Wednesday 29 March 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Peter Swanson @PeterSwanson3

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing to share with us a list of the books that are important to them and have made a lasting impression on their life

I am really excited to welcome author Peter Swanson to Random Things today. His second novel, A Kind Worth Killing was one of my Top Reads of 2015, and I was delighted to see my review quoted in the paperback edition. I read and reviewed A Kind Worth Killing here on Random Things in January 2015.
Here's a little snippet from my review:
"Be prepared for a story that has more twists than a theme-park roller coaster, with some screeching hand-brake turns that will leave you wondering what the hell just happened. The author structures this novel so very well, with alternative viewpoints from Ted and Lily, this enables the reader to have a little more information than either of these two characters, but with some unpredictable shocks thrown in."
Peter's third novel, Her Every Fear was published by Faber in January this year. I really enjoyed it, and  read and reviewed it here on Random Things for the Blog Tour in January.

Peter Swanson's debut novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart (2014), was described by Dennis Lehane as a 'twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride' and was nominated for the LA Times book award.
His follow up, The Kind Worth Killing (2015), a Richard and Judy pick, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Silver Dagger, and was named the iBook stores Thriller of the Year and was a top ten paperback bestseller.
He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @PeterSwanson3

My Life In Books ~ Peter Swanson

In order to try and lend some order to the sheer number of books that have been important to me, I thought I’d break down this list into five year increments, and pick just one book from each period of time. Here goes.

Age 1 – 5: Hard to remember, of course, but even at that age I loved creepy things. One of my favorites was Mercer Mayer’s One Monster After Another, even though, or maybe because, it gave me some pretty vivid nightmares. There was one illustration in particular that haunts me to this day. It is the surface of the ocean, and below it are dozens of lurking monsters. Possibly a metaphor for the types of books I love now.

Age 6 – 10: John Bellairs wrote a bunch of books that were kind of the Harry Potter of their day, although not as globally successful. My favorite was The HouseWith a Clock in its Walls, sort of a gothic thriller for pre-teens. An orphan goes to live with his mysterious uncle, and discovers some genuinely creepy secrets. My favorite book from this period not written by Roald Dahl.

Age 11 – 15: The age when I began to seriously dig into adult fiction, discovering Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, and Robert Parker (author of the Boston PI series Spenser). But the one book I’ll pick is Robin Cook’s Coma, a disturbing medical thriller that might have been the first adult book I read, picking it up after my mother was finished with it. It opened my eyes to the exciting world of adult fiction.

Age 16 – 20: I veered a little bit away from crime fiction during these years, reading literary fiction, some brilliant, some a little pretentious (like me at the time). Tough Guys Don’t Dance by Norman Mailer was a thriller, but a literary one, and I fell in love with its florid prose and alcoholic protagonist.

Age 21 – 25: Sometime in this five year stretch, I first read Lucky Jim by KingsleyAmis. Not a mystery, but this comic novel is still my favorite book of all time. It’s comforting, funny, and made me feel better about my own bumbling life. Still does.

Age 26 – 30: This was a period when I was serious about becoming a poet, and reading as much poetry as I could get my hands on. Besides the Collected Works of William Shakespeare, if I could have saved one poetry collection from my burning apartment it would have been High Windows by Philip Larkin.

Age 31 – 35: After a few years away, I got interested in crime thrillers again. I went through a period of reading every John D. MacDonald novel ever written (no small task—he wrote nearly a hundred). It’s hard to pick a favorite but I’ll say A Flash of Green, a perfect thriller involving corrupt land speculation in Florida. MacDonald’s story-telling skills and prose style made me want to try my hand at writing a thriller myself.

Age 36 – 40: I began writing my own novels in this period, penning several unpublished thrillers. I continued to read a wide array of mysteries from different countries and different eras, and discovered a crime novel, A Kiss Before Dying, by Ira Levin, that I fell in love with. It provided a blueprint for me on what a crime novel could be; main characters can die, there can be starts and restarts, and it is always good to focus on the criminals.

Age 41 – now: Right before I got my first publishing deal, I went through a rough patch of not believing in myself as a writer. Around this time, I read Stephen King’s On Writing. I’ve loved King for years, but this book, half an autobiography, and half a no-nonsense guide for writers, was hugely inspirational to me. It taught me that if I loved to write, I just needed to keep doing it, every day. I still reread this book when I need a little booster shot to get me going again.

Peter Swanson ~ March 2017

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