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Posts from the ‘Our authors’ favourite novels’ Category

“In praise of James Ellroy, 2015 Grand Master” by Craig McDonald

March 4, 2015


“A writer’s public persona is one thing; the solitary craftsman who lives in his head, and works very much alone, is another creature entirely.”

Happy birthday to the great James Ellroy!

Read Craig McDonald’s tribute here:

Watch James Ellroy’s interview with Craig McDonald:


Today: Sam Hawken’s choice

January 3, 2015



The book I read the most often might not necessarily be my favorite book, but it is the book which speaks to me the most: No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy.  When I first read the book in 2005, I knew I’d found the key to unlocking my own voice in writing.  Up until that point I’d been floundering around trying to figure out who I was on paper, but the clarity and purpose of McCarthy’s writing in No Country was so compelling that I just knew with an absolute certainty what I needed to write and how I needed to write it.

After that time I have come back to the book at least once a year to recharge my batteries.  I won’t say it’s a new experience every time, as I know the book very well by now, but I will say that it never fails to set me on my way again whenever I feel myself faltering.  And that’s more than enough to ask from any book.


Sam Hawken is the author of LA FRONTERA

Today: Jackie Mallon’s choice

January 2, 2015



There is a passage from classic literature so vividly macabre yet fantastically romantic that it seared itself into my girlhood brain. Nothing Hollywood’s big budget pyrotechnics or CGI wizardry has ever produced has come close to replicating it: the image of Miss Havisham catching fire in Great Expectations.

Unlike some little girls I didn’t grow up cultivating my own great expectations of stepping regally in a white frothy frock while draped on the arm of an unidentified Prince Charming. No, this anti-wedding day captured my imagination with its symbols of tradition all twisted.

When Miss Havisham offers Pip nine hundred pounds to help Herbert, there’s the dowry. Then there is, of course, the consummation. Pip demonstrates some major throw-down when he flings her to the ground and rolls on top of her trying to extinguish the “whirl of fire blazing all about her.” The wedding banquet or “heap of rottenness” is finally consumed by flames not guests. Confetti? The tinder and ashes raining down on them in a “black shower.” Post-activity there follows the tender newlywed kiss when Pip leans over and touches Miss Havisham’s lips gently with his own as she lies loosely wrapped in a white sheet.

Great blazing bones and scuttling beetles!

I’ve been betrothed to Dickens ever since.


Jackie Mallon is the author of SILK FOR THE FEED DOGS

Today: Donald F. Mayo’s choice

December 30, 2014



Anyone doubting the enduring power of the social realist novel need look no further than Tom Wolfe‘s 1987 masterpiece, still as relevant today as it was almost 30 years ago. Set on Wall Street in the midst of the 1980s boom, it charts the downfall of Sherman McCoy, star bond salesman who struggled to make ends meet on a million dollars a year.

Elegantly written and with a cast of characters that manages to get under the skin of everyone from Manhattan socialites to down and outs, The Bonfire of the Vanities is one of those rare books I find myself returning to every few years. With the fall out from bank bailouts still pervading our major financial capitals, and inequalities of wealth on the rise, I can feel its pages beckoning once more.


Donald Finnaeus Mayo is the author of FRANCESCA

Today: Craig McDonald’s choice

December 29, 2014



The book that changed my life was a humble, second-hand paperback reprint of an old pulp magazine story written at the height of the Great Depression.

On a cold autumn day, my maternal grandfather handed me the second Doc Savage novel, The Land of Terror.  I was always a reader, always had one or more books going. My granddad—the man to whom I dedicated my first-published novel, Head Games—often gave me books in that manner. Some interested me; most frankly didn’t.

This one grabbed me by the young scruff like no other, before or since. It was pure pulp-lit and the story moved like lightning. I was, I think, all of eight, and I read the book cover-to-cover at a sitting, another first for me. I sat on the floor with my back to a wall register, sucking up the heat and that first-season furnace smell of charred dust in the heating ducts, but I was really just lost in that crazy thriller about a globetrotting, latter-day knight errant and his band of scrappy, quirky aides. When I finished the novel, I read it again, and a third time after that. I started a years-long quest after the myriad Bantam reprints of Doc Savage pulp magazines with their moody, hyper-realistic James Bama covers (alas, Bama didn’t provide The Land of Terror’s cover).

I completely skipped the Hardy Boys and the usual kids-level series my peers devoured—I found such books drivel compared to the Doc novels.

Inspiration comes from the strangest of places and drives our lives in new directions. For me, for better or worse, it all started in that little house on Woodlawn Avenue with this teaser on the back cover that spurred me to open that book and read on:

“A vile greenish vapor was all that remained of the first victim of the monstrous Smoke of Eternity…”


Craig McDonald is the author of the Hector Lassiter series

Today: Colin O’Sullivan’s choice

December 28, 2014


Griffiths cover

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for?” Franz Kafka

In an alternative translation of the above Kafka quote, “wound” and “stab” are written as “bite” and “sting”, Sheepshagger by Niall Griffiths does all these things to the reader, and then some.

In ecstatic prose and with raw energy and furious rhythms Griffiths brings you on a wild ride in the Welsh countryside with the unhinged “scruffy skinny spotty” Ianto, an almost mute, feral savant-ish youth who roams the mountains intoxicated not only with drink/drugs but with his own feverish imaginings. This is quite possibly the best British novel in the last twenty years, an exhilarating ride, and an unforgettable read.

You can have your Jonathan Franzens with their mild social comedies, but anyone who craves for their servings of viscera, then this is the real daring deal. Like all the best writers writing today (Banville, Delillo, Ford) he makes you care about sentences. In fact he makes you want to do two contradictory things: he makes you want to pick up a pen and try out your own rich metaphors (the purple-ness can be utterly inspiring), and he also makes you want to never pick up a pen again, because you can never do it this well.

Confrontational, often outrageous, criminally ignored (too dangerous for the Booker?), this is the kind of novel Kafka meant, so take a jaunt on the wild side.

It might have been lazily billed the Welsh Blood Meridian by some, but Sheepshagger stands singular in its own right, and it set the standard for writing excellence at the beginning of the new millennium.


Colin O’Sullivan is the author of KILLARNEY BLUES

Today: David Hogan’s choice

December 27, 2014


At Swim cover

Not one of my three sisters is a loud, dirty, boozy girl. That’s probably a good thing for them — as well as me. But if one or two or all of them were, I would give them this book if only because Dylan Thomas, that loud, dirty, boozy poet, said I should. Even without that recommendation, how can anyone resist a novel that reflects on the humanity of kangaroos, including “the kangaroolity of women and your wife beside you”? Or one that offers an occasional “summary of what has gone before, for the benefit of new readers.” Or one where an author sleeps with one of his own characters and conceives a child who then goes on to write a book about what a terrible writer his father is? Joyce loved it, so did Beckett and Graham Greene and Jorge Luis Borges, and Brendan Gleeson is trying to turn it into a movie. It’s Flann O’Brien’s ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’ and one of my favorite novels. Go on, find yourself a loud, dirty, boozy girl and give it to her.


David Hogan is the author of THE LAST ISLAND

Today: Richard Kalich’s choice

December 26, 2014



Reading The Fall was a life-changing experience. But let the novel speak for itself:

“Don’t lies eventually lead to the truth? And don’t all my stories, true or false, tend toward the same conclusion? Don’t they all have the same meaning? So what does it matter whether they are true or false if, in both cases, they are significant of what I have been and what I am? Sometimes it is easier to see clearly into the liar than into the man who tells the truth. Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.”

“Freedom is not a reward or a decoration that you toast in champagne. On the contrary, it’s hard graft and a long-distance run, all alone, very exhausting. Alone in a dreary room, alone in the dock before the judges, and alone to make up your mind, before yourself and before the judgement of others. At the end of every freedom there is a sentence, which is why freedom is too heavy to bear.”

“Thus I progressed on the surface of life, in the realm of worlds as it were, never in reality. All those books, barely read, those friends barely loved, those cities barely visited, those women barely possessed. I went through the gestures of boredom and absentmindedness. Then came human beings’ they wanted to cling, but there was nothing to cling too, and that was unfortunate for them. As for me, I forgot. I never remembered anything but myself.”

“A single sentence will suffice for modern man. He fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.”


Richard Kalich is the author of CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY (currently on promotion on Amazon UK and Amazon Australia)