My Favorite Writers

This is a preliminary listing, done one night a few years ago as the names occurred to me, and since expanded (much as I have, since I’d rather read than exercise).

It’s not in any order (just like real life). It’s also mostly men, which is just the way it turned out. I seem to like detective novels and funny stuff.

* * *

Donald E. Westlake The writer I’d most like to be? Creator, amazingly, of both the greatest hard-boiled tough guy, Parker, and the greatest comic criminal, Dortmunder, of all time.
Ed McBain the 87th precinct novels (and now that I’ve gone through most of those, I’m almost done with the Matthew Hope books)
Janwillem van de Wetering The Dutch detective stories are masterpieces.
Robert Benchley my hero of the 1960s, from the 1930s and 1940s
P. G. Wodehouse another hero of the 1960s, and winner and all-time champion; I’ve read at least 85 of his books
William Saroyan the writer who just kept writing, about nothing special, until he became world-famous
John McPhee a hero to me in the 1970s, classic non-fiction, but he lost me when he kept writing about geology, and then fishing
Graham Greene the ‘entertainments’
Dick Francis Who’d think horses could be this interesting?
Tony Hillerman He started out great, kind of went downhill, and then got better again.
W. P. Kinsella the Indian stories more than the baseball stories
James Thurber
Donald Barthelme classic short stories, some with terrific illustrations
Ishmael Reed

William Shakespeare Who?
Willa Cather
Rex Stout Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are masterly creations.
Charles Portis Not nearly as well regarded as he should be. He’s known mostly for the movie of his early work True Grit. Dog of the South and especially Masters of Atlantis are wonderfully ingenious.
Mark Twain Roughing It is my favorite, although how can you vote against Huckleberry Finn?
Kurt Vonnegut The modern Twain; I like his essays and speeches even more than some of his books. Sure, Slaughterhouse Five is his best, but oddly, a particular favorite of mine is Slapstick, which even the author doesn’t like much.
Edward Abbey
John D. MacDonald Travis McGee is another magnificent creation.
Daniel Pinkwater I like his children’s books, like Lizard Music and Yobgorble, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario, much more than his adult ones.
John Steinbeck
Dean Koontz A good guy. I did the first major interview with him, in the early 1970s, and he had me over to his house for dinner a few times.
Calvin Trillin A great non-fiction writer in several styles, but his poetry? Fuhgit aboudit.
Gore Vidal fantastic essays
George Orwell
Joan Didion
Carl Hiaasen
Agatha Christie I read dozens of her books in my teenage years, expanding my grey cells. And yes, I did care who killed Roger Ackroyd.
Jorge Luis Borges my other hero in the 1970s, a genius in prose, poetry and non-fiction, who rarely wrote anything longer than five or six pages
Clyde EdgertonDon DeLillo almost always great; White Noise is a modern classic.
Iain Banks The Crow Road for sure, also Espedair Street. Not Iain M. Banks, who I haven’t read, but the same Scottish guy in a different context.
Bill Fitzhugh Mississipian moved to the West Coast, who hasn’t forgotten the home folks
Vikram Seth As someone who dislikes both poetry and San Francisco, I couldn’t believe how much I liked his verse epic The Golden Gate. I’ve liked all four of his books I’ve read, actually, especially A Suitable Boy.

February 2006

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