Last weekend, I wrote about the authors who inspired me to move from the ideas buzzing around my head to putting fingers on the keys of a typewriter or word processor. (You can read the post here.)
Sue Grafton’s alphabet murder series, featuring Kinsey Millhone, helped me believe I could create my own detective and write crime fiction. Now, with two books published and the third scheduled for May this year, my inspiration comes from other crime writers who bring their own style and ideas to the party.
Plenty of choice
Let’s face it, there are millions of books out there, each vying for your attention as you scan the results on Amazon, Kobo or your local library bookshelves. But out of those millions, how many will appeal to you? How many would you class as ‘essential reads’? How many books would you buy on the strength of the author’s name?
There are so many good writers out there, offering different spins on the same themes and subjects. Why do some capture your imagination more than others? Why do they talk to you in a way that others don’t? What is it that draws you to a particular writer?
I’ve no idea, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the author’s voice and style. The author talks to you in a way you like and understand. The story and characters still have to be good, and familiar settings can help, but there’s something about particular authors that strike a chord or two.
I could list well over twenty authors, whose police procedurals, psychological thrillers or private detective novels have entertained me over the past few years. (There’s a similar list of authors whose books were dumped after a few chapters or pages.)
But at the moment, there are only four authors who inspire me, who make me want to write stronger and better to reach the benchmarks they set. They all write police procedural series with strong central characters, imaginative plots, and dramatic storylines. Yet each author is distinct, bringing something different to the table. I’ve listed them in the order I discovered them.
Robin Roughley – DS Lasser series
Robin has written fifteen of sixteen books so far, set in and around Wigan, but I’ve only just finished reading Tethered to the Dead, which is No 3, but I love the character and his fearless pursuit of criminals. The plots are complex and explode in all directions from a simple crime. There’s social comment, an unflattering view of the seedier side of life, and a wonderful optimism and wit that reassures you that the world will be all right once DS Lasser gets the killer.
But best of all, I like the way the author takes you into the heads of his characters, good and bad, revealing there essence in a few paragraphs.
Peter James – Detective Superintendent Roy Grace
Again, I’m only on book three, Not Dead Enough, but I can see why Peter James is one the top crime writers in the country. Not only is he an excellent writer who can create memorable characters and brings them to life in a few paragraphs, his plots are wickedly clever. He portrays all shades of Brighton and offers plenty of social and political comment in his investigations, but it’s his attention to detail and police procedure that lift his stories above most of the others. That detail about how the police operate, the systems they use, the buildings they occupy and the rules and regulations that govern their work add great credibility and authenticity to the novels.
LJ Ross – DCI Ryan
I’m a newcomer to this series, set in Northumberland, but again, it’s the story and characters that matter, including a touch of romance, which we all enjoy, don’t we? Holy Island, had a distinctive plot, laced with an undercurrent of ritual and mysticism, to tax the charismatic lead characters in a tale filled with suspense and drama. The style leans more towards the cosy end of the crime market, but remains modern and relevant, which appeals to me.
Book two, Sycamore Gap, is my next read.
Rachel Amphlett – DS Kay Hunter
I’ve only recently discovered this series and enjoyed the first two books, Scared to Death and Will to Live. Rachel has a no-nonsense, economic style of writing that engages you from the first paragraph. Like Peter James, her plots are different and deftly delivered with a touch of wit and humour to lighten the tone.
While she tackles gritty subjects and hard hitting crimes, she manages without littering her stories with profanities and gratuitous descriptions or violence, which proves it’s the story that counts. I also like to write this way.
These authors all have distinctive styles, but share a number of characteristics that heighten their appeal and inspire me, namely
- strong central characters who will do whatever it takes to bring the villains to justice
- complex, twisting plots that baffle, intrigue, entertain and fulfil
- realism and credibility
- humour and wit, often dark, that’s often lacking in many novels.
Though a newcomer to crime fiction with much to learn, these are the characteristics I strive to bring to my novels, and I’m delighted I’ve found such fantastic examples to show me the way.
I’m sure there will be many more authors in my ‘To Be Read’ pile that will entertain and hopefully inspire me.
That’s the joy of reading.
Click here for reviews of the novels mentioned in this post.
If you’d like exclusive previews and insights, sign up to my Reader Group by entering you details in the form at the top right of the page.