Let’s Hear It for Escapist Reading

Though some mysteries are considered literary (Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist), I like my mysteries well-written but with no emotional baggage. Escapist reading? Sign me up! When I want to read serious, I head for the non-fiction aisles. When I want to relax I head for the cozy mystery series featuring a gay vampire living in a small town in England. How can you resist? That said, these are a few of my recent favorites in the silent tough guys competition.

One Shot by Lee Child

Lee Child, bless his English heart, writes one of the best hard-boiled-loner solving-problems and moving-along-owning-nothing-but-what-he-can-carry mystery series around. A sniper has killed six people. The sniper has done this before and ex-MP Jack Reacher knows it and the sniper knows Jack knows it. So why is the sniper asking for Jack’s help? If you like this one, try The Enemy, a prequel to the series that explains a bit about how Jack got to be who he is.

Bitch Creek by William Tapply

This author was all set to go on my “must check out his other books” list. But. Stoney Calhoun, the main character, has amnesia. Got out of the hospital five years ago after being hit by lightning (or was he?), remembering nothing but fleeting, hallucinatory images of his former life. Feels compelled to move to a small town in Maine. Helps out at a fishing guide business. Fellow guide gets killed. Is it related to Stoney’s past or just a coincidence? Spoiler: although he solves the mystery with skills from his forgotten life, the mystery is not linked to his past. I’m mellowing on this, but when I first finished the book, I was quite annoyed that the author set up this great background story and didn’t follow through. There have been murmurings since that this is the first book in a new series which means it’ll probably be years before we find out who Stoney was and why a mysterious man shows up every few months to check up on him and see if he’s remembered anything. Argh.

Comeback by Richard Stark

Parker is the anti-hero of anti-heroes, a sociopath who will get the crime done. After a twenty-three year absence, Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake) resurrected Parker in Comeback in 1997. Parker and companions set out to steal money from a dishonest televangelist. Something goes horribly wrong, as it usually does and Parker needs all his wits and his willingness to do whatever and whoever he needs to get the job done. The newer Parker books are a bit more mellow – he doesn’t kill everyone, just whoever gets in his way. If you want to spend more time with a cold-blooded, amoral thief (and who doesn’t?) go back and start at the beginning with The Hunter or continue on with Backflash.

Confess your escapist reading picks. What do you read when you’re not feeling very literary or serious?

10 Responses

  1. I ConfessI read John Grisham
    I Confess

    I read John Grisham when I want to escape, which is usually only once a year or so. (Merely a coincidence that’s how often he pumps out his books.) Also, I’ll sneak in a Nicholas Sparks once in a while. I’m a sap for the sentimental.

    Recently, I read 2 James Patterson books, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas and [Somebody’s] Letters for [Somebody Else], because a friend said his writing is similar to mine. I didn’t like these books – they were too schmaltzy and predictable.

    Oh, and his writing isn’t like mine, but neither is his bank account. Go figure.

  2. escapeesIt’s ironic that we

    It’s ironic that we read about bloody murders followed by vengeful legal retribution and call it “escapism”. If this is what we escape to, one must wonder what we are escaping from.

    Regardless, I don’t think I’ve read a mystery novel since the Fletch series was still fresh, back before Chevy Chase became Fletch and ruined it for me forever. I do peruse me some Sherlock Holmes every once in a while, though.

  3. BreaksDuring my literary

    During my literary breaks, which I feel I’m long overdue for, I usually read a JP Donleavy book. It’s not quite in the same category as a mystery, but its a page-turning easy read. Debauchery at its finest.

    The other option is Michael Connolly’s Heironomous Bosch mysteries. I haven’t dipped into these in a while, but they used to be welcome respite for my mind. The moral: It’s always personal.

  4. Not lately, butwhen I was a
    Not lately, but

    when I was a kid I went through a phase of reading all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, all of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu books, all of Doyle’s Sherlock holmes stories, and all the works of Poe. I know Poe is generally considered a bit more classic, and maybe the Sherlock Holmes stories are, too, I’m not sure about that.

    I am interested in a series of books by Stuart M. Kaminsky which each involve a private detective named Toby Peters. In each book, which are fictional, Toby Peters takes on a case involving a real-life celebrity, like Joan Crawford, Bela Lugosi, Blackstone the Magician, and others. The only one of those I’ve read is The Melting Clocks, featuring Salvador Dali as the client who hires the detective to find a valuable stolen clock.

    I took a college course called Pop Literature in which we read & analyzed 2 books each from several genres, including westerns, romance, science fiction, hard-boiled detective, etc. The two detective novels were The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. McDonald. I liked them both. McDonald’s gimmick is to use a different color in every book’s title: A Deadly Shade og Gold, The Long Lavender Look, Flash of Green, etc. That was a fun course. The instructor told a story about John D. McDonald, which is supposed to be true. After writing several books and basking in financial success, McDonald was having lunch with another writer, I forget who. The writer said, “John, you’ve done quite well for yourself. Now when are you going to write a real book?”
    McDonald said, “I thought that’s what I was doing!”

    Oh, at the risk of incurring the derision of certain regulars on this site, I did read the DaVinci Code a few months ago. I thought it was a great idea for a book, but wish it had been written at a higher level.

  5. LOL! I think I know what
    LOL! I think I know what we’re escaping from. They call it… boredom.

    These authors know that better than anyone.

  6. and, I read People Magazine
    and, I read People Magazine & rolling Stone. Well, it’s important to see who is on the beach with who, drinking bottled water.

  7. Literary EsacapismPreviously
    Literary Esacapism

    Previously when I have looked to escape from the literary realms I haunt I normally reach for a Clive Cussler novel.

    Formulaic page turning stuff that I really enjoy. While taking the reader along for a ride Cussler can be seen poking fun at himself and a wide range of media and literary sources.

    A more modern (and postmodern) form of literary escape that I cannot recommend enough is the writing of Jasper Fforde. Set in alternative 1985 (the non-Orwellian-but-almost world is the first of many send ups) his books chart the path through history (and fiction) of Thursday Next – a literary detective.

    No book, character or author is off limits as Fforde’s tales traverse all aspects of the written word with enough literary allusions, puns and jokes to keep scholars busy for years. First class stuff!

  8. My Escape LitWhen I feel the
    My Escape Lit

    When I feel the need to read something a little lighter and easier, I turn to “chick-lit”. I’ve read (and enjoyed) the Bridget Jones books, the Shopaholic books, the Ya Ya books and am about to begin the Stephanie Plum books. I read maybe two or three a year when my life is too hectic to concentrate on anything deeper/better.

  9. Well…The mysteries concern
    Well…The mysteries concern Heironomous Bosch, though not the artist, more the eponomous renegade cop solving mysteries. But they get personal, and there is a bit of Bosch symbology in some of the mysteries. Owls, purgatory, etc…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!