Toni Causey had an excellent blog about fear on Killer Year, and at the end, she broached a
question. What’s the first book you
ever read that made you want to keep reading? That made you realize that yes,
this is a way of interacting with the world, of learning about it or
finding someone similar, and you became a reader for life?
I’ve been dreading this question. The truth is, I don’t
know. I can’t remember. All I know is I’ve always, always read, always written,
and somewhere deep inside my conscience, always knew I’d be a writer one day. So
I thought I’d try to trace it out, see if I can find my way back to the moment.
There are certainly books that I recall affecting me so
strongly that it ultimately shaped my childhood.
The first book I remember having an impact was THE THORN
BIRDS. Damn Colleen McCullough. Maggie’s daughter gets lice, and my mom used to tell me that if I didn’t
let her brush my hair, I was going to get lice too. I couldn’t have been more than
six or seven (yes, I read much too weighty tomes early.) I forced my mother to
cut my hair. My gorgeous white blond waist length hair. Arghhh. So I guess on
some level I knew how powerful storytelling could be.
The second that really stands out is Peter Straub’s GHOST
STORY. Pardon my French, but it scared the living shit out of me. I couldn’t
comfortably go to the bathroom by myself for months. I was about nine or ten then, because
we’d moved into the new house on Apache Drive. (That’s partly how I track these
pieces of memories – where they happened is the only way I can figure when it
I know I read all the typical books a budding female reader
goes through – Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Dr. Spock (because
honestly, who didn’t), Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, anything on
mythology, C.S. Lewis’s brilliant series The Chronicles of Narnia, Madeline L’Engle,
Jack London, Tolkien — I could go on and on. I read everything I could get my hands on,
whether my parents said it was okay or not. I actually don’t ever remember my
mother taking a book from me and saying no, you can’t read that. God bless her
So, interspersed with Judy Blume’s ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S
ME, MARGARET and FOREVER, I was reading the grown-up books. When I was eleven
one came out that changed me. Jean M. Auel’s CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR.
It was by far the most complex and far-reaching book I’d
read. At eleven, conceptualizing a young woman your age who is the link between
you and your pre-historic past can get a little heady. But there was more. Midway through, Ayla is raped by Broud, son
of the leader of the clan. Brutally beaten and raped.
I was outraged for Ayla. She was my hero, and she’d been
demeaned and used. Plotwise, it’s an inevitable situation. Reading the story as
an adult, as a writer, Auel’s intent is clear. But as a child, precocious as I
may have been, the inequity was nearly insurmountable. I hated Broud, cried
when Ayla found herself pregnant with a mixed breed child. As the book drew to
a close, I seethed and brooded. “It’s just a story,” my mother told me. Just a
Twenty-six years later, as I puzzle may way through my
inceptions as a reader and a writer, I wonder if this is the moment I’ve been searching for.
Have I found my Pygmalion? Is this the genesis of my love for crime fiction? And more importantly, is
this why I write serial killers?
I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure. My journey for
self-awareness will continue.
How about you? Can you pinpoint the book that solidified
your journey, made you a reader, or a writer?
Wine of the Week: Zenato Ripasso Valpolicella
Reminded me of a nice Pinot Noir, actually, smooth and deceptively simple.
A place for crime fiction writers, readers and lovers to schmooze,
booze and draw up plans for the heist to end all heists. Find new
authors to delve into and discuss the latest in crime fiction. Join up
and enter the forums. Share photos, videos and make some friends.
Pull up a chair at the bar and share your poison.