Sunday, 22 December 2013

James Oswald's Best of 2013

James Oswald
My top three reads of the year

This is a tricky one. It’s hard enough remembering what I had for breakfast, let alone what I read back in the dim and distant past of, oh, last week. I don’t get much time to read either, fifteen minutes snatched between getting into bed and falling asleep most nights.

Looking at my bookshelves doesn’t help much either, it just reminds me of how many books I want to read but haven’t found the time for yet. And then there’s the fact that I’m being sent ARCs a lot now (lucky me), with the hope that I might write something nice about them. The last three books I have read (and one of them - Eva Dolan’s Long Way Home - would most definitely be in my top three list) won’t actually be published until next year.

Casting my mind back, I’ve not actually read much crime fiction. This is possibly because I try to read in other genres than the one that I am currently writing, and I’ve been writing crime fiction all year. I thought I’d read Steve Mosby’s Dark Room, and that’s certainly up there in my top three. but now I look at it, I see it came out in 2012, and that’s when I bought and read my copy, so it doesn’t count.

One that most certainly came out in 2013 and which falls neatly into my idea of crime fiction, if not everyone else’s, is Gun Machine by Warren Ellis.

There are enough ideas in the book for a dozen lesser novels, all mashed together in a tight story that’s a delight to read. Some themes recur if you’ve read Ellis’ comics work over the past twenty years - it doesn’t take long for the main character to acquire a pair of unconventional assistants, for instance -  but the whole is very satisfying and a delight to read.

Not crime at all, but a fantasy reworking of classic Western material is Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about how remorselessly grim Abercrombie’s books are. His earlier novel, Best Served Cold, has to go down as one of the best books I’ve read where I could find no redeeming features in any of the characters. Red Country is still grim, but it’s also playful rather than depressing, and continues the building of the world first seen in The First Law trilogy. Excellent stuff. Oh, and Logen Ninefingers.

I’m only allowed three books,  but I’m going to cheat with the last one. Sarah Pinborough’s modern reworking of classic fairy tales in Poison, Charm and Beauty are wonderful, short romps that play fast and loose with Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. If you think fairy tales are for children, I suggest you read these alone first before picking them as bedtime stories for your kids. Unless you like explaining things to enquiring minds.

There are many, many other great books that came out this year. Some of them I even managed to read, but alas all too few. I’d like to think I might read more in 2014, but realistically that’s not going to happen. If everyone could just stop writing for maybe a decade, I might be able to catch up...

:: James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels. Visit his website at: http://jamesoswald.co.uk/

James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels
Read more at http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,2000002159,00.html#xis6gRf8tPKTJOmH.99
James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels
Read more at http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,2000002159,00.html#aw7K3bQ6l6rRc7bK.99
James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels
Read more at http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,2000002159,00.html#aw7K3bQ6l6rRc7bK.99