Today, I’m pleased to have Marnie Riches on the blog with a guest post about her favourite reads.
Marnie grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, aptly within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. She swapped those for the spires of Cambridge University, gaining a Masters degree in Modern & Medieval Dutch and German. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser. In her spare time, she likes to run, renovate houses and paint. Oh, and drinking. She likes a drink. And eating. She likes that too. Especially in exotic destinations.
Having authored the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series, her George McKenzie crime thrillers for adults were inspired, in part, by her own youth and time spent in The Netherlands as a student. Her debut crime thriller, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die won the coveted Patricia Highsmith Award for the Most Exotic Location in a crime novel, in the Dead Good Reader Awards, 2015. Marnie also writes contemporary women’s fiction.
Over to you Marnie!
We all love great stories that transport us to different worlds; getting inside the heads of people who are unlike us or perhaps very similar but subject to different, trying circumstances. We root for them or wish them ill. We embark on a thrill ride from the comfort of our own homes – taking dreadful physical and emotional risks within the safe confines of our imagination. This is how I see literature as a reader. I like to read a book and become utterly absorbed by the story, turning page after page just to see what happens, or revelling in a beautifully written passage.
Here are my favourite books, chosen with my reader’s hat on, in a list as untidy as my desk:
Thomas Harris’ novels – particularly The Silence of the Lambs (you can’t be a self-respecting crime reader if you haven’t read that baby). Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series and everything by Jo Nesbo. Non-crime favourite reads include a lot of children’s, fantasy, historical and YA fiction: Conn Iggulden’s stunning series about Genghis Khan, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter books by St. Whatsherface, Charlie Higson’s splendid Young Bond books, most things by Eoin Colfer and Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Lord of the Rings and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. I also admire YA authors Melvin Burgess and Anthony McGowan and I love a bit of Bill Bryson.
As a writer, however, reading performs an entirely different function. When I read a book as an author, I see the construction and literary underpinnings of others laid bare. I set out to identify how they have told a story brilliantly…or badly! To improve my own craft, I read many different age groups (I started out as a children’s writer and have had a series of books for 7+ year olds published under a pseudonym) and genres. Like a magpie, I can potentially pick up a variety of great new narrative techniques from different authors – many of whom write outside the crime fiction genre. You’re never too old to learn. Analysing and learning from great writing can help me to become a better crime writer!
Here are my favourite books, chosen with my writer’s hat on, in a similarly haphazard list:
The Silence of the Lambs (just because it’s bloody ace), We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (it has the best twist I’ve ever read), anything by Jo Nesbo (he’s the king of plotting), His Dark Materials (for sheer beauty of language and the vivid nature of Philip Pullman’s imagination) and pretty much every book written by Eoin Colfer, especially Airman (a good children’s writer writes fast-paced action far better than most thriller writers, and Colfer is top of his game).
So, I read for fun and I read to learn. Long before The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die launched in April, however, I was working on The Girl Who Broke the Rules and thereafter, on The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows. I’ve been on a very tight writing schedule that has seen me working stupidly long hours, 7 days per week. Consequently, I’ve had barely any time to read.
Bearing all that in mind, my reading pile this year has been disappointingly small but wonderfully eclectic. I’ve really enjoyed all three books by Joshua Ferris, who won the Dylan Thomas Prize for his thought-provoking and funny To Rise at a Decent Hour. I read Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World and half of Zadie Smith’s NW (It’s good. I will finish it at some point)! I’ve read Gill Paul’s No Place for a Lady, which is a romantic saga about the Crimean War. I read Matt Haig’s The Humans, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm was a belting read (my Mother-in-Law is from Southern Sweden, so this resonated with me). I’m planning to read Buffalo Soldier by Carnegie Medal winner, Tanya Landman and The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by the lovely Catherine Johnson, as those books tick my boxes for quality YA/historical fiction. I’ve got Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread on my bedside cabinet too.
Before I was published as a crime author, I was a huge Scandi-noir fan. Once The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die burst onto the crime scene, dragging me with it, I started to read the writing of my new-found friends in the crime genre – i.e. largely British and Irish writers. So far, I’ve been enjoying Elizabeth Haynes, Ava Marsh, Eva Dolan, C.L. Taylor and Angela Marsons. Lying in wait on my kindle or in a book pile are novels by Sarah Hilary, Paul E. Hardisty, Helen Cadbury, Simon Toyne, Clare Macintosh, Louise Voss, Mark Edwards, Steve Cavanagh, Stuart Neville, J.S. Law, Peter Swanson… Loads. Helen Smith’s BritCrime website lists all of my crime buddies, and at some point, I aim to read all of their books – Rebecca’s too, of course! E-books are too cheap by half and have turned me into a bookaholic. I should get round to reading them by 2017. I’ll let you know what I think…
The Girl Who Broke The Rules
When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic.
Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running.
The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…
Margot Kinberg says
Really interesting post! Thanks, both. It’s always fascinating to know what different authors read, and what inspires them.
Brilliant post, some great books I now want to download and was surprised to see my name. Thank you, Marnie and Rebecca for another great piece ?
Jacqui Murray says
This is like Christmas. There are at least four books on your list I haven’t tried. I just read a wonderful literary fiction book, but–being literary fiction, kind of depressing and forcing me to grow emotionally–I’m ready to return to my thrillers. Thanks for the suggestions.