he ever right.

  7. Mark Terry

    I’m reading “The Second Horseman” by Kyle Mills (totally, I mean TOTALLY my kind of book–security company blackmails a hotshot thief into stealing $200 million in casino money so they can buy 12 nuclear warheads from Ukrainian bad guys so they don’t sell them to al-Qaeda, but everything goes to hell…)

    And I’m reading “Daughter of God” by Lewis Perdue.

    I also re-read “Bag of Bones” by Stephen King and read “Hunter’s Moon” by Randy Wayne White, and “Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse” by Rick Riordan, and “The Cleaner” by Brett Battles. You know, I can recommend all of these, but I would like to especially recommend the Percy Jackson novels for kids by Rick Riordan. They rock.


Leave a Reply

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