Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Owen Laukkanen

In addition to the McKenna Rhodes maritime adventure thriller Gale Force, Owen Laukkanen is the author of six critically-acclaimed Stevens and Windermere FBI thrillers, and as Owen Matthews, two wildly inappropriate novels for young adults. A former professional poker journalist and commercial fisherman, Laukkanen and his rescue pitbull Lucy divide their time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Laukkanen's reply:
I’ve been living in a kind of self-imposed rural exile on the family farm these last few months, and with no TV and limited Internet I’ve been taking the opportunity to work through my massive To Be Read pile. I think I read fourteen books in March alone!

One book that I really liked was Laurence Gonzales’s nonfiction book Deep Survival, which is an examination of who lives and dies in traumatic situations, like mountain climbing accidents or plane crashes, or just people getting lost in dangerous terrain. I’m an avid outdoorsman and I love Jon Krakauer’s books, and Gonzales has a similar style; he has plenty of illustrative stories about what people have done correctly or incorrectly in the face of extreme challenges. It’s a very entertaining read, and something that I’ll keep in mind the next time I head out into the mountains myself.

I’ve been trying to keep things varied as far as what I’m reading, in terms of both subject matter and the demographic of the author. My friend and Putnam colleague Nick Petrie’s third Peter Ash novel, Light It Up, came out earlier this year, and I snapped it up immediately. Nick’s the kind of writer who stands poised to take Lee Child’s crown if Lee and Reacher ever miss a step; his writing is that good. It’s propulsive and inventive and thoughtful all at once, the kind of thriller writing we all aspire to. I know every thriller author gets compared to Lee Child, but damned if Nick doesn’t have the chops to actually earn the praise. I kind of hate him.

I also really liked Michael Ferris Smith’s Desperation Road. I really admire writers who can write beautifully and evocatively with an economy of language, and this book fits that bill to a T. Desperation Road is the story of a man who comes out of prison to try and rebuild a life in his hometown, and a woman and child with whom he crosses paths after they’ve found themselves in some trouble. It’s one of those books where everyone’s trying to do the right thing, everyone’s luck is simply awful, and sooner or later, an inexorable violence just erupts. I immediately bought his second book, The Fighter.

Finally, Lisa Moore’s February blew me away, recently. It’s the story of a woman struggling in the aftermath of the real-life Ocean Ranger disaster in Newfoundland, where 84 men died when their oilrig sank in a Valentine’s Day storm. Her husband was aboard, and this is the story of how she and their children come to terms with their grief. It’s another beautifully written novel, filled with soulful prose and observation, and real empathy and tenderness for the characters. I don’t often find myself underlining passages in books to remember, but I did while I read February.
Visit Owen Laukkanen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gale Force.

--Marshal Zeringue