"Caine Black Knife"
I have a bunch of stuff I revisit every decade or so -- Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, a half dozen of the best Heinlein's, John D. MacDonald, Gregory McDonald, Roger Zelazny. (Every now and again I look longingly at the "War Against the Chtorr," and I'd dive back into that in a minute if David Gerrold would ever finish the fucking thing. And yes, I get the irony there.)
And I have a much smaller set of works that I read over and over and over again -- it's the stuff listed in my profile. Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" – the best novel I personally have ever read. "The Perfect Thief," by Ronald J. Bass; the Vimes and Granny Weatherwax novels by Terry Pratchett, and "Heroes Die" by Matt Stover.
My wife bought Matt's first novel and I read both of his first two Caine novels in manuscript – I can remember Amy passing the first manuscript to me with the comment, "Let me know what you think of this, it seems your style of thing." And I sat on the bed all night long, unable to put the manuscript down. I remember thinking there were a couple of minor things wrong with it – I'm not being nice to Matt when I say I no longer remember what they were, I just don't remember – but when the book saw print I picked it up again and read it out of curiosity, and man, it had gotten better – I found myself sitting up all the night long reading the book again. And six months or so later, doing it again –
The sequel came, "The Blade of Tyshalle" – which in an unrelated note has probably my favorite cover art of all time – I'd pay real money to hang that painting on my wall. And I read that in manuscript, and it was brilliant – a richer and more ambitious work than Heroes Die – and over the course of the years I've read that book maybe 3 times now (maybe 4) …
I can't tell you how many times I've read Heroes Die, because it's turned into one of my touchstone books – it's by my bedside. I pick it up and browse a chapter, and find myself lost and reading for an hour – put it down, come back the next day and start from the first scene, come back a month later and start from wherever I vaguely remember leaving off –
Last night Matt sent me the manuscript for the 3rd Caine novel, "Caine Black Knife." I read the first 75 pages last night when I hadn't slept more than 4 hours a night in 3 straight days and damn well needed to catch up – and I'll be done by this weekend, despite all the crap swirling around me at the moment. John D. MacDonald's dead, Zelazny's dead, Heinlein's dead, Gregory McDonald's last few novels have disappointed, Larry McMurtry's last few have disappointed, Bass only writes screenplays, Mary Stewart is really old and I'm going be as old as Mary Stewart is before David Gerrold finishes the damned Chtorran series …
But I have a new Caine novel. Every day on the right side of the dirt is a good day.