2009 has been better than 2008 around the Reasoner house, if for no other reason than it’s been calmer. Livia and I have been able to keep our writing careers rolling along, our daughters are doing well in their second year of teaching, and we added a couple of min/pin puppies named Nicki and Nora to the family who have provided much hilarity and adorability. Now, it’s on to my annual recap of how the writing, reading, and watching movies went this year.
As I mentioned earlier this month I topped a million words again this year, with a final total of somewhere around 1.1 million. That added up to 16 books, rounding a little since I was in the middle of a manuscript when the year started and am also in the middle of one now. Somewhat coincidentally, because it doesn’t always work out the same, there were also 16 of my books published this year, under eight different names including my own, sort of, that being the Gabriel Hunt book. As I’ve probably mentioned until you’re all sick of it, that Gabriel Hunt book got a starred review in Publishers Weekly and very nice reviews in many other places, and the reception it’s received has been one of the most gratifying events in my career. It was great fun to write and I’m glad it’s been fun for most of the readers. I also wrote several short stories, one of which has already appeared on the excellent BEAT TO A PULP website and others that will show up in various places in due time. I continue to have a fine time writing and plan to keep at it for as long as anybody will buy my books.
I read 113 books this year, slightly up from 2008, and there were so many good ones that picking a Top Ten was extremely difficult. But for what it’s worth, here are the books I most enjoyed this year, in alphabetical order by author, with some brief comments:
BURY ME DEEP, Megan Abbott – while QUEENPIN is still my favorite of her books, this one is a vivid, beautifully written fever dream of a novel, and very compelling reading.
LOSERS LIVE LONGER, Russell Atwood – a deliberately old-fashioned private eye novel, and great fun.
HELL TO PAY, J. Lee Butts – as noirish a Western as you’ll ever find, as bleak as anything by Jim Thompson or H.A. DeRosso, and a tale told in a wonderfully distinctive voice.
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Neil Gaiman – the first Gaiman novel I’ve read, and the winner of the Newbery Award for best juvenile novel, it’s a great, spooky, suspenseful yarn.
SPADE & ARCHER, Joe Gores – a pastiche that truly reads like Hammett could have written it, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that this collection of linked novelettes really was published in BLACK MASK in 1928.
THE NICK ADAMS STORIES, Ernest Hemingway – a reread of a classic. Some of the all-time great short stories by any author are here.
HOLMES ON THE RANGE, Steve Hockensmith – the most entertaining classical detective novel I’ve read in a long time. I have the others in the series and have to get to them soon.
HIRED LOVER, Fred Martin (probably Orrie Hitt) – Hitt in James M. Cain mode, with a fast-paced story and a real gut-punch of an ending that I didn’t see coming until the last minute.
OTHER SPACES, OTHER TIMES, Robert Silverberg – a collection of autobiographical essays about Silverberg’s life as a writer, illustrated with hundreds of photos and wrapped up with an exhaustive bibliography of his SF.
FAKE I.D., Jason Starr – about as effective a depiction of an anti-hero as you’ll ever find, with a great final line. Read this back-to-back with Butts’ HELL TO PAY if you want to overdose on bleak.
There were a number of other books very close to the same level, such as Orrie Hitt’s TABOO THRILLS, Gaiman’s graphic novel MARVEL 1602, Leigh Redhead’s stripper/private eye yarn PEEPSHOW, Silverberg’s early SF novel CONQUERORS FROM THE DARKNESS, Ed Gorman’s latest novel TICKET TO RIDE, and Jason Starr’s most recent book PANIC ATTACK, not to mention numerous collections of Silver Age comics I really enjoyed. If I had to pick a favorite from that Top Ten list, it would probably be Gores’ SPADE & ARCHER, which made me feel like I was reading actual pulp stories. This may well be the only such list posted on the Internet that includes books by both Ernest Hemingway and Orrie Hitt, but what can I say? I like what I like, and I think that’s the way it should be for all of us.
I didn’t keep a list of all the movies we watched this year (I really need to start doing that) or even blog about a lot of them, so I can’t do a Top Ten for them. We watched a lot of romantic comedies, a considerable number of raunchy college comedies, some superhero stuff, quite a bit of action/adventure where Stuff Blows Up Real Good, the occasional inspirational, based-on-a-true-story drama, some movies based on plays by Tennessee Williams (when Livia was writing her Tennessee Williams book), the very occasional horror movie, and some Westerns both old and spaghetti. I like movies, and I’m sure we watched well over a hundred of them. We’ll probably watch that many next year, too.
So that wraps it up for 2009. Thank you all for continuing to be part of this blog, and I’ll see you next year.
A PLACE TO START by Vonn McKee
18 minutes ago