33 thoughts on “Reader Friday: One Question

  1. Super easy and it has nothing to do with literature and philosphy.

    Zane Grey and I’m dying to speak to him and hear what Arizona was like in the early 1900’s before it was over-developed. I’ve always wished I could see the Arizona that he saw.

  2. I also grew up reading my dadโ€™s Zane Grey books, Under the Tonto Rim being my favorite. But I would have to go with Louis Lโ€™Amour, who said he could write anywhere, even in the middle of a busy intersection. My question: How did you develop your intense focus?

    • I was going to suggest Louis L’Amour for those who love Zane Grey. In his youthful wanderings, he met many of the remaining Western old timers, and they are in his fiction. His writing style is cleaner than Grey, and I’ve always recommended his books for study to those who have trouble writing physical fight scenes. As a bare-knuckles boxer, he knew how to write a fight.

      L’Amour’s family is currently bringing out his earliest books that are out of print. Some of the earlier ones and his science fiction novel, THE HAUNTED MESA, are badly written so they aren’t doing him a great favor.

  3. Easy. Edgar Allan Poe. I would ask what he thinks of his world recognition now. It’s heartbreaking that he never got to experience how his words affected so many lives, and continues to do so to this day.

    • Actually, he was quite successful as far as popularity and literary respect, and he was a working writer, mainly reviews and nonfiction, until he died. He never made as much money as he wanted because he wasn’t a novelist, though. But during that period with the rampant piracy of American novels by British publishers, most novelists didn’t.

  4. Hands down, Agatha Christie. I cut my teeth on her murder and mayhem novels, starting when I was in middle school. Can you say, flashlight under the covers?

    After reading everything I could get my hands on written by her, I moved on to Jack Higgins. Another great. I discovered, in addition to murder mysteries, I loved spy stories. Still do.

    One question: Was Hercule Poirot a real guy? Please, please, please, say yes.


  5. I have too many favorite dead but immortal in fiction authors to choose an absolute favorite, from Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Poe, etc.

    However, for the sake of this Reader Friday, I’ll select the late great Alfred Bester, science fiction writer and former Madison Avenue advertising man, who wrote The Demolished Man a science fictional police procedural involving telepathy, which one the first Hugo award in 1952. Bester also wrote “Fondly Fahrenheit,” a classic science fictional murder mystery story.

    I’d ask Alfie Bester what he thought the ultimate science fictional crime would be in 2020.

  6. My list of favorite writers is too long to choose one. It’s like asking a mother to choose a favorite child!

    But since I’ve been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler lately — and you put his picture on the article — I’ll go with him.

    Here’s my question for Mr. Chandler: Plotter or pantser?

    • A very meticulous pantser, Kay. He was famously uninterested in plot. Some of this stories and novels don’t make a lot of sense at the end. Rather, it’s the atmosphere, characterizations, and style that he concentrated on, typing on half sheets of paper, getting the words just right.

      • Thanks for answering the question! I’ve often thought the plots in his books were hard to fathom, but I was reluctant to say that because who am I to question the writing of someone like Raymond Chandler. Besides, in reading his stories, the journey is so enjoyable, who cares what route it took?

        He’s like a great composer, putting just the right notes in at the right times and in the right combinations. The Mozart of crime fiction. I do wonder if it was a learned skill or something innate.

      • Meticulous pantser…hmm…maybe I’m his red-headed step-daughter.

        I pants a story (maybe 3 to 5 chapters) until I get a feel for the main characters, the general direction they’re taking me, maybe even a shadow of the theme, then I stop and brainstorm some scenes, and possibly the ending.

        I guess that’s what some of you TKZers call a plantser?

        • “Meticulous pantser” — I love that phrase. It’s what I aspire to. I just wrote it on my whiteboard next to another guidepost: “Festina Lente.”

  7. Since I have two reading personalities, I am choosing two authors.

    As someone with degrees in literature, I’d ask Herman Melville about his last novel, THE CONFIDENCE MAN, “Why, dude. Just why?” I’m referring to its lovely and way-earlier-than-its-time weirdness as well as why he decided to stop writing fiction and wrote poetry for the rest of his life. THE CONFIDENCE MAN can be called one of America’s first mystery/con man novels as well as the US’s THE CANTERBURY TALES. It’s very readable for the time period.

    (I was going to write my dissertation on James Fenimore Cooper, and he remains my favorite member of the American canon, but he never did anything remotely weird or confusing so Melville. JFC’s THE BRAVO is kind of a political thriller about an assassin so another early American mystery.)

    As a reader of popular fiction, I’d ask Arthur Conan Doyle if he still believes that the Sherlock Holmes stories are piles of rubbish in comparison to his historical novels. And, yes, he’s canon in popular genre and mystery, but not in literary genre.

  8. Margaret Mitchell because hers was the first reading experience where I HAD to keep reading so I could see how it ended. I think I would ask her if she had any plans for a sequel to “Gone With The Wind”?

  9. I was devastated when Donald Westlake passed in 2009. So many laugh-out-loud moments reading him. I had the privilege of a chat with him in 2002 at a book festival on the UCLA campus. There he was, a crime novel icon hawking books like us wannabes, a genuinely nice, unpretentious guy. We were interrupted by a book buyer, so I only had a couple of minutes with him. I’d love to ask what he’d do with Dortmunder in the NYC pandemic.

  10. Can I chose a group of editors? By tradition a group of men who met in at the mineral springs north of Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem around 450 BCE. There they gathered, discussed, argued, and finally set onto parchment what we now call the Hebrew Bible. I would love to know what didn’t make the cut.

  11. I could never limit it to just one. However, since this is the Year of the Pandemic, I would bring back Bocaccio to ask about life during the Black Death. (NB: the Black Death was way worse than Covid.)

  12. I want to drag out that old shoe, Ernest Hemingway, and talk to him about the transitioning from the journalism beat to short stories and novels. I still can’t believe he can pack so much in with so few words, and I’m guessing the spare j writing helped. And deadlines. Which can also hinder. Despite his founderings, he’s still my bestie.

  13. While Iโ€™d like to join a number of you in your sit downs, I think Iโ€™d hafta choose John D. MacDonald, and ask if he really did write the rumored final Travis McGee novel and title it _A Black Border for McGee_…

  14. So many great ones in the responses. We think of Alfred Hitchcock as a director and sometimes forget that he was a great screen writer and storyteller. And he could write scenes. In Rear Window when Raymond Burr’s character has discovered Jimmy Stewart and comes across the the center yard and up the stairs and bangs on the door. I squirmed each and every one of the gillions of times I’ve seen it. Oh and the last scene in Psycho. And the scene where…

    Elmore Leonard
    John D. Macdonald
    Donald Weslake
    Raymond Chandler
    Mickey Spillane
    Erle Stanley Gardner
    Leigh Bracket
    Lester Dent
    David Goodis
    Edgar Rice Burroughs
    Dashiel Hammet
    Patricia Highsmith

    Oops. I got carried away.

  15. I would like to ask Margaret Mitchell if she had a choice would she rather write a dozen great books, or just one super fantastic book.

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