A couple of months ago, I bought The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler. I decided to purchase it in ebook format, so it’s been sitting there on my iPhone, ready for me to dip into whenever I’m in the mood.
If you love crime fiction, or if you like to write crime fiction (and personally, I think if you like to write it, you should like to read it), this is a really fun collection of essays.
I wasn’t acquainted with all of the authors who contributed to this book; but I now have a list of enough new-to-me authors and their mystery series to keep me busy for quite a while.
The contributions I liked least were the ones where the authors wrote “getting to know me” scenes about their characters – I found these harder to get into (and in some cases, I didn’t finish the chapter), even when it was a character I both knew and loved (like Robert B. Parker’s chapter on Spenser). I think it’s because, especially when the characters were unknown to me, without any sort of plot to enhance things, it was just too difficult to get very interested in them.
But most of the contributions are first person essays in which the writers detail how they came to develop their series characters, and I really enjoyed these. I was very sorry when I came to the last essay and realized the book was over (that’s one of the drawbacks of reading ebooks on the iPhone – there aren’t any physical clues that you’re almost done).
The essay I found the most interesting was the one by David Morrell, writing about how he came to develop the character of Rambo in his novel First Blood. Now, I have never seen any of the Rambo movies, nor do I have the faintest desire to see them, and up until reading this essay, it would never occur to me that I might like to read the book on which the movies are based (although apparently not particularly faithfully based when it comes to Rambo’s character).
But now First Blood is on my to be read list.
I have lots of other favorites in this book; in addition to authors unknown to me, I did get the most enjoyment from essays by authors I already knew. I’ve always been a big Mallory fan, and Carol O’Connell’s essay was such a fun read (especially since at the time I read her essay, I was also in the middle of Find Me).
Reading Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s lighthearted back and forth essay detailing how they came to create Agent Pendergast was really delightful, and it made me want to reread Relic, the first in the series (it also answered something that I’ve wondered about for a while – mainly, what on earth happened to Pendergast when it came to the movie version?)
It was also interesting to read how Ian Rankin developed the character of Rebus, and how powerful an influence Edinburgh itself was in the process.
And as a result of reading these essays, I am now currently reading my way through the Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter, which I’ve never read before; yes, I already know what happens in the final book, but that’s okay. There are a lot of lovely books in the series and I have a lot to look forward to.
Otto Penzler, editor of The Lineup, is also the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York; the only time I’ve been to NYC was to attend a wedding, and there was very little time for sightseeing. But next time I go back, The Mysterious Bookshop will definitely be on my itinerary. The Lineup is a collection of the profiles and stories that Penzler asked authors to write specifically for The Mysterious Bookshop – bookstore patrons would receive a new one with their purchases; those of us who live too far to physically visit are very lucky to get the chance to read all of these contributions in The Lineup.