Friday, November 13, 2009

[The Loft] Mystery, Crime & Thrillers

Over at the Loft Literary Center this weekend is the sold-out Mystery, Crime, & Thriller Festival featuring Vince Flynn, the New York Times bestselling author. (Who started out self-publishing. Interesting.)

Other award-winning writers include Carl Brookins, Philip Donlay, Jan Dunlap, Lois Greiman, Masha Hamilton, Ellen Hart, Erin Hart, Julie Kramer, William Kent Krueger, Mary Logue, Jess Lourey, Susan Runholt, and Richard A. Thompson. It's Saturday & Sunday, November 14 & 15.

It's a great lineup. There's also a great graphic novel & comic book festival coming up in 2010 I definitely want to catch, and will try to keep the rest of you updated on it as well. Gene Yang will be one of the key participants if I've read that correctly.

I enjoy the Mystery, Crime & Thrillers genre but haven't been reading much in it, lately.

My favorite authors in this genre who I recommend includes John Le Carre. I deeply admire the realpolitik feel of his writing, particularly his Smiley Trilogy which includes Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Le Carre broke ground as the first major writer who didn't sentimentalize or romanticize the world of espionage. This was such an important break from the trend, and opened the field wide open for good spy literature. It also spawned some unfortunate pale imitators whose work dilutes the poignancy of Le Carre's perspective to the point of what may seem like cliche today. But back then, it was a bold statement. I prefer his Cold War work including The Spy Who Came In From the Cold to his post-Cold War material. As an aside, he even includes a nod to the Lane Xang Hotel in Laos in his book The Honourable Schoolboy.

I'm old-school, and like classic hard-boiled detective stories and characters like Dashiell Hammett's Phillip Marlowe series, including The Maltese Falcon.

I can't get into Dan Brown. I find Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum much more intelligent and amusing, as well as The Name of the Rose. They've continued to linger with me for much of my life long after I'd read them. Jorge Luis Borges shouldn't be mentioned in these categories any more than Franz Kafka should, but when their work goes mysterious, I find them intellectually rewarding and satisfying.

Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American, but my favorite of his is The Captain and the Enemy, which is a strange little work but it's filled with some fine passages, and it lingers with me.

I'd also point out Colin Cotterill's work with his Lao detective character Dr. Siri Paiboun in books such as The Coroner's Lunch. One day, I hope we see Lao writers emerge with their own Lao mysteries.

I really wanted to enjoy Tom Clancy's work, but only The Hunt for Red October stood out for me. However, Frederick Forsyth's The Dogs of War and Day of the Jackal are great reads, although the Bruce Willis version of Day of the Jackal must totally be avoided. See the one with Edward Fox, instead.

For quick, cheap thrills, growing up I enjoyed many of the old Gold Eagle 'adventure' series including Mack Bolan: The Executioner, Phoenix Force, Able Team and SOBs. You can usually pick these up for a buck and they're fast reads, plot driven more than character driven. And they were among the first books I encountered that featured, for better or worse, depending on the setting Lao and Hmong characters. Inauthentically written, mind you, but it was precedent.

Have a great weekend!

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