At the start of 2013, I began a section on the blog called ‘books by journalists.’ The plan was to read a book a week by a journalist and write about it here. Like the best new year plans, it fell apart as real life began. However, I have compiled a list of the best books by journalists I’ve discovered in the last few years … hopefully ideal if you’ve got some spare time to yourself this Christmas (or, in the case of two, if you want some spare time over Christmas)…
The Poet – Michael Connelly: Well, this is a predictable way to start with arguably one of the best known journalists-turned-authors (I would have said THE best known, but then I remembered about Charles Dickens). Connelly regularly tops book charts with his Harry Bosch detective novels, and his first book-turned-film was The Lincoln Lawyer, based around another of his characters, lawyer Mickey Haller. For me, however, his best books centre around Jack McEvoy, a reporter on the Rocky Mountain News who refuses to let the death of his policeman brother rest as suicide. He soon discovers a series of police suicides all of which involved notes which left references to the work of poet Edgar Poe. A brilliant read, the sequel is called The Narrows with my favourite being The Scarecrow, which followed after that.
Gathering String – Mimi Johnson: This was the book which led to me starting 2013 with bags under my eyes. I discovered it after reading Steve Buttry’s blog, in which he mentioned his wife’s book. We all know journalism and politics is a heady mix, and his book makes the best of that. Set in America, the plot revolves around three journalists: Battle-hardened cynic Sam Waterman who has quit working on a top Washington newspaper to pursue a career, reluctantly, at a politics website; a photographer he once had an affair with which he’s never got over called Tess Benedict who escaped Washington and found a new life in a sleepy Iowa town with a basketball star turned newspaper publisher Jack Westphal. Westphal is, in short, everything Waterman isn’t. Their worlds collide when Waterman is dispatched to Iowa to cover the decision by the state’s governor Swede Erikson decides to run for president. With the Republicans struggling for a good name to lead their fight, it seems a safe bet Erikson will win the Republican nomination. Waterman believes Erikson – popular yet radical – is a little too good to be true, and starts digging.
Locked In – Kerry Wilkinson: Where to start with Kerry? His story is well-known, after writing the book on the left and becoming the UK’s most successful self-published Kindle book author, which led to a book deal which in turn seems to have sent Kerry on a one-man mission to prove it’s possible to publish books at regular intervals without producing a duff one in the process. Little less than two years after book one was self-published, book seven in the DS Jessica Daniel series is due for release in January. I’ve not read them all – I’ve not had time to keep up, but the ones I have all maintain the same attention-for-detail, impossible-to-guess-the-culprit standards Kerry produced in the first one. DS Daniel is a detective working in and around Manchester, who invariably finds her life on the line while trying to solve crimes, and often on the wrong side of the rule book to boot. If I’m writing as though I know Kerry, it’s because I do. We worked together for a few years and the dry, sometimes dark, sense of humour which is integral to his main character is not only what makes Jessica Daniel stand out among other stars of crime novels, but is also very Kerry. Kerry also branched out into other character this year, with Watched published last month.