What should a writer read?

As a mystery/suspense writer, what should I be reading to learn and grow in my craft? The best sellers: Paretsky, Patterson & Slaughter? (Sounds like a bond-trading house). The classics? Definitely, but just how classic: 90s? 40s? Dickens? Deuteronomy?

Well, I guess I just read stuff I pick up and like. And one thing I pick up often to read, in bits and snatches, is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Not for its anti-war-bureaucracy-conformity stances, or for its famous conundrums and satire. I read it for the writing, the language, especially the spiraling, inspiring, is-that-even-a-real-adjective? descriptions:

a chaotic bus depot honking with horns, blazing with red and yellow lights and echoing with the snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers pouring loathsome, hair-raising curses out at each other, at their passengers, and at the strolling, unconcerned knots of pedestrians clogging their paths, who ignored them until they were bumped by the buses and began shouting curses back.

And callipygous, which I had to look up, and which has a surprisingly specific meaning. (I won’t deny you the pleasure of this discovery).

And then there’s this:

Major de Coverly straightened with astonishment at Milo’s effrontery and concentrated on him the full fury of his storming countenance with its rugged overhang of gullied forehead and huge crag of a humpbacked nose that came charging out of his face wrathfully like a Big Ten fullback.

Charging out of his face like a . . .

Oh, my!

The Advocate’s Dilemma by Teresa Burrell

Attorney Sabre Brown’s day is going well until she walks into her office and finds a dead man sprawled across her desk. When, Bob, her best friend and colleague is suspected of the murder, and Sabre’s minor client has information that might clear him, Sabre has a dilemma. How does she help her best friend without betraying the confidence of the child she is sworn to protect?

New “Lily” Review by Jennie Reads


The book takes place in the long ago days of Hollywood. There is a bombshell actress with a past and a brain as well as the every day guy who is just trying to do the right thing – in between trying to keep a job as a screenwriter and controlling his alter ego Detective he writes about. While there is some sleeping around it is done in the days of “cut away” scenes.

The murder mentioned in the summary happens pretty late in the story but at this point I was nicely pulled into the characters and their entwined secrets.

Jennie Reads: “I read them all so you can read the best!”

Lily Torrence by Fred Andersen

My favorite movies that nobody else cares about: 1

We all have them, guilty pleasure movies with bad reviews and no fans, but you just happened upon it one night on Channel 44 or whatever.

So here’s one of mine.  Rancho Deluxe (1976). Rancho was contemporary western with a gorgeous Montana setting based on a novel by gorgeous Montana writer Frank McGuane. It starred Jeff Bridges and Sam Watterston as modern-day rustlers in the outlaw-country West: their hair is long, their attitudes anti-establishment and the music is by Jimmy Buffett (semi pre-famous).

The Neg: all forgotten movies have them.

  • Lame backstory re the Bridges and Waterston characters.
  • Sam Waterston as an Indian.
  • Director Frank Perry would soon after  commit career suicide with Mommy Dearest.
  • Horrible Reviews. Roger Ebert: “I don’t know how this movie went so disastrously wrong. 1 1/2 Stars.”

The Pos:

  • The stars don’t matter cuz the flick is rustled by a gang of ruthless character actors.
  • Slim Pickens as the cattle detective Henry Beige: This would be the role of a lifetime if he hadn’t already done that in Dr. Strangelove.
  • Clifton James, the archetypal movie blowhard of the ’70s, as a baffled beauty- parlor-owner-turned-land-baron.
  • Charlene Dallas as Beige’s irresistibly fetching “niece.”
  • Harry Dean Stanton and Richard Bright as a pair of dimwitted co-conspirators.
  • The gorgeous Montana Scenery in almost every shot.
  • Sam Waterston as an Indian!

The Why:

  •  With a face like that and a name like that, how did Charlene Dallas not become a star?

The Highlight

(Since this is virtually the only clip from the movie on YouTube, you know we’re talkin’ obscure!

Until next time . . .