Writers put a lot of themselves into their work so it means a great deal when people like what they write and say so. Praise from fellow writers has a special meaning because fellow writers truly understand what it’s like to create a story. And when that praise comes from a fellow writer whose work you also admire? That’s happened to me once and without gushing I’ll have to content myself with saying, ‘Wow!’ That’s why I was really interested when about a month and a half ago I had a suggestion from Bryan at The Vagrant Mood about doing a post on authors and the work they admire. Before I go on, I should tell you that The Vagrant Mood is a blog well worth following for commentary on books, poetry and writing in general. G’head – give it a try.
Bryan’s well-taken point was that it’s very interesting to learn about authors’ favourite writers. It shows something about both the author and the writers whose work s/he admires. For example, Agatha Christie was said to be a great admirer of Elizabeth Daly’s novels. Of course there are differences between the two writers’ characters, styles and so on. However, Daly’s Henry Gamadge is, like Christie’s own Miss Marple, an amateur sleuth. Daly’s plots are different to Christie’s but the plotting is one of the main elements in Daly’s work, just as it is in Christie’s. It’s not difficult to see why Christie liked Daly’s work.
Christie fans will know that she was also a fan of P.G. Wodehouse’s novels. In fact, Hallowe’en Party is dedicated
‘To P. G. Wodehouse–whose books and stories have brightened my life for many years. Also, to show my pleasure in his having been kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my books.’
The dedication also shows that this admiration was mutual.
Tony Hillerman’s novels featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee have won millions of fans. But HIllerman himself had a list of authors whose work he admired. For example, he was a fan of Margaret Coel, whose Vicky Holden/Father John O’Malley series takes place on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation. Like Hillerman, Coel has great respect for the indigenous people who feature in her novels (in Coel’s case it’s the Arapaho people). And it’s easy to see why Hillerman admired Coel’s skilled depiction of the land on which this series takes place. Readers get an authentic sense of context and setting in these novels.
A great number of people are fans of Michael Connelly’s work (I’m one of them). And it shouldn’t be surprising that his admirers include some well-known authors who are talented in their own right. For instance, Connelly and Robert Crais are mutual admirers They’ve even had their sleuths pay ‘visits’ to each other’s series. Crais’ PI sleuth Elvis Cole has a cameo appearance in Connelly’s Lost Light and in turn, Harry Bosch ‘stops in’ in Crais’ The Last Detective.
Another famous fan of Michael Connelly’s work is James Lee Burke, who calls Connelly,
‘…one of the best.’
Burke is also, by the way, a fan of James M. Cain and Dennis Lehane. He’s also said that Elizabeth George
‘…writes some really nice prose.’
For her part, Goerge has said that she is an admirer of the work of John Fowles.
As I said, Connelly has millions of admirers. He also has his favourites. Among them are Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald and it’s not hard to see the connection. Like Connelly, both authors show Los Angeles at its best and its seamy, gritty worst. They also feature essentially good characters caught up in a sometimes corrupt system.
Ruth Rendell also has won millions of fans both under her own name and as Barbara Vine. She in turn has her own favourites. For instance, she is a fan of Iris Murdoch’s work. She’s also said that P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh is
‘…the most intelligent detective in contemporary fiction.’
Rendell is also said to greatly admire Charles Dickens. Granted Dickens isn’t usually considered to be a crime fiction writer. But his novels do address questions of crime, law and order and justice.
For her part, P.D. James has said that she’s been very much influenced by the work of Dorothy Sayers, among other authors. And she has been a profound influence herself on many writers.
Any talented author will tell you that part of good writing is lots of reading. So it makes a great deal of sense that the best crime writers would have a list of authors whose work they admire. And it’s a truly special thing when the admiration is mutual.
Now it’s your turn. Do you see the influence of certain writers on the work of others? If you’re a writer, which authors do you admire? Do they influence your work?
Thanks, Bryan, for the excellent suggestion!
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Rivers Cuomo.