Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted weekly by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. They are a group of very creative minds and I always enjoy reading the lists. This is my first time participating, and I'm going to cheat right out of the gate. This week's theme is Top Ten All-Time Favorite Authors.

If I ever hope to be productive again, setting out a Top Ten won't be possible as I'll soon be knee-deep in spreadsheets and algorithms. Surely if we're talking all-time Enid Blyton has to be in there. Franklin Dixon, Laura Lee Hope. All of those authors peppered my childhood with reads that fed my bookish fever and paved the way to what I'm reading today. I got into the Robert Ludlum books at a very young age. Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt series was a biggie in my early teens and particularly special since I read them with my dad.

So how could I figure out the version of me who was creating this list? How could my sieve-like memory not forget some pivotal voice? What comes easily, however, is the fact that three authors have held the top spots on my "Best of" list for more than two decades (against some pretty stiff competition). So today I give you my Top Three All-Time Favorite Authors. They're in order, and I'm highlighting the book of first discovery and my favorite title to date.

Don Winslow  

Back in the day when I was surrounded by fantastic book stores, I could spend all day perusing the shelves, letting my cover nerd go wild. On one such outing, way back in 1991, I discovered a book by Don Winslow called A Cool Breeze on the Underground, and a new literary love affair was born.

Thankfully, Don has gone on to write many outstanding works since that time. Cool Breeze was the first in the Neal Carey series, which remains a favorite.  He wrote Savages (adapted to film by Oliver Stone) and its kickass prequel, The Kings of Cool. He's also written a surf noir series near and dear to my heart, and several great standalone novels.

But most importantly, oh so very most importantly, Don wrote the book that has become my rote response when I'm asked about the best book I ever read. And he did it against the odds (mine and probably his as well). While I'm a sucker for law enforcement and private eye stories, I've never been much for arcs that focus on drug trafficking or cartels. In addition, I start to get hives around books over 350 pages.

So what's a girl to do when her favorite author writes a 500+ page tome about the drug trade? In this case, put her trust in the hands of a literary master and buckle up for the ride. If you've not read The Power of the Dog I urge you to do so. Don worked on TPOTD for at least ten years and it's a masterpiece.

Even better, he's written a sequel, The Cartel, coming out June 23rd. Don is going on tour to talk about The Cartel and if you get a chance to see him, do. He's a fascinating individual with a super cool background and I promise you'll enjoy every minute.

Here's a little tidbit about Don. The last time I saw him, I had acquired a hardcover first edition copy of A Cool Breeze on the Underground and I asked him to sign it. He asked me twice if I was sure I wanted it personalized, as a personalized copy would decrease the resale value. Ha! As if they're not going to have to pry it out of my cold dead hands.

Tour dates can be found on Don's site here.

Daniel Woodrell

Next in line is Daniel Woodrell, who writes some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read. I also discovered Daniel's work early on, 1996 to be exact, when I came across a paperback copy of Give Us a Kiss: A Country Noir.

Country noir? What was this beast? I think this might have been my first love in the category of dark and gritty noir fiction. Daniel Woodrell can take the ugliest, meanest, blackest of things and make you fall in love with it through language.

I immediately bought everything in Woodrell's backlist and pre-order everything he's published since. While I think Give Us a Kiss remains my sentimental favorite, it's in a tight heat with Winter's Bone. If you've not seen the movie adaptation of Winter's Bone, it's one of those instances where the film nails it. I highly recommend both.

Whatever you do, go read some Woodrell, it's some of the most beautiful brutal writing you'll ever come across.

Robert Crais

Whereas Daniel Woodrell makes ugly things beautiful, Robert Crais brings a humor to the page that's trumped only by his ability to create engaging, multi-dimensional characters you can't help but fall in love with. He's built a legion of adoring fans with his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series.

I first discovered Bob Crais and Elvis Cole the same way I did the previous authors and about the same time: meandering the shelves in 1990. Once again, the cover and title of a paperback caught my eye and I was hooked from the get-go by The Monkey's Raincoat. Sixteen series books later (seventeenth due later this year) and Elvis and his partner/sidekick Joe remain as fresh and important as the day I read page one of Monkey's Raincoat.

Again, tough to pick a favorite here, but you can't do much better than L.A. Requiem, which won just about every major award in its genre in 1999. I recommend reading the series in order because the character and relationship development is so damn beautiful, but if you just go pick any one up I'm going to give a cheer. Start anywhere, just start.

There they are, my Top Three Favorite All-Time Favorite Authors. If you've hung in there, thank you. Aren't you glad I didn't do ten?


Paulette Feeney said...

Wonderful choices! I was on board for more than ten....

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

You're always a good sport. Who makes your top 10, Paulette? Well, let me rephrase. Who are 2-9? :)

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thanks! They're great memories. Of authors, but mostly bookstores. I don't even know where I'd go with the fourth slot. Do you know your ten?

Pop Culture Nerd said...

Hell, no. The list might change from week to week, or even day to day. Like you said, if I had to go back to childhood, I'd have to include a bunch of authors who are deceased or stopped publishing books a long time ago. Joan Aiken and Lois Duncan would definitely be included. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for sure. JAMES M. CAIN. Cornell Woolrich. Daphne du Maurier. Robert Crais.

Will you look at that. I just threw out some names off the top of my head and almost completed a list!

le0pard13 said...

Another Winslow and Crais fan here, too. Saw him at two panels and spoke with Don Winslow last Saturday at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Always in form. Can't wait for THE CARTEL in June. Just like I can't wait Robert Crais' THE PROMISE -- 'course, I now see it's not due till November 10th. Criminy! My wife and I are going through Elvis and Joe withdrawal…and it ain't pretty. ;-)

Will have to check out Daniel Woodrell. Many thanks.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

I've seen Lois Duncan mentioned a couple of times and I've not heard of her! May have to check her stuff out. I'm sure you could complete a list several times over, it's the narrowing to ten that then breaks you. After three I can't rank. Maybe a project for Shady Oaks.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

He is always in form, isn't he? And of course Bob is just as good, though I've never been to one of his formal readings. I keep getting the emails that The Promise is pushed back and it's killing me, I know what you guys are going through. But the anticipation will be worth it! Thanks for stopping by, MA!

Julianne - Outlandish Lit said...

Wow, I don't know any of these dudes! I loved your stories about how you found them and what you liked about them, though. Looking into Winslow and Woodrell!

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thanks! I was impressed by your list, there were some new-to-me names there as well. I think Woodrell in particular might be your bag.

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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