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-turnersbest-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.
The links connect to amazon.com. If you have already set your preferences there, you can click on any link, select "Buy 1 Now with 1-Click" and your books will arrive in a few days with no further action on your part. If you haven't used amazon.com before, check it out. Once you've put in your name, address, and credit card info once, it is really easy to buy books from then on. It's also the nicest way to support AskTogyou get your books at the full 20% off, and we get a few pennies toward our ISP costs.
|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||****|
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||*****|
|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 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. Its 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||***|
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||***|
|Disclosure||1993||Sexual harrassment at a computer company||****|
|Sphere||1985||Underwater aliens adventure||***|
|Terminal Man, the||1972||Brain-damaged guy w/ computer implant||**|
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.||***|
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||*****|
|Blood on the Moon (hard to find)||1984||****|
|Killer on the Road||1986||***|
|L. A. Confidential||1990||L. A. in the '50's||******|
|Suicide Hill (hard to find)||1986||***|
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||****|
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||*****|
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 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||******|
|Trap Line||1982||Mob, fisherman, Key West, drug smuggling||***|
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||***|
|Dance Hall of the Dead||1973||***|
|Dark Wind, the||1971||***|
|Fly on the Wall||19??||***|
|People of Darkness||1980||***|
|Thief of Time, A||1988||**|
|Hunter, Stephen||Point of Impact||1993||Gun nut framed by CIA types for pres.assn||****|
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.
|Butcher's Theater, The||1988||Israeli detective||***|
|Over the Edge||1988||****|
|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||***|
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:
|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||*****|
|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||*******|
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||****|
|Thayer, Steve||Weatherman, The||1995||Minneapolis weatherman accused of serial murder. Great!||*****|
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.
|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, 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 TrainHis 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||****|
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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