Thursday, April 14, 2011

For Fans of Gregory Mcdonald

Just ran across this.

Opens with de Silva's thoughts on Mcdonald (interesting, but not the jewel of this blog post) ... and then goes into an interview with Mcdonald, one I'd never seen before.

de Silva thinks that Mcdonald's in danger of fading and being forgotten -- that would be sad. Fletch and Confess Fletch are two of the best books I've ever read, certainly both in the top 10 of all mystery books.

A while back I posted my top 50 favorite novels to my Facebook profile -- I'll repost it here -- and yep, two Mcdonald novels make the top 30:


Mentioned to a friend he'd written one of my 20 favorite novels recently; a couple weeks ago I got That Email, the one where someone wants your list of Every Good Book Ever Written. So, here it is. The only ground rules were that no book I'd only read once could make the list, and nothing I hadn't read within the last ~15 years could make it -- my memory's not that good. There are several novels that got dropped because I hadn't read them recently enough -- David Gerrold's third Chtorran novel, Spinrad's Bug Jack Baron, Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Wallace's "Infinite Jest" dropped because I only read it once. OTOH, Gerrold's "Man Who Folded Himself" made it in because I just reread it about a month ago and it was vastly better than I'd recalled....

The first two novels are my favorite novels, the clear #1 and #2. After that, a different day would get you a different order -- though the broad bands (I broke them up into 5 groups of 10) wouldn't change that much, I think.

My 50


Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

USA Trilogy, John Dos Passos

The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin

Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin


Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Great Sky River, Gregory Benford

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein

The Green Ripper, John D. MacDonald

100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Great Sky Woman, Steve Barnes

Merlin Trilogy, Mary Stewart

The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammet

Confess, Fletch, Gregory Mcdonald

The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald


Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis

Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert A. Heinlein

Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

Protector, Larry Niven

Streets of Laredo, Larry McMurtry

Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett

Pale Gray for Guilt, John D. MacDonald

Life, the Universe, and Everything, Douglass Adams

Fletch, Gregory McDonald

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler


Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles

Heroes Die, Matt Stover

A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows, Poul Anderson

Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov

Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

“The Sacketts,” as a body of work, Louis L’Amour

Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, Frederik Pohl

The Perfect Thief, Ronald J. Bass

The Man Who Folded Himself, David Gerrold

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov


The Forever War, Joe Haldeman

Flynn’s In, Gregory Mcdonald

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milo Kundera

L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy

Demolished Man, Alfred Bester

Doomsday Book, Connie Willis

Hyperion, Dan Simmons

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Tom Robbins

Ringworld Engineers, Larry Niven

Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammet

I cheated a bit. There’s no Sackett novel that would make this list by itself, but I have gone back to it repeatedly over the years. (I might have snuck in Steve Perry's Matador books under the same theory, but I only read most of them recently and I've only read most of them once -- but they do for me very much what L'Amour does.) I also cheated by throwing the entire Merlin trilogy in there as a single book – fuck it, it’s my list, and I never read that a book at a time; I start off with “The Crystal Cave” and read through “The Last Enchantment.” (And hardly ever bother with the fourth, “The Wicked Day,” which Merlin’s not in.)

Two “Great Sky” titled novels in the top 20. You know what to do now, authors, if *you* want to get onto this very exclusive list.

If I were including children’s novels, Susan Cooper’s “Dark Is Rising,” Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Series, various Patricia McKillip novels, and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia would certainly make it in.


Sean Fagan said...

Aw, darn, I was hoping you were announcing the Fletch books on FS&.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

That would be super cool -- no, the big thing at the moment is that it appears that all of Steve Perry's matador novels, which are the core of his work and which include two new novels, are going to become available through FS&.

We've got a list of people/estates we want to approach, and Mcdonald is on it. So's Ron Bass -- "The Perfect Thief."

Sean Fagan said...

No offense to Steve, but while I'll get the Matador books when they're available... I'm itchin' for Fletch :).

ditmars1929 said...

Nice list, Dan, but no Dune???

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Haven't read it since I was in my early 20s.

Joe said...

I saw a doc. on They Might Be giants, and Ira Glass from This American Life was interviewed. Hi statement was along the lines of, "'s a shame that they're in the band, because if they weren't, they'd really like it..."
I gotta think that if Dan hadn't written these books, he'd really like them too.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

It's very hard to know. I know I like people who remind me of me. I like myself and my own company. I like what I *set out* to write, or I wouldn't set out to write it. I like Mcdonald, who writes dialog the way I do because I *learned* it from him ... but asking me whether I'd like my own work if someone else had written it, that's with God. Probably, maybe not? Best I can do.

Jesse Wendel said...

I'm glad The Perfect Thief is on the list of people/estates whom you want to approach.

There are only five USED copies of The Perfect Thief even available at Amazon, all of them used and (in my view) high-priced. And worth every dollar and more:
$88.00 + $3.99 shipping: Used - Acceptable
$91.98 + Amazon shipping: Used - Very Good
$99.00 + $3.99 shipping: Used - Good
$129.71 + $3.99 shipping: Used - Very Good
$143.52 + $3.99 shipping: Used - Good

Which is not to say I won't be thrilled if and when...

a) the prices drop to make the book affordable to most people, which
b) will allow people whom have been hearing about the book for decades, to finally read what all the fuss is about for themselves. *smiles*

I LOVE PUBLISHERS with a great backlist. You're well on the way. Keep it up. --jwe

ditmars1929 said...

What is this The Perfect Thief novel by Bass? Goggled it a few times, but couldn't find a plot summary.

Thanks, all.

Jason said...

Ah, The Man Who Folded Himself. That is a hell of a book. I own several copies, one specifically a hardback edition of some kind I lucked into in a used bookstore.

Every time I go back to that sucker I expect that my memory of it is overly rosy. And every time I re-read it I discover a book as good or better than I remember. Glad to see my favorite Bester novel on there too.

Ever read any Frederic Brown? He is at his best in the short story format, he is good otherwise but he can be staggeringly brilliant in the short stories.

A bunch of stuff I agree with, a bunch of stuff I have been meaning to read, and some new ideas; good list. :)

Unknown said...

Ha -- I actually clicked through from the RSS to post a question about what the rights status was on "The Perfect Thief". Been interested in this one ever since DKM mentioned it (in a foreword?)

Unknown said...

"If I were including children’s novels, Susan Cooper’s “Dark Is Rising,” Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Series, various Patricia McKillip novels, and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia would certainly make it in."

Does it matter if the book was written for kids? I put The Hobbit in my top 10 list - it may have been written with kids in mind, but it certainly works for adults as well.

I found my copy of The Perfect Thief years ago for around $70 - taking inflation into account, the $88+ on Amazon seems about right. It would be great if FS& could get the rights to the book so more people would have access to it. It may not be in my top 10, but it was good.

Rob said...

Confess, Fletch is a masterpiece, no two ways about it: but I'm astonished that Rodney Whittaker/Trevanian's Shibumi didn't make the list. For a satirical spoof of '70s spy novels, it was an astonishingly deep and thought-provoking work.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

"The Perfect Thief" is one of three novels Ron Bass wrote back before he got rich writing scripts ("Black Widow," "Rainman," "Entrapment," "What Dreams May Come," etc.) It tells the story of a man, variously named Voleur, Tomas, Gideon, who lives parallel lives -- in one he's an international art thief. When he goes to bed at night, he awakens in Kerala, India, where he's a married man with children, a schoolteacher, who awakens each night into the life of an international art thief ...

It's not the greatest novel I've ever read (though it makes my list, obviously -- top 50 of the 6K or so novels I've read in my life isn't bad.)

But if I had to point to a touchstone work, the thing that most made me who I am today, it's "Perfect Thief." The character obviously informs Trent, but that's trivial -- it gave me, at 15, a vision of a life where I *could* have the things I wanted, despite a personal life that was disintegrating with great rapidity and left me homeless twice before I turned twenty.

Bass's other two novels are "The Third Man," which is superb and prescient, and "The Emerald Illusion," which is merely one of the better WWII novels I've read. (An overdone genre that doesn't usually work for me, but Bass's is at least clever.)

Daniel Keys Moran said...

As to Trevanian -- I reread that book within the last year. Twice -- it had been long enough since I'd read it that I was repeatedly surprised at how thoroughly bigoted, selfish, and mean-spirited it came across. I always saw those things, but I used to write it off as part of the spoof -- a retelling of Bond from the perspective of someone who thought *Bond* was uncivilized. I still think that's probable, given Trevanian's take in "Incident at 20-Mile" ... but even taking that into account, it was still repeatedly unpleasant in ways that threw me.

It's a jewel of a book in places. But I may be past the point in my life where well-drawn bigotry works for me even where I suspect it's a puton.

Expressing nasty attitudes amusingly still leaves you expressing nasty attitudes....

Daniel Keys Moran said...

"The Third Man" is of course the classic Wells movie. "Lime's Crisis" is the Bass novel -- the main character, Harry Lime, is named for Harry Lime from "The Third Man." Brain seizure there.

ditmars1929 said...

Thanks, Dan, for the Perfect Thief clarification. I'll certainly look into it, but not until the prices come down, to be sure. But I do look forward to reading it.

Steve Perry said...

Oddly enough, I don't much do favorite book lists; though I find that I have read nearly all those you list to good enjoyment, and agree that your #1 is near or at the top of any I might cobble together.

Couple others in the top ten would be there, too.

Speaking for the space opera fans, yours make any top five list I might come up with. More fun because I thought so before we ever spoke ...

Daniel Keys Moran said...

I'm prone to lists. It's the programmer in me. Sometimes it's amusing to come across an old one and see how your tastes have changed.

Thanks for the compliment. :-)

Rob said...

Regarding Shibumi's nastiness: I agree that it is, but I'm not sure that disqualifies it from greatness (IMO, of course). The Seventies, for that we like to idolize them, were a pretty nasty decade: more violent than ours, more racist, and so forth.

When I read Shibumi I remember that it is a product of its time. It's the same way I can consider the Iliad to be literature worth reading even though the conduct of the Achaeans and Trojans is one long war crime and Homer plays this up as the ideal of martial virtue.

I'm not sure I'd give Shibumi to a teenager and say "read this." I think many teenagers would be hard-pressed to reliably differentiate between the eternal jewels and the crudities that are best left dead and buried in the past. But for grown-ups, I think it's a classic that rewards careful, critical reading.

All this is, of course, my opinion. YMM-and-apparently-does-V. :)

Sandi said...

Ha! I finally tracked down a copy of "The Perfect Thief" and it's all Dan's fault. :)

Sandi said...

Well, I was one who finally bought "The Perfect Thief" from Amazon. I've looked sporadically for years, and some queries have been met with -0- available, or priced at $250+. So under-$100 looked like a relative bargain.

Thanks for the list; I've read many of them, but I always like another list to work from.