Mark Terry

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Fickle Fan

November 8, 2011
Stephen King
Ridley Pearson
James Lee Burke

Those are just three writers whose works I don't actually read any more. It's not particular reflective of their work. In fact, it's no reflection on their work at all. I just grew out of them.

That's sort of strange, given that I became a writer, inspired by an essay Stephen King wrote. But it's true. The last new book by King I read was "Lisey's Story" which I got as a birthday gift (and hated it). Prior to that "From a Buick 8" that I listened to on audiobook (and hated). It's possible I just got caught in a period where his books didn't work for me and I hung it up. Certainly part of my problem with Pearson is that when he more or less abandoned Lou Boldt I more or less abandoned Ridley Pearson. That happens.

There are writers out there that when their books came out in hardcover, I rushed to the bookstore and bought the very day they were released and devoured them as soon as I could. All of these guys. And I'm sure, if I spend some time, I can come up with others. There are certainly others I can think up that fall into that category.

And there are some others that I still buy ASAP and devour immediately--John Sandford comes immediately to mind. The late Robert B. Parker.

I think James Lee Burke is an interesting case. I became an addict when I discovered him, somewhere around his 4th book Dave Roubicheaux novel. I picked up his backlist, I started buying his books in hardcover. Then I started reviewing novels for The Armchair Detective and for ForeWord Magazine and eventually The Oakland Press. I don't remember which mag I reviewed Burke's newest hero, a Texas Ranger (it wasn't ForeWord, of that I'm sure). And although I thought it was a fine book, something in my subconscious clicked and I haven't read another James Lee Burke novel since. Some emotional response to the book, some possibility that I had gotten too close a glimpse of the inner workings of how Burke approached novel-writing, something... for me the magic was gone.

Mostly it tends to be a slow fade. I read some books by an author, realize I've read 20+ of their books, and they may have peaked 4 books ago. Then I'm not very excited about their next one and I wait till paperback (the e-book phenomenon hasn't quite factored in yet), then somewhere along the way I just shrug. So many books, so little time...

That isn't to suggest I won't, perhaps, on some day, pick up an older book by any of these authors, or that I might decide, "Hmm, this latest one by King sounds interesting..." That happens.

I still have my favorites, but I also find myself reading more by new writers or by writers who I realize have written 20 books and I haven't read any of them, so I pick one up (Daniel Silva, David Ignatius... and I really should read some Graham Greene and John Le Carre...)

I assume this isn't just me. Are there former favorites of yours that you no longer read? Any idea why?


Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

I love Janet Evanovich, but I'm pretty much done until she has sex with Ranger. It's been ten books.

I leave genres. I cycle through a genre for about three to ten years, and then I'm done.

Also, I think I get a person's writing to the point where I don't really need to read the book, you know?

7:10 AM  
Blogger Stacie said...

Some of it can just be attributed to changing tastes. I also used to read Stephen King, but gave it up as I have a low threshold for the hibbie-jeebies now. Same reason why I no longer feel compelled to seek out and ride roller coasters.
Additionally, by his own admission, Stephen King has become a bit repetative. In one interview I heard, he actually said that at some point he may quit publishing altogether, just because his stories are rehashings of his older works. His did say, however, that he would never stop writing. I would like to see him expand into other genres to challenge himself.
My all time favorite, James Michener, is not an author I read a lot of these days. That has more to do with this season in my life, where devoting the time to stick with something that long and complicated is not realistic. I expect to get back around to him though.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I used to read everything Andrew Vachss wrote the day it came out. I stopped mostly because I spiritually went to a place where I couldn't immerse myself in that world of horrific child abuse anymore. I just didn't have the energy to BE in that world. Still admire him; still loved them when I read them. Just too much reality for me.

I used to read all the Robert K. Tannenbaum's. Then they started getting "old"--about the same time as his talented ghostwriter stopped writing for him and I guess Tannenbaum took over.

I used to read Clive Cussler books in the summertime, but then that whole playboy dynamic grew old, quick. I liked his research elements . . . but the character just wasn't going to be one I stuck with.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I tend to dart around from author to author so much that my problem is piling up authors who I want to read more books by and never seem to get around to. I loved From a Buick 8, which is kind of weird because I seem to be the only person I've talked to who did. I read one James Lee Burke book and hated it, but I guess I should try another because he is popular and well thought of, but I just thought his style was way overdone.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, I usually pick up Janet's latest novel to read on vacation on the beach, but this year I passed, figuring it's a kind of "been there done that" kind of thing. I can't tell one book from the next any more. She's fun and she does what she does so well, but after this many books I'd sort of like to read something else.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Michener's, uh, dead, right? Has been for a while? I liked SPACE and I liked THE NOVEL, but maybe I'd like one of his others now that I'm older.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, Clive Cussler. Interesting example. I only bought one of his books in hardcover (Sahara) and that's probably one of his best books, but I stopped reading him. I think Cussler's a lot of fun, a tremendous over-the-top storyteller, but there's always been a criticism of him as being a clunky writer and I've always felt that was true, but his storytelling kind of carried him anyway, but somewhere along the lines I was struggling through one of his books and thought, "This thing just plain feels padded and slow" and hung it up.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Maybe it's age. I've got fewer "favorites" now and spend more time reading authors I haven't read before. And even some of them, I feel like, "Yeah, he/she's great, that's wonderful, then I read another one or two and think, Okay, that was fine, but let's go read something else." I guess reading's like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I can remember being absolutely absorbed by King's novels (Salem's Lot, The Shining, It, The Stand) but in more recent years I've just not been interested in reading what seemed to be just more of the same old thing. I think Hearts in Atlantis was the last work of his that really grabbed me. I did read his Under the Dome novel this summer but only because I needed to stay put while recovering from Achilles tendon surgery. (I thought it was something of a Frankenstein monster of a book and the stitches showed.)

I wish his wife (Tabitha King) would write more -- my wife and I both enjoyed her "Nodd's Ridge, Maine" novels (Pearl, One on One, and The Book of Reuben) and thought an unrelated novel also set in Maine (Survivor) wasn't bad. Her first novel, a science fiction novel, that came out maybe 25 or 30 years ago, had a really dumb plot with all of the scientific accuracy of a 1950s B-movie, but the writing was good. She hasn't had a book out in ten or twelve years, so maybe she has retired, but I'd be far more likely to purchase a new novel of hers than one written by her husband.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Tabitha King finished a novel called something like "When Candles Burning" by the late Michael McDowell, I believe. That was 3 or 4 years ago.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Thanks. I had not heard about that book. And thanks for the link -- I've just placed an order.

*sigh* So many books, so little time. Right now I have an unopened box of four books that came from Amazon yesterday, three library books, three books I bought at a fund-raising book sale, and four or five books purchased from Amazon over the past two or three months that for one reason or another I have not yet found time to read.

6:08 AM  

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