The book I’m reading right now
Front row at the Trump Show by Jonathan Karl. My country is sailing through very rough seas right now. This book, by a senior ABC political correspondent who has been reporting on Trump for years, is a well-researched, objectively reported, and balanced account of what’s going on above and the consequences of that on the ground. It’s everything journalism should be. It is not false news as some claim.
The book that changed my life
When i read From Russia, with love from Ian Fleming at a young age, I decided to become a writer of popular suspense fiction. I thought with youthful hubris: I can do it – maybe not right away and maybe not so well, but the book gave me two things: inspiration to write and a template for telling a story that moved as fast as the Orient Express A straight line , dry and punchy style. I try to take this into account every time I sit down at the keyboard.
Daniela Bianchi and Sean Connery in the 1963 Ian Flemings film From Russia, With Love. Photo: SNAP / Rex Features
The book I would have liked to have written
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfectly executed incarnation of some of the most important themes in literature: family, courage, honesty, social divisions, politics and – inevitably in the US – race. This bloated sentence makes the book sound like a leaden treatise, but no, the author has written these abstractions in lower case and subtly hung them on the frame of a moving and fast-paced legal thriller. Not only that, she has populated the whole of the Schebang with some of the most unforgettable characters in fiction.
The book that had the greatest impact on my writing
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. My favorite writer, Bellow, wrote a towering Bildungsroman with this book. It tells the story of the eponymous protagonist, who shouldered his way from troubled youth to manhood, where he achieved a kind of stability and peace that, although imperfect, will resonate with all of us. Why am I quoting who, let’s face it, probably won’t be ready for a booker in the near future, a Nobel Laureate as an influence? Because Bellow tells his captivating, muscular story in breathtakingly stylish prose. He taught me to be just as respectful of the way words sound as the meaning they convey.
The book I think is the most underrated
Shot all by Chester Himes. Having had an unpleasant experience as an African American in the United States, Himes moved to Europe, where he wrote most of his books. He was a master of all genres he dealt with, but I settled on one of his Harlem detective series with NYPD investigators Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. All Shot Up, which you rarely hear about, is a classic noir in the form of Elmore Leonard meets Ed McBain.
The book that changed my mind
I’ve always been an action-oriented writer. My novels have three, sometimes four overlapping stories that all end in twists. I concentrated more on this pyrotechnics and neglected my characters. When I read John le Carré’s A Perfect Spy, I was completely preoccupied with the people he had created, regardless of the machinations of the story. I decided that while I will never neglect my mission of giving readers roller coaster acts, I now focus just as much on creating living, breathing characters that we actually know and care about (as well as of course Contempt and fear).
The last book that made me cry
Annie Proulx’s dispatch notes. I read this novel again and was just as moved as the first time I devoured it years ago. Proulx is a stylist like no other.
The last book that made me laugh
Wobble to Death by Peter Lovesey – a delightful murder mystery in a six-day race at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, North London with its protagonists Detective Sergeant Cribb and his assistant Constable Thackeray. As someone who makes a living doing the plot, I was sure I had the bad guy pinned down. No I got it completely wrong. Hence the admiring laugh.
I couldn’t finish the book
The girl with the dragon tattoo. I’m clearly in the minority, but I found it grim, rambling, and obvious. Sorry fans.
The book I’m most ashamed of not having read
What is the statute of limitations for such things? I put together an essay on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and photographer Walker Evans in high school without actually reading it. I used reviews and jacket copies and quickly scanned them. The grade A I received stung more than if I had been called about the crime.
The book I’m giving away
For adults: any collection of Robert Frost poems. For children: the hobbit.
The book I would like to remember most
Animal garden. This is my thriller, winner of the CWA steel dagger, about a killer who traveled to Berlin in 1936 and was undercover at the Olympic Games. His mission is to assassinate a (fictional) adjutant who helps Hitler rearm. It took me two years to write, and while it’s a typical novel of mine – fast-paced and curvy – it’s also a study of institutionalized evil and a society seduced by a madman.
My consolation read
Lord of the rings. I know that I can always find solace in Middle-earth and in Tolkien’s formidable imagination. The combination of having mastered the English language like a… well, wizarding staff and creating languages from whole material is popcorn for me.
• • The Goodbye Man by Jeffery Deaver is published by HarperCollins (£ 16.99). To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com. Shipping costs may apply.