(Also posted on One Bite at a Time.)

Everyone has favorite writers. There’s something about each of them that resonates in you, even if the writer isn’t particularly popular. It may be because you’re ahead of the curve, or possibly his plots or sense of humor appeal to you more than others. Whatever the reason, we all have authors we like more than others, quality of writing aside.

The flip side of this are the authors we just don’t get. I suspect we all have them, writers who received virtually universal acclaim, but don’t touch our reading G-spot. I’m like that with Ross Macdonald. (I understand this makes me a Philistine.) I’ve read several of his books, and I can appreciate why everyone thinks he’s great, but they just don’t wrap me up the way some other writers do. It’s not the subject matter; Declan Hughes writes of long-buried family secrets and I’m in the tank for him in a major way. It’s not Archer; I like him, even feel sorry for him a little, as he sees, and is affected by, so many situations he can never put right. It’s not the writing. I may be a Philistine, but anyone who says Macdonald isn’t a gifted writer is a moron. Still, his books don’t heat me up like others I could name.

To pick someone alive, there’s George Pelecanos. I recognize what a superb writer he is; he wrote some of my favorite episodes of The Wire, and his web site is full of insights. I’ve seen him speak, and he appears to be a genuinely thoughtful and engaging gentleman. I appreciate the social awareness present in his books. Still, given the choice between a Pelecanos and a Lehane, I’ll take the Lehane, though I’d have a bear of a time explaining why.

No offense to either Macdonald or Pelecanos. I freely and fully acknowledge their talent. It’s not them; it’s me. (And haven’t we all heard that before?) What about you? Who is it you just don’t “get,” and can you say why?

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Comment by Dana King on May 16, 2009 at 1:35pm
John,
I read The Guards over the holidays and was less than enthusiastic. Several people whose opinions I respect have promoted Bruen's books to me, so I read Priest a couple of weeks ago and loved it. He may be an acquired taste. I'm going to go back and give The Guards another tumble.
Comment by John Dishon on May 16, 2009 at 5:01am
Ken Bruen and George Pelecanos for me. To be more accurate, I should say it's The Guards by Ken Bruen and The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos since that's all I've read by each author. I guess it's not fair to judge an author based on only one book, but if I read a book by a new author and am disappointed, there's little reason to go back for seconds. There's just too many books in my pile waiting to be read.

Also, The Foreigner by Francie Lin, which just won an Edgar for best first novel, is just so inauthentic with its main character. He's American-born Taiwanese, but his parents are from Taiwan and he lives in San Fransisco, yet he doesn't speak or even understand Chinese. That is so unbelievable that it just makes me mad to think about it. She uses Chinese words, even whole sentences, yet she's inconsistent with what the main character can understand. He can say a relatively complex sentence, yet doesn't understand one of the most basic sentence, one anyone should be able to get via context even without knowing any Chinese.

Granted, a lot of people aren't going to realize how sloppily written this novel is because they don't know much about the culture, but even if you ignore that and just look at the story I don't get it. The plot is pretty average, the writing is too elevated to fit the characters (Lin is American, yet uses the word "fag" to describe a cigarette. Come on!).

Anyway, sorry if I went off topic with that. I've never been so pissed off with a book as I am with The Foreigner, probably because I was so looking forward to reading it given it is set in Taiwan and there isn't a lot of Taiwanese fiction out there.
Comment by I. J. Parker on May 16, 2009 at 4:27am
I hate Hiassen.
Comment by John McFetridge on May 16, 2009 at 4:04am
I really only tried to read Striptease. I found the bad guys at the strip club weren't tough enough. There was a scene with someone pulling a knife on a bouncer and then standing on his head and I just couldn't see that happening to any of the bouncers at the strip clubs I knew. I know it was supposed to be played for laughs, but it didn't work for me.

Another guy people tell me is really funny that I don't get is Tim Dorsey. I think it's the Florida thing - I've been to Florida once for a week to take my kids to Disney. I may need to spend more time there to get these guys.
Comment by Dana King on May 16, 2009 at 3:01am
Your answer is the kind of thing that got me thinking about this. We have similar tastes in a lot of ways, and I love Hiaasen. There's some intangible in there, and I'm not sure what it is.
Comment by John McFetridge on May 16, 2009 at 1:21am
Interesting topic, Dana. For me, it's Carl Hiassen. Humour may be a little further out there in the, "get it, don't get it," realm, but I just don't get it.

Maybe if I lived in Florida...
Comment by Dana King on May 16, 2009 at 1:17am
I know what you mean about Connelly. Not him specifically, but the same sort of thing happened with me and Laura Lippman. I can live without the Tess Monaghan books (where she made her rep), but I love her short stories and What the Dead Know.
Comment by I. J. Parker on May 16, 2009 at 12:45am
Well, I can sometimes explain why a book isn't for me. But the fact is that many books specialize in a worldview that I don't share. None of the famous men you mentioned do anything for me -- though perhaps I should give Declan Hughes another try. Sometimes an author may leave me unimpressed with a series and then suddenly produce a novel that impresses the hell out of me. (Like Michael Connelly and THE LINCOLN LAWYER.) Some of it is taste, some is gender or age, some is background. A lot is background for me.

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