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05.26.09

Charlaine Harris's Book Picks

The author of the vampire mystery novels that gave rise to the True Blood series shares the compelling reads that taught her about writing, including a couple of dime-store paperbacks.

The author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, which were the basis for the HBO series True Blood, says she didn’t soul search for four of her all-time favorite books, but shared compelling reads that have taught her a little something about writing. Her newest book, Dead and Gone was released by Ace Hardcover this month.

Into Thin Air
by Jon Krakauer

“Krakauer is such a meticulous reporter, such a skilled writer, that a person who’s never been anywhere close to a mountain…can grasp the difficulties involved in the attempt to scale Everest.”

Into Thin Air is the only book in the world that could get me onto Everest, even secondhand. I’m absolutely terrified of heights, and I’m only adventuresome on my word processor. But Krakauer is such a meticulous reporter, such a skilled writer, that a person who’s never been anywhere close to a mountain or met a mountain climber can grasp the difficulties, both physical and mental, involved in the attempt to scale Everest. The unexpected storm, combined with errors in judgment and tragic mistakes, which cost so many climbers their lives, is recounted in stark prose that conveys the horrors of that disastrous day. Krakauer spares no one, especially himself, in his account. This is an adventure book of the first quality.

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Guilty Pleasures By Laurell K. Hamilton 272 pages. Jove. $4.99. ()

Guilty Pleasures
by Laurell K. Hamilton

“The originality of Hamilton’s protagonist, who raises the dead for a living, filled me with delight when I first read Guilty Pleasures.’”

Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures, the very first book in her Anita Blake series, taught me a lot. The originality of Hamilton’s protagonist, who raises the dead for a living, filled me with delight when I first read Guilty Pleasures. The book still fills me with sheer enjoyment of Hamilton’s raw talent for bringing to life a prickly, stubborn, young woman with her own unusual ability, a woman who fully inhabits a world sort of like ours, but frighteningly different. This early work is raw, quick-moving, and an attention-grabber from start to finish.

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Lullaby Town: An Elvis Cole Novel By Robert Crais 352 pages. Bantam. $7.99 ()

Lullaby Town: An Elvis Cole Novel
by Robert Crais

"I might have named any of Crais’s books, because I’m an ardent fan, but Lullaby Town is wonderful."

I’m discovering that I love books that can take me places I’ve never gone, because my third pick is going to be Robert Crais’s Lullaby Town. I might have named any of Crais’ books, because I’m an ardent fan, but Lullaby Town is wonderful. Crais’ hero, Elvis Cole, is a Los Angeles detective with a sense of humor that Crais lets us share in some of the best dialogue ever written. Peter Alan Nelson, who is as pathetic as a person as he is great as a director, hires Elvis to look for his long-lost divorced wife, Karen Shipley. Peter has his own reasons to find Karen; buried somewhere in his childish and egotistical personality is the certainty that he owes her. Because Elvis is a great detective, he does find Karen, but nothing about the situation is straightforward. Events mount inexorably to a violent climax. This is novel writing, detective branch, at its peak.

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The Language of Bees By Laurie R. King 448 pages. Bantam. $25. ()

The Language of Bees
by Laurie R. King

"I recommend the reader begin this amazing line of books with the original (in every sense) entry, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I guarantee if you read the first 20 pages, you’ll be hooked.

Since I’m thinking about California, Laurie R. King has popped into my mind, especially since she has a new book, The Language of Bees, in her Mary Russell series. I can hardly wait to open it, but I recommend the reader begin this amazing line of books with the original (in every sense) entry, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Young Mary Russell, an orphan and a misfit, stuck with living with an uncongenial woman until she comes of age, almost literally stumbles across a peculiar neighbor as she walks on the moor. In the most fabulous leap of the imagination, that neighbor is revealed to be Sherlock Holmes. In her sensitive, perceptive, prose, Laurie R. King has me utterly believing in Mary and her unusual relationship with the great detective.  I guarantee if you read the first 20 pages, you’ll be hooked.

Plus: Check out Book Beast, for more news on hot titles and authors and excerpts from the latest books.

Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books are the basis of the HBO series True Blood. Ms. Harris was born in Mississippi and lives in southern Arkansas with her husband, daughter and three dogs. Their sons are out of the nest. In her years as a published writer, she’s written four series, two stand-alone novels, numerous short stories and a novella or two.