My Summer Reading

My Summer Reading by Michael Connelly (2019)

We are well into summer at this point and I am well into my summer reading. I have an eclectic stack on my reading list. Here are a few of the highlights. Some you have had the chance to read for a while, some are new, and at least a couple are not out yet, but you can always pre-order them so you get them as soon as they are out.

First off, I just finished If She Wakes by Michael Koryta. A couple of disclaimers first. Those of you who have read my recommendations before will know he is a perennial favorite of mine. This started at least because I love the way he tells a story. Therefore, I love his books. But, of course, we are a friendly bunch in the crime fiction genre and get the chance to meet and greet each other at conventions, books signings and so forth. I met Koryta at a book convention and he’s a friend. His books led to that friendship. So, yes, the caveat here is that I am recommending a friend’s book but it’s a damn good book. The other disclaimer is that this one I listened to instead of reading the printed page. Thanks to this book I increased my stats on my pedometer because I walked more because I wanted to listen more. Every day I put in the buds and went out for my paces, only to go further and last longer so I could get more story in. This book may have helped me lose weight – what better recommendation than that! Told in multiple points of view – including through the point of view of a woman locked but alert in a coma. Ingenious stuff to go with an ingenious story with a lot of switchbacks.

The thing with me is that I can be writing when most people are reading; on a plane, lounging by a pool, even while in bed. So, I listen to a lot of books so I can get to these stories while walking or driving – believe me, in L.A. there is a lot of driving. My next suggestion is also a book I listened to, but of course is readily available in print. Bloodshed by Michael Lister. (what’s with all the Michaels?) I am particularly fond of the John Jordan series set in the panhandle of Florida and this is the 19th book in that amazing run. Lister has really mastered the art of the crime novel and this one – no spoilers – really draws from issues very important in the world today. I hate the cliché “Torn from the Headlines!” and this story is not, but it is certainly inspired by the news of the day and worth the read.

This next recommendation has a couple caveats too. It’s not available yet and I am not even finished it before recommending it. I’m lucky. I get to read it now because I have a galley. You won’t get to read it until October. I write about L.A. and so I am always looking for L.A. voices. It’s not about competition. It’s about getting other takes on this great and flawed city and its vast expanse. In the past I have told you about Joe Ide’s books and Ivy Pochoda’s book Wonder Valley. Many years back I worked with a newspaperman named Al Martinez who wrote a book about L.A. called City of Angles. One of the few titles I was ever jealous of. But he was right about this place and every writer has his or her own angle of view on it. That’s what makes their books so interesting to me. I am right in the middle of reading Steph Cha’s book Your House Will Pay coming out October 15th. I don’t know how it will end yet but to say it is so far so good is a big understatement. I am marveling at what is going on here and where it is going on. Cha has new angles on a city that has been the focus of myriad stories and films. But this one is unique and totally gripping. And her prose at times are pretty stunning. Check out this line I came across this morning:
“Smoke rose in a pillar like something from the Bible, dark and alive and climbing, becoming one with the gray sky. Shawn felt a pinprick of heat on his forehead. Touched it and gazed at his finger. Ash. It was everywhere. Flakes of it landing like snowfall.”
All I can say is, you want to know about that fire. You want to read this book.

Okay, so I told you where I have been and where I am at the moment. Now the future. The next book I’ll read is Cari Mora by Thomas Harris. It’s been out a couple of months and so far the word is that its Thomas Harris light. That’s okay. It’s been over a decade waiting for something from Harris and I’ll take anything. I am pretty sure I would not be doing what I am doing today if I had not gone to school on Thomas Harris books. Red Dragon will always be top five for me. So I am looking forward to this new lesson from the teacher.

After that, I’m reading Gone Too Long by Lori Roy. Roy doesn’t have a lot of work out there but everything she has published has been fantastic. She brings a literary sensibility to the crime genre and this book uses the lens of the past to give us a view on what is happening in our world right now. I can’t wait to dig in to this one.

Then it will be back to L.A. Robert Crais has a new one coming out in August called A Dangerous Man and that is on the schedule with me. Do you know that purely by coincidence, Harry Bosch and Elvis Cole have lived on the same street in L.A.? Yep, good ol’ Woodrow Wilson Drive. It’s actually a long street and they are not exactly neighbors, but it underlines how Elvis and Harry have trod some of the same streets for many, many years and I always want to see what Elvis and Joe Pike are up to.

Lastly, a few books on my stack that I ordered because I got excited by a review or by the words of a bookseller. I got the books and just haven’t gotten to them yet. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson is a debut spy thriller that got raves. I want to read Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin because it won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar award for best first novel. I read all of those. Next week I am also going to get a copy of Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys. I seem to favor, at least on this list, Los Angeles and Florida stories. I grew up in Florida and am always drawn to stories about it. So, many on this list are Florida writers or their stories are set in Florida or both. The Nickel Boys is set in Florida and about a hellish reform school for boys. It sounds like it was inspired by a true and horrible story I know of through local newspaper stories. I look forward to reading this book as well before the summer ends.

-Michael Connelly