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!

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