Last year I attended BoucherCon, one of the big mystery conferences for both authors and fans. A constant and loud screech from the writers was, “Read? I barely have time to write!”Read the results of the Page 69 Test for Mario's The Nymphos of Rocky Flats.
So with time at a premium, you would think I'd plow into heavy, brainy reading material. You know, Nobel Prize winners. Or dig into the scholarly opinions of The Economist.
Instead, I get my dose of current events from Mad Magazine. Not only is the sarcasm more honest than any of the double-speak we get from our government, it’s intentionally funny and less tragic. My favorite article from this issue: The Iraq War chess set. Among the rules: for every insurgent we kill, three take his place. (Do the math.) The pawns: Their side, suicide bomber jihadists. Our side, National Guardsmen.
I am reading books. As a fantasy writer, I wasn’t familiar with Jim Butcher’s work (shame on me) and figured it to be heavy into gothic horror. Was I wrong. (Butcher, what a name for a writer of vampires and other supernatural monsters.) His Dresden Files series is urban fantasy told with a wry smirk. What makes the stories so enjoyable is Butcher knows how to craft a phrase. As in Blood Rites when Butcher introduces the villain: “Lord Raith’s smile made me think of sharks and skulls.” Wow. Them’s good words.
To make me look smart, I do read literary NYT stuff. I recently finished Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. He gives us a family more dysfunctional and weird than anything in Butcher’s fantasy novels (Yet again, life trumps art. None of his characters was as loopy as a murderous, love struck Navy captain astronaut wearing diapers.) Burroughs’ mastery of prose kept me hooked with gems like this description of Dr. Finch’s mistress:
“Geraldine was the female equivalent of a diesel Mercedes sedan. She was, it seemed to me then, well over six feet tall. She was broad-shouldered and broad-faced. When she lumbered into the room, the word mistress did not come to mind.”
His new book, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, comes out in March.
Visit his official website.