The list of authors I get enthralled with changes all the time, except for two permanent favorites; Agatha Christie and Mark Twain.
Christie I love for the sheer joy of only once being able to guess the ending, and that was only one chapter before the conclusion of the novel. I’ve read about 30 of her books and watched every PBS dramatization I could get my hands on at the libraries I’ve frequented. I’m determined to be like Miss Marple when I'm old; sharp and a bit of a busybody. Hercules Piorot stories I read for years without any particular fondness for him, until I saw David Suchet’s characterization on the small screen for the first time. Who could not love the vain little man’s twinkle in the eye, or his weakness for a pretty girl?
Mark Twain’s humor is timeless. When I read The Diary of Adam and Eve I realized that his description of the battle between the sexes was as current as if it was written this year. His incisive wit is a challenge, like a really great comedic movie where you have to watch it at least twice to get all the jokes;so goes Mr. Twain’s writing (as inane as it may seem to compare it to say “Blazing Saddles”).
However, for down and out belly-laughs there’s only one I’ve discovered who can really deliver and that’s Laurie Notaro. A former columnist for the Arizona Republic, she’s at her best when she’s describing her own foibles in life. Everyone’s been there, but few will admit it. While she goes for a simple nod to her hilarious escapades, somewhere along the way, her writings become an true ode to the modern female.
A mere couple of months ago I discovered Elizabeth Peters heroine, Amelia Peabody, a turn-of-the-last-century Egyptian archeologist with a hottie Professor for a husband, nerves of titanium and an incredible sense of self confidence. These adventures of Peabody’s aren't great literature but are incredibly fun, which I value as much as your basic literary masterpiece. I devoured seven of her novels in a two week period, enveloped in every spare moment in Eygptian excavations, murders, thefts and abductions and frankly was saddened when I ran out. I had stumbled on a stash of five at a library book sale! I’m on the look out for more with every visit to a Friends of the Library cubbyhole.
Then there’s Jodi Piccoulet, who presents a real-life dilemma like no other. Each novel is filled with a cast of characters who feel so familiar, so spot-on. They are always embroiled in situations that render the reader heartbroken, in part because they could be happening to any one of us.
Richard Russo tickles my intellectual underbelly with his well-defined and complex interactions between totally normal people. I often have trouble being truly engaged with a male hero, but not with Russo’s men. I feel I’m “let in” and given a special viewing of the inner workings of their mind. I go away thinking, “Oh, so that’s why they do that.”
I have no television, so I read two to three novels a week, depending on how successful I am at writing that week. So, chances are I’ll discover someone else soon.
When I do, I’ll pass their books on to friends and my sparkling insights, ahem, to you.