Robert McCammon is a pro, a top-of-the-food-chain taleteller with a sublime command of language. You don’t just read a McCammon novel; you are transported to its world, breathing its air, riding its rapids, committing its characters to memory. His always enthralling, cross-genre stories are amazingly rich, and I always feel a little wealthier after having read one. Recommended works: BOY’S LIFE, SWAN SONG, SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD, GONE SOUTH.
JOE R. LANSDALE
You can’t go wrong with Joe R. Lansdale. Ever. When somebody talks of an author having a “voice,” look no further than the master of Texas Noir. While his narratives (be they horror, mystery, or coming-of-age) are often gritty, even grotesque, he always splashes them with his signature wry humor. Pitch perfect storytelling, and as fun as a rollercoaster rattling off great one-liners at every hair-raising turn. Recommended works: THE BOTTOMS, SUNSET AND SAWDUST, SAVAGE SEASON (HAP & LEONARD #1), THE COMPLETE DRIVE-IN.
Sometimes you pick up a book plainly because it looks like you’ll have a good time reading it. I checked out Steve Hockensmith’s debut title in his HOLMES ON THE RANGE series for just that reason. And I did have a good time with it. But I also discovered some outstanding, enviable prose. Rollicking mysteries, funny dialogue, and beautifully-rendered details of the Old West as seen through the eyes of a memorable pair of cowboy sleuths. Recommended works: Start with HOLMES ON THE RANGE and keep going.
Conversely, when I picked up Torsten Krol’s novel CALLISTO, I didn’t know what to expect. I simply liked the cover art, and nothing else on the shelves caught my eye right then. What a surprise! Brilliant satire blended with gallows humor, Krol (a possible pseudonym) only has a trio of titles published as of this writing, but he has ably demonstrated a literary gift for the profound and the perverse, performed with a knowing wink. Somebody to watch. Recommended works: CALLISTO, THE DOLPHIN PEOPLE.
Christopher Moore’s books elicit more laughs than a court jesters convention dosed on nitrous oxide. What makes Moore such a standout author, however, is his extraordinarily accomplished storytelling. He always begins with an original, even provocative, premise, and conjures up narratives that are not only humorous, but often clever, thrilling, sometimes poignant. To wit, if you were to remove the comedy from Moore’s work, what’s left is still marvelously engaging and enjoyable. Recommended works: LAMB, A DIRTY JOB, FOOL, THE STUPIDEST ANGEL.
Googling author Gordon Dahlquist, many page results reference how he was reportedly paid an advance of $2,000,000 for THE GLASS BOOKS OF THE DREAM EATERS, which was then estimated to have lost its publisher over $850,000. What these sites don’t commonly share is how diabolically entertaining this series is. Best described as an epic steampunk thriller, featuring lush prose, dynamic protagonists, perverse villains, and a technofantastic premise that is outrageous without ever becoming preposterous. A bizarro Victorian-themed Disneyworld for adults. Recommended works: THE GLASS BOOKS OF THE DREAM EATERS, THE DARK VOLUME, THE CHEMICKAL MARRIAGE.
Unlike Dahlquist’s above trilogy, whose Victorian era realism is melded with futuresque fantasy, Oliver Pötzsch’s HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER series is firmly rooted in the often grim verisimilitude of 17th century Bavarian life. The vividly authentic historical details help set the mood for these dark mysteries involving a seasoned hangman, his headstrong daughter, and her young medicus suitor. Riveting page-turners where you come about as close to experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of the period without having to travel back in a time machine. Recommended works: Start with THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER, then proceed in series order.