Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini   Lists for North American Delivery  

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Please note that I have not added to this page in more than ten years. Each read, however, I found a delight, and it still stands as a good public-library escapist-fiction list. Many of these authors continued to write excellent fiction after the time of this list with the single exception of Michael Crichton whose last few books--not on this list--I found almost insufferable.

My wife and I read around 200 books a year, spanning a wide variety of subjects. A lot of what I read are page-turners—best-selling mystery and adventure books that, once started, are difficult to put down. Of course, all books that claim to be page-turners don't prove out. The books on this list, however, did, at least for me. Check out the list and see of our tastes in the books you've already read coincide. If so, you just may find some new favorite authors.

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Block, Lawrence Lawrence Block writes two series about Bernie Rhodenbarr, a small-time theaf, and Mathew Scudder, a retired cop, are both fun to read. The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams is a good first one to try.

Burglar in the Library, The 1997 Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery ***
Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams 1994 Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery ***
Burglars can't be Choosers 1977 Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery ***
Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart 1995 Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery ***
Dance at the Slaughterhouse 1992 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Devil knows you're dead 1993 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Eight Million Ways to Die 1987? Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Even the Wicked 1998 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Out on the Cutting Edge 1989 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Sins of the Fathers 1991 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Ticket to the Boneyard 1990 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Time to Murder & Create 1976 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
Walk among the tombstones 1992 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***
When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes 1992 Mathew Scudder Mystery ***

Burke, James Lee

Burke writes about life in and about New Orleans for an ex-cop with an attitude. Black Cherry Blues is the best of his work.

Black Cherry Blues 1989 Wife killed, daughter in peril (best of 1st 3) ****

Caunitz, William J.

Caunitz writes tightly knit "police procedurals" set in NYC. Good characters, excellent stories.

One Police Plaza 1984 Good NY cop fiction ****
Pigtown 1995 Good NY cop fiction ****
Suspects 1986 Good NY cop fiction ****

Clancy, Tom

Author of the classic, "Hunt for Red October," Clancy's books all ring with excitement and authenticity.

Cardinal of the Kremlin 1988
Hunt for Red October 1984
Patriot Games

Red Storm Rising

Sum of All Fears, The 1991
Without Remorse 1994 Prequell set in Vietnam war era ***

Connelly, Michael Black Echo, The 1992 Harry Bosch L. A. tunneling-into-bank-vault caper ****
Connelly, Michael Concrete Blond, The 1995 Copycat mass murderer in LA ***

Coonts, Stephen

Coonts is most famous for “Flight of the Intruder,” which was turned into hit movie. His other works have not lived up to that first, though Red Horseman comes close. (Not too surprising: Coonts lived the first book as a bomber pilot over Vietnam. It’s hard to move into pure fiction from such a riveting account based on the real thing.)

Flight of the Intruder
Intruder bombers in Viet Nam ****
Red Horseman, The 1993 Bad guys steal Russian nukes ***
Couch, Dick Pressure Point 1992 terrorist use Seattle ferry boat to steal A-sub ****
Crais, Robert Free Fall 1993 Elvis Cole Mystery -- Pleasant to read ***
Crais, Robert Monkey's Raincoat 1987 Elvis Cole Mystery ***

Crichton, Michael

M. D. turned writer, Michael Chrichton's most famous for Jurasic Park, but he's had a string of best-sellers, all unique, all with well-rounded interesting characters. His latest books are losing their edge. They are still excellent, but he feels compelled to write them as screenplay-candidates, rather than novels. In Airframe, for example, he has a perfectly ridiculous scene where some random "civilians" are invited along to ride on a jet while it is being tested to see whether it will crack in half under stress. Good cinema; bad fiction. Just as silly is his repeated use of virtual reality for computer searches. Still, he's good enough that the books listed here still stand up as page-turners of the first water.

Airframe 1996 Airline industry safety cover-up ***
Congo 1980 Gorillas ***
Disclosure 1993 Sexual harrassment at a computer company ****
Jurasic Park 1991? Dinosaurs *****
Sphere 1985 Underwater aliens adventure ***
Terminal Man, the 1972 Brain-damaged guy w/ computer implant **

Demille, Nelson

Consistent thrillers well worth reading. Fast-paced and hard to put down.

Mayday 1979, 98 Supersonic Jetliner hit by Navy missile *****
Charm School, The 1988 POW's held in Russian spy academy ***
General's Daughter, The 1992 Murder on a military base ****
Plum Island 1997 Murder on a chemical weapons island off Long Isl. ***

Ellroy, James

Author of the hit movie, "LA Confidential," Elroy writes gripping novels set in the Los Angeles era of tough cops and gangsters. Read them from earliest to latest. Elroy's sentences grow shorter and more staccato with every book. His latest books seem almost written in short-hand.

The books all tie together, spanning from the late '40s to early '60s, but while the backdrop is a constant, the characters change, with some falling away and what were peripheral characters in one book becoming central to the next.

Ellroy writes from his soul: His mother was murdered during these times, and her killer was never brought to justice. If you enjoyed the movie version of LA Confidential, you are in for a treat. The movie captured the mood, but told only a tiny corner of the story.

American Tabloid 1995 Events leading up to Kennedy Assignation ***
Because the Night (hard to find) 1984
Big Nowhere, The 1988 Red baiting *****
Black Dahlia 1987
Blood on the Moon (hard to find) 1984
Brown's Requiem 1981
Clandestine 1982
Killer on the Road 1986
L. A. Confidential 1990 L. A. in the '50's ******
Suicide Hill (hard to find) 1986
White Jazz 1992

Follett, Ken

Ken Follett is one of the true greats. For many years, you couldn't go wrong with a Follett novel. However, some of his more recent historical novels, such as Pillars of the Earth, are dull, if informative, reading. Those I've recommended below are page-turners.

Dangerous Fortune, A 1993 1800's British banking family ****
Eye of the Needle 1990 WWII German Spy ****
Key to Rebecca 1990 WWII war in Africa spy ****
Lie Down with Lions 1994 Set in Afganistan ****
Man from St. Petersburg 1991 1914 Prelude to WWI ****
Night Over Water 1991 "China Clipper" novel ****
On Wings of Eagles 1990 True story of Ross Perot's executives escaping Iran ****
Folsom, Allan Day After Tomorrow, The 1994 Amer. Surgeon spots dad's killer in Paris cafe ****
Friedman, Kinky God Bless John Wayne 1995 Jewish C&W detective ***
Friedman, Philip Inadmissible Evidence 1992 N Y prosecutor ****

Gifford, Thomas

Powerful books that will sweep you into intregue. Gifford is a master at his art. Assassini is best.

Assassini ? Catholic church intrigue ******
Praetorian (hard to find) 1993 Amer. radio corresp. in London in WWII ***
The First Sacrifice (hard to find) 1994 Sequel to Wind Chill **
Wind Chill Factor 1975 Nazis prepared to rise again ****
Green, George Dawes Juror, The 1995 Mob crazy terrorizes female juror *****

Grisham, John

Lawyer Grisham, most famous for "The Firm," is a master at bringing the courtroom alive. "Rainmaker" is his best book, in my opinion.

Firm, The 1991 Young lawyer joins the wrong firm ***
Pelican Brief, The 1992 Girl law student finds supremes death plot ***
Rainmaker, The 1995 Law-student --> lawyer sues insurance company ******
Runaway Jury, The 1997 Juror screws with cigarette manuf civil suit ****
Harris, Thomas Black Sunday 1975 Blimp at Super Bowl ****
Harris, Thomas Red Dragon 1981 First Hanibal Lecter book **
Harris, Thomas Silence of the Lambs, the 1988 The famous Hanibal Lecter book ******

Hiaasen, Carl

Hiaasen is now most famous for a really bad movie based on his least-good book, "Strip Tease." Hiassen deserved better. He is very funny and a damned good writer. If you've never read anything by him before, I'd recommend either "Lucky You" or "Skin Tight." However, all his books are just plain wonderful. If you like Dave Barry and you enjoy a light murder story, you'll love Hiaasen.

Double Whammy 1987 Large-mouth bass *****
Lucky You 1998 Lottery Winners & holy turtles (cooters) ******
Native Tongue 1991 Corruption in Florida *****
Skin Tight 1989 Corrupt plastic surgeon ******
Stormy Weather 1995 Florida Hurricane Hijinks ***
Strip Tease 1994 Corrupt politician [big step downward] ***
Tourist Season 1986 tourists being killed/orange bowl ******
Powder Burn 198?
Trap Line 1982 Mob, fisherman, Key West, drug smuggling ***

Hillerman, Tony

Hillerman has written a series of books all based on the Navaho reservation in the USA's SouthWest. I find them very comfortable to read. Nothing terribly exciting, just well-drawn authetic characters set against a "lifestyle" that is far more relaxed and easy-going than many of us enjoy. Try just one. If you like it, you'll like all the books. If you don't, move on.

Blessing Way, The 1970
Coyote Waits 1990
Dance Hall of the Dead 1973 ***
Dark Wind, the 1971 ***
Fly on the Wall 19??
Ghostway, The 1984
Listening Woman 1978
People of Darkness 1980
Sacred Clowns 1993
Skinwalkers 1986
Talking God 1989
Thief of Time, A 1988
Hunter, Stephen Point of Impact 1993 Gun nut framed by CIA types for pres.assn ****

Kellerman, Jonathan

Kellerman is a physchologist by education. His early books follow the adventures of someone of that same profession as he works with the police to bring crazy criminals to justice. Kellerman ran out of ideas several years ago, and has essentially been publishing the same book over and over again. His earlier works, however, are enjoyable reads. If you can stand a touch of California psychobabble, try one. "Blood Test" is the best.

Blood Test 1987
Butcher's Theater, The 1988 Israeli detective ***
Over the Edge 1988
Private Eyes

Silent Partner 1989
Time Bomb 1990 school shoot-up ***
When the Bough Breaks 1985
Levine, Paul Mortal Sin 1995 Jake Lassiter defends Florida mob guy ***
Levine, Paul To Speak for the Dead (hard to find) 1990 Lawyer Jake Lassiter defends dumb Doc ****
Margolin, Phillip After Dark 1996
Martin, David Lie to Me 1990 Scary as hell *****
Martini, Steve Compelling Evidence 1992 Sacramento courtroom murder case w/ twist *******
Martini, Steve Simeon Chamber, The 1988 Sir Francis Drake's log found at San Simeon ***

McBain, Ed

Ed McBain has been writing forever. He authored "Blackboard Jungle" and wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock's "The Birds" about 100 years ago. Nowadays, he writes two series, alternating from one to the other:
  1. The 87th Precint novels are set in a fictitious city that is suspiciously like NYC. These police procedurals are fast and gritty, with familiar characters that move from novel to novel. Fun, furious reads.

  2. Matthew Hope is a lawyer in an equally-fictitious small town on Florida’s West Coast. The Matthew Hope novels are small, well-contained, and feature interesting and fun characters. It is only after you have finished the novels and look back that you realize how and where they tracked the nursery rhymes whose names they bear.

Cinderella (temporarily out of stock) 1986 Matthew Hope Hooker steals mob coke ****
Con Man 1974 87th Precint Novel **
Downtown 1989 Florida Orange grower hits New York ****
Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear 1996 Matthew Hope ***
Kiss 1992 87th Precint Novel ****
Lullaby 1989 87th Precint Novel ****
Mary, Mary 1992 Matthew Hope ***
Nocturne 1997 87th Precint Novel *****
Rumpelstiltskin 1981 Matthew Hope ****
Sadie When She Died 1972 87th Precint Novel ***
Sentries, The 1965 Florida Keys **
Snow White and Rose Red 1985 Matthew Hope Beautiful client in nut ward ****
There Was a Little Girl 1994 Matthew Hope Circus midget **
Where there's smoke 1975 Benjamin Smoke, P. I. & body snatchers ***
Widows 1991 87th Precint Novel ****
Montecino, Marcel Big Time 1990 Sal D'Amore, New Orleans piano player ****
Montecino, Marcel Crosskiller, The 1988 Cop hunts down maniacal killer ****
O'Reilly, Victor Games of the Hangman 1991 Irishman defends castle, travels to Switzerlan ****
Patterson, James Along Came a Spider 1992 Teacher as mass-murderer. Scary. ***
Patterson, James Kiss the Girls 1995 Two mass murderers collaborate. Scary and intreguing. ****
Pearson, Ridley Angelmaker 1993 Organ harvester ***
Pearson, Ridley Hard Fall 1992 FBI agent tracks terrorist in US ****
Pearson, Ridley Probable Cause 1990 Monterey cop tracks down serial killer ***
Sandford, John Mind Prey 1996 ***
Sandford, John Rules of Prey 1990 ***
Sandford, John Shadow Prey 1990 ***
Sandford, John Silent Prey 1992 ****
Sandford, John Winter Prey 1994 ***
Stewart, Edward Deadly Rich (hard to find) 1991 Someone's slashing the throats of New York's rich *******
Stewart, Edward Mortal Grace 1993 Teen runaways being carved up by priest *******

Stout, Rex

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series is one of the classics of Americana. I found Fer-De-Lance most enjoyable, but probably only because I had already rd so many of his others and this was the one that started it all. You may begin anywhere. They are all a treat.

And be a Villain 1948 Nero Wolfe radio show death ****
Champagne for One 1958 Nero Wolfe ****
Death of a Doxy 1966 Nero Wolfe ****
Death Times Three 1940-61 Three novellas ***
Fer-De-Lance 1934 Nero Wolfe the first book *****
Golden Spiders, The 1953 Nero Wolfe ****
In the Best of Families 1950 Nero Wolfe goes into hiding ****
Over my dead body 1939 Nero Wolfe ****
Right to Die, A 1964 Nero Wolfe on civil rights murder ****

Tanenbaum, Robert K

Tanenbaum's hero is a NYC Assistant District Attorney Butch Karp, a man of principle in an unprincipled world. Good characters, good action.

Corruption of Blood 1996 DA discovers CIA bad guys killed Kennedy ****
Immoral Certainty 1991 ****
Justice Denied 1994 ****
Material Witness 1993 ****
Thayer, Steve Weatherman, The 1995 Minneapolis weatherman accused of serial murder. Great! *****

Thomas, Ross

Thomas is a consistently fun writer, with humorous characters set in silly, yet dangerous, situations. Try "Ah, Treachery." If you like it, you like Thomas.

Ah, Treachery 1994
Backup Men, The 1991
Briarpatch 1984 Dill's cop-sister killed by car bomb ***
Fools in town are on our side 1970
Fourth Durango, The 1989
Money Harvest, The 1975
Twilight at Mac's Place 1990
Turow, Scott Pleading Guilty 1993 Kindle County defense attorney searches for missing partner ****
Turrow, Scott Presumed Innocent DA faces murder charge against himself

Wambaugh, Joseph

Wambaugh, an ex-cop himself, is the undisputed master of the hard-boiled police-procedural. His books continue to be fresh and powerful.

The Black Marble 1993 Wambaugh's usual blending of raw humor and violent police action ***
The Blooding 1989 True story of murder in a quiet English village ****
Blue Knight 1973 Written as Wambaugh was leaving a 15 yr. career as an LA cop ***
The Choirboys 1996 One of Wambaugh's best. A procedural that is at once funny and violent ****
Echoes in the Darkness 1987 Chilling true story about the search for a dead schoolteacher's killer ****
Finnegan's Week 1994 Funny book about kids dying from pesticides ****
Floaters 1997 Attempt to sink America's Cup boat ***
Fugitive Nights 1996 One of Wambaugh's funniest ***
The Glitter Dome 1990 L. A. cop life ***
Golden Orange 1991 Newport Beach, California: murder and fun in the sun ***
Lines and Shadows 1984 True Story about illegal aliens crossing California border ***
New Centurions 1987 L. A. police procedural ***
The Onion Field 1974 True story about two cops and two robbers ****
The Secrets of Harry Bright 1991 Palm Springs, California setting ***

Westlake, Donald E.

Westlake is just plain funny. His characters all posess the most delightful quirks, and the pace is fast, with many unexpected twists and turns. If you've never read Westlake before, try "Smoke." You won't be disappointed. The characters fairly leap off the page. (I've left several out-of-print books in place both because you may want to search for them once you've "discovered" Westlake and because they are likely to come back into print.

Baby, would I lie? 1994 C&W singer on trial plus tabloid exposé ****
Bank Shot (out of print) 1987 Bank-in-a-trailer stolen ***
Brothers Keepers (out of print) 1975 Monastery in NYC ***
Dancing Aztecs (out of print) 1976 South American statue hits New York ***
Don't Ask 1993 A Dortmunder Novel ***
Drowned Hopes (out of print) 1993 A Dortmunder Novel: they go scuba "walking" *****
Fugitive Pigeon (out of print) 1965 Innocent bartender targetted by Mafia hitmen ***
Kahawa 1981 Hijacked Ugandan Coffee Train—His only serious book ***
Smoke 1995 Tobacco industry/ invisible man / translucent cats ***
Spy in the Ointment (out of print) 1987 Pacifist becomes reluctant terrorist spy for the FBI ***
Trust me on this (out of print) 1988 1st tabloid book. Prelude to Baby, would I lie ***
What's the worst that could happen? 1996 "Robbie" robs robber ***
Why Me (out of print) 1983 Dortmunder accidentally steals world's largest ruby ****

Woods, Stuart

Each Woods book is a separate and distinct gem, with new characters involved in stories that in no way echo what he has written before. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, but "Imperfect Strangers" is such a wonderful story that it's a good place to start.

Dead Eyes 1994 Movie star stalked ***
Dead in the Water 1998 Carribean island justice: 24 hours to hanging ******
Dirt 1997 Gossip columnists stalked *****
Heat 1995 Ex-DEA agent infiltrates militia group ****
Imperfect Strangers 1995 2 men on airplane agree to kill each other's wives ******
L. A. Times 1993 NY Mafia guy becomes Hollywood Director ***
New York Dead 1991 Woman falls off roof, then disappears ****
Palindrome 1991 Twins in Florida ****
Santa Fe Rules 1992 Hollywood producer accused of 3 murders ****

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