The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

March 15, 2010

The Influence Peddler

A result of my recent encounter with Craig McDonald was that his great respect for Hemingway's work has influenced me to pick up an edition of Papa's complete stories. I've only ever read a few of them, mostly in the distant past of my formal eduction. I can't recall ever reading Hemingway for pleasure. But as a direct result of a conversation with The McDonald, I plan to read Indian Camp tonight, and a few others.
But this also got me thinking about how much my favorite authors influence my reading, at least in the realm of crime fiction, and I began to think that no other author has influenced my reading as much as Ken Bruen has in recent years. Just off the top of my head I came up with a list of authors that I know I made a point of reading because Bruen either quoted them in an epigraph, or his characters were reading works by these authors, or he gave a positive blurb to a book, or simply because he dedicated a book to some of them and I had to find out who rated such an honor. And of those authors several of them in turn have influenced me to read yet other authors, a la McDonald and Hemingway.

So I've been scribbling down as many names as I can recall, and I know this is the merest fraction of all of the authors Bruen has given free PR to (not to even touch on the musicians or movies he's mentioned in his books). A number of the writers he quoted or made reference to I'd already read (Auden, Beckett, James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, et al), but that's only another small fraction. There's a wealth of reading Bruen has done that I haven't begun to touch. Even so, his influence and the ripple effect of it, has been significant for me. In the style of Bruen begat A who begat B, here's what I've come up with so far:

               ---> JAMES SALLIS
               ---> THOMAS MERTON
               ---> BILL JAMES
               ---> CHARLIE STELLA
               ---> DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI
               ---> DAVID PEACE (TBR)
               ---> DAVE ZELTSERMAN
                               ---> ROGER SMITH
                ---> DECLAN BURKE
                               ---> DECLAN HUGHES
                               ---> BRIAN MCGILLOWAY
                               ---> TANA FRENCH
                               ---> ALLAN GUTHRIE
                                          ---> RAY BANKS
                               ---> ADRIAN MCKINTY
                               ---> STUART NEVILLE (TBR)
                               ---> GENE KERRIGAN (TBR)
                 ---> JASON STARR
                 ---> REED FARREL COLEMAN
                 ---> CRAIG MCDONALD
                              ---> JAMES CRUMLEY
                              ---> ANDREW VACHSS
                              ---> ERNEST HEMINGWAY
                              ---> CRAIG HOLDEN

How about you? What writer has most heavily influenced your reading? Or are you a more independent reader than I?


  1. You're starting with the finest Hemingway: the Nick Adams stories. After that, it would be THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and A MOVEABLE FEAST. (Had to throw in my two cents.

    Most of my current TBR stash comes from fellow bloggers/writers who have mentioned a novel. Recently, both James Reasoner and Randy Johnson did reviews of TIME TRAVELERS NEVER DIE and I just finished it. Top Read btw.

  2. I'm going to give James Sallis a try after hearing Craig McDonald talk about him. Also Hemingway, who I haven't read outside of a high school class.

  3. I'm reading Print the Legend now. When I was growing up, the big debate among literature majors was, "Hemingway or Faulkner?" For people of a certain age, that debate may still exist today.

  4. I'm with David Crammer on this. I look at my stack and see the influence of bloggers like Corey, Jen, Elyse, Lesa, and you there more than other authors. But, I find your nested influence trails pretty fascinating to read through. Thanks for this, Naomi.

    p.s., Bruen is pretty damn great, too. And credit Corey and you for finally getting me to give him a try.

  5. Ken's influence is massive in my reading choices (and on my writing. No writer I've read has had a greater impact on me stylistically, either. Although, Scott Phillips and his illicit nastiness is starting to heavily influence my writing.)

    But for me, Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski's reading habits influenced mine heavily when I was a teenager. As of writers who influence my reading now, Declan Burke has turned me on to more than a few truly great writers. (including Gene Kerrigan, who you should move up to the top of your TBR pile. Kerrigan more than any other writer is influencing the current crop of irish novelists.)

  6. Naomi, I don't see Paul Tremblay on this list. I've been pushing him as hard as Roger--like Roger, I think Paul's first two books are great, two of the best PI books I've read in years.

  7. Dave: That's because I picked up Tremblay's first book on my own, before I saw you plugging his books. In 20 years, when we look back on this golden era of crime fic, your name along with Paul, Roger, Ken, Craig and so many others, will have a quite a lustre.

    OK, Keith, Scott Phillips is now added to my list.

    lp13: Bruen seems not to be to everyone's taste, which just staggers me, but to each his own. And no doubt that bloggers have their influence -- I've started putting in more audio time since reading your blog than I did before.

    Joe, I suspect the debate still goes on. I hope you enjoy PtL as much as I did.

    Pete, I read one of Sallis's books before (the Bruen influence) and it was excellent, but like you, after listening to Craig I picked up DRIVE and added it to the TBR stack. I'd like to try some of his short stories, too.

    David, I've finished 'Indian Camp,' 'Up in Michigan,' and I've started 'Snows of Killimanjaro.' One thing I've noticed, people don't seem to like to separate the stories from the man. Or maybe Hem didn't like to separate them?

  8. Here's another one for you ...

  9. lp13 - I guess I should also have noted that most of what I read via the influence of Declan Burke came by way of him blogging about those authors, not because his books made note of them. So yeah, blogging is a big influence with me, too.

  10. Paul, if I pick up a Tony Black book now I'll be crediting you!

  11. One of the things I like most about Bruen is his mention of other writers. I think he turned me onto Sallis, too.

  12. I wonder how long it will take MWA to name Bruen a Grand Master.

  13. I will be forever grateful to Corey and this blog for introducing me to Ken Bruen.

  14. OK. I'm going to read Bruen with the health warning 'might be bad for your back'. That way, when I slip a disk rearranging my To Be Read Pile I'll have no one to blame but myself. At least I've done all the Guthrie's, some of Banks, many of Hemingway; other than that, there's one hell of a lot of reading to be done.

  15. It's a great problem to have, innit?