Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Sooo Many Recommendations!

One thing I've learned the last few years is that reading widely and actively seeking out diverse voices is a wonderful way to widen my horizons and find new authors to enjoy. Every little once in a while, I post on Facebook asking for recommendations, and people unfailingly come through with a wealth of suggestions.

Yesterday, I posted asking for recommendations of pulp, noir, and magical realism. I was going to use the post as a reference going forward, but realized that it would be nice to share the authors and books here so others could discover them, as well. Plus, this way I have a consistent place to come back to when I'm looking for which book to pick up next!

One thing that was mentioned when I talked about wanting to learn to write in these genres was to be careful of the cultural appropriation of taking on magical realism. That it has been used in South America in reaction to colonialism. I wanted to look more into that, but a rudimentary search showed it to be an even bigger and more complicated topic, and one that traces colonialism back further in time. It's a topic I definitely can't cover at the last minute. If you're curious, I encourage you to look into it.

Here's a list of the recommendations I received, so far:

The Corpse and the Girl From Miami - Jim Urbancik (N, P)
Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me was specifically mentioned) (N,P) x4
Chester Himes (N, P)
Raymond Chandler (N) x2
Comics (Detective, Martian Manhunter, The Question, Plasticman) (N)
Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island) (N-Neo-Noir)
Will Christopher Baer (NN)
Craig Clevenger (NN)
The Fighter - Craig Davidson (NN)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami (MR) Murakami x2
Caitlin Kittredge - Dreaming Darkly (MR)
Kerri Manicalco's YA Historical series (MR)
Joe R. Lansdale (The Hap and Leonard books were specifically mentioned) (N, P)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude was specifically mentioned) (MR) x4
David Goodis (N, P)
Charles Willeford (Someone specifically mentioned The Burnt Orange Heresy) (N) x2
Pulp According to David Goodis - Prof. Jay A. Gertzman (good if you want to analyze pulp)
Year One: Chronicles of the One (MR)
Don't Breathe a Word - Jennifer McMahon (MR)
Megan Abbott (Bury Me Deep, Dare Me, The Fever were recommended, specifically) (N-modern) x3
Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern (MR)
Jon Bassoff (N-modern)
Alan Guthrie (N-modern)
Les Edgerton (N-modern)
Heath Lowrance (N-modern)
Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston (MR)
Bruce Taylor (MR)
Franz Kafka (MR) x2
The Eye of the Heart (anthology) (MR)
Barbara Howes (MR)
Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism (Tamara Sellman)
Alice Hoffman (MR) x2
Borges (MR)
Cheever (MR)
Ross MacDonald (N)
James Ellroy (LA Confidential was specifically mentioned) (N) x2
The Name of the Game is Death - Dan Marlowe (N)
Black Wings Has My Angel - Elliot Chaze (N)
Cornell Woolrich - (N)
Nightmare Alley - William Lindsay Gresham (N)
James M. Cain (Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice x2) (N) x2
Shella - Andrew Vachss (N) x2
Mickey Spillane (N)
Ricky Ginsburg (MR)
The Son - Jo Nesbo (N)
The Old Drift - Namwali Serpell (MR)
Imagica - Clive Barker (?)
Juan Rulfo (MR)
Italo Calvino (MR)
Yasunari (MR)
Kawabata (MR)
Kemzaburo Oe (MR)
Banana Yoshimoto (MR) x2
The Friends of Eddie Coyle - George V. Higgins (N)
The Long and Faraway Gone - Lou Berney (N)
Fast One - Paul Cain (N)
Accelerate Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath - Evan Hundhausen (?)
Shoeless Joe (MR)
The Best American Noir of the Century
Otto Penzler (N)
The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories (P)
Isabelle Allende (House of Spirits was specifically mentioned) (MR)
Clarice Lispector (MR)
Laura Esquivel (MR)
Toni Morrison (MR)
Ray Bradbury (MR) x2
Charles Beaumont (N)
William F. Nolan (N)
John Franklin Bardin (first three novels) (N)

Okay, wow, that was way longer than I thought it was. I'll be updating as the post continues to get responses, so they're all in one place. Since I didn't do this with any of the past lists, I'll post those in the future if they pop up as memories.



This week I finished The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America, by Tommy Tomlinson.

This is a candid examination of a man's struggle with his weight. He's a journalist, and the voice in this book makes it a pleasant read. He updates his weight over the course of a year, which is honest and helpful for others struggling with their weight. Ultimately, it's an inspirational story.

I also finished There's Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins.

This was a YA, which I'd forgotten (I bought it probably two years ago, if not longer, on the recommendation of a friend who'd also recommended You.) I didn't really connect with the story until about halfway through, when the action and tension pick up. The first half felt boring and more focused on a burgeoning romance, but the second half brought the suspense. Which is funny, because we know who the killer is about halfway through the book. Everyone does. What we don't know is WHY they're killing kids in this small, rural town.

This was billed as unflinching, with some harsh deaths, but I felt that the deaths, though they were creative, were so quickly touched on, with no suspense drawn out, that I wasn't all that compelled by them. Again, not until about halfway through. Until I reached that halfway point, I wouldn't have recommended the book. But I read the last half over the course of two days, lugging the book around with me everywhere I went.

I actually liked the diverse cast of characters. I just didn't connect with them as early as I would have liked to, and I can't put my finger on why. When I think about it, they're not multi-dimensional right away. That came later. There were some cliches employed in terms of red herrings, characters, and implication of a large event in the character's life that ended up being disappointing in the scheme of things, etc. I wasn't sure who the killer was (and looking back, I don't think there are hints laid out about it, which means it wasn't effective), but I knew who it wasn't, and was irked at the finger pointing, because it felt too obvious. There was also head hopping. Though it never became confusing as to who was thinking what, it took me out of the book as a writer. Would it have bothered me if I wasn't? I have no idea. But it did.

CURRENTLY READING: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson.


If you have Shudder, there's a hysterical horror movie on there entitled Tammy and the Teenage T-Rex, (also billed as Tammy and the T-Rex), featuring young Denise Richards in her first starring role and young Paul Walker. This is pure, comedic ridiculousness. A teenage boy gets killed, and a mad scientist (the actor who played Bernie in Weekend at Bernie's) transplants his brain into an animatronic dinosaur, who then seeks out his girlfriend and the people responsible for his death. This is sci-fi horror. It reminded me of a non-scary Reanimator. It made me laugh and roll my eyes, but in the best way.

Also on Shudder, The Marshes was a creepy gore-fest. It's an Australian horror flick about three biologists who trek into the marshes to gather information, only to find a terrifying killer with supernatural powers. And rude, ignorant, hicks. It's funny to me to see that cliche appearing in movies created in other countries. This wasn't the best movie in the world, but it was tense and kept me interested.

Finally, my husband and I happened across a Chuck Norris movie I wasn't familiar with, called Silent Rage. It turned out to be a creepy, sci-fi thriller, which was unexpected. I grew up on Chuck Norris action flicks, and there's an element of that in this film, but I didn't remember anything like this. A trio of doctors perpetrate genetic experimentation on a man, who goes crazy and kills several people. The police shoot and kill him, but the doctors get him back and heal him. He goes on a silent killing spree, no longer able to speak, but making animalistic noises. The actor, Brian Libby, was excellent at being creepy. What he conveys through body movements, growls, and facial expressions is eerie and frightening. He was a large man who also happened to be oddly flexible. I enjoyed this both as a kickback to my childhood, watching Chuck Norris singlehandedly take out a bar full of bikers, and as a surprisingly freaky sci-fi thriller. Ron Silver, another old favorite, is also in the film.


For a feel good show, I've been watching AJ and the Queen. I'm enjoying seeing RuPaul in an acting role that feels true to him, yet stretches his acting ability. An aging drag queen ends up with a street smart, mouthy child tagging along on a trip around the south for a succession of drag shows. An ex-boyfriend of the drag queen has stolen his life savings, and now hunts him, because he turned the thief in to the police. There are several standout actors in this, but the one who has surprised me the most is Tia Carrere. I've never been a fan of hers, but her character is so out there and hysterical that I enjoy every moment she's onscreen. Available on Netflix.

For True Crime, I've been watching Nightmare Next Door about murders in small towns around America. It took me some time to get used to the narrator (maybe I expect them all to sound like the Forensic Files guy), but he got more serious, with fewer quips and lame one liners, after the first season. Available on Hulu.


I don't think I've mentioned this yet. I've never been able to listen to podcasts, because I have trouble listening to someone speaking if I don't also have a visual, which makes podcasts and audio books something I don't typically imbibe in. However, I read a book put out by the two women who run this podcast, and decided to give it a try. Now I'm hooked. The way I've solved my lack of attention span is to take a bath most evenings and play Solitaire on my phone while listening to the podcast. It's called My Favorite Murder, and I listen to it free on Spotify. This is a comedy true crime podcast led by two women: Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (sometimes jokingly referred to as KilHard or HardKil, which both work well for the subject matter.) Their fans are called murderinos, and consist of those of us who grew up fascinated by true crime (not awestruck by it, not fangirling over serial killers, but fascinated by the mentality behind it and seeking some explanation for the horrors perpetrated by these people) and freaking people out by wanting to talk about it. Their motto is "Stay sexy and don't get murdered."

No links today since this is a huge post already, but I'll see everyone on IWSG day!

Do you know much about the background of magical realism? Have any recommendations for these three genres? Read any of the recommended books or authors, and would you recommend them? Do you seek to read new and different genres outside what you're typically drawn to? Seen any of these shows or movies, or read the books? What about the podcast? Do you have a true crime podcast you'd recommend? What are you watching and reading this week?

May you find your Muse.


  1. That's a lot of recommendations.
    I'll have to check out the T-Rex movie. Hopefully I can watch it without the help of RiffTrax.

  2. I read Shutter Island a long time ago, but I remember enjoying it.

    I am a huge fan of Jennifer McMahon's books! I'm pretty sure I've read all of them (although Goodreads only shows those I read from 2013 since that's when I joined the site.) Her most recent title, The Invited, was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Horror.

  3. That is a serious list of books. I need to learn to speed read. I buy all kind of books, but never have time to read them all.
    Love the movie and TV suggestions. I'm always trying to find something to watch. I didn't realize RuPaul acted. I'm intrigued!

  4. What if Chuck Norris had been the silent killer?
    That could have been interesting.
    It's not like he talks much anyway.

  5. To get hooked on noir, look up "the king in yellow powers boothe" on Youtube. Powers Boothe's cynical narration and narration are just perfect.

  6. Uh, I meant narration and dialogue.

  7. Hi Shannon - what a great list of books - writing in my own voice is difficult enough! You're obviously emersing yourself in creative thought ... not my scene mostly! Cheers Hilary