Tim Weaver is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Chasing The Dead and its critically acclaimed follow-up The Dead Tracks. His third novel, Vanished, is out summer 2012. All his books feature missing persons investigator David Raker.
December sees ‘Author’s Bookshelf’ take a look at the books close to Tim Weaver’s heart.
Narrowing down all the books I’ve loved over the years into anything approaching a manageable list is simply too hard, so I’ve instead concentrated on a few that, for various reasons, have had the most direct effect on my own writing…
(And yes, that is my garage. We’re currently undergoing a bit of change-around at home, so my books have – for the moment – taken up residence next to the lawnmower and the barbecue. If it’s any consolation, I’m pretty sad about it too.)
A Simple Plan by Scott Smith
I think this is probably my favourite ever thriller. Appropriately, given it’s set in Ohio in the dead of winter, it begins with a decision to take a bag of unclaimed money from a downed plane, then snowballs ferociously. It’s beautifully written throughout, and the character of Hank is pitch-perfect: despite every horrendous choice he makes, you’re carried along by him, completely empathetic, even at the end when you get to see the full, terrible extent of what he’s done. Smith’s decision to write in first-person gives it an even more desperate air – like Hank is pleading with you to stop him – and while the scene in the convenience store is probably its most divisive (one you’ll either see as a fitting finale to an awful cycle of violence, or way, way over-the-top), for me the denouement is faultless.
The Bang Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
This real-life account of South African photojournalists working the townships in the run-up to the 1994 elections is just phenomenal. A biography of a country at war with itself, it’s full of barely-believable violence – and yet at times it feels so heartfelt too, as the titular ‘Bang Bang Club’ are slowly wittled down, through a combination of stray bullets, suicide and psychological trauma. It asks difficult, perhaps unanswerable questions about the nature of the men’s work – where the line is between documenting the war and aiding the people dying in the streets – but, while it’s written with all the pace and verve of a thriller, propelling you from start to finish, it stays with you for a long time. Affecting and brilliant.
The Green Mile by Stephen King
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a King fanatic, although I’ve read many of his books and short story collections. For everything he writes that I love, there’ll be another book that I just can’t get on with. But The Green Mile is exceptional; a six-volume series which – unusually for King – is full of hope and light. I think, perhaps, that’s one of the reasons I like it so much: although it still has scenes like the execution of Eduard Delacroix, and characters like Percy Wetmore, mostly it’s quiet and optimistic, even at the end when, in the aftermath of the bus crash that kills his wife, Paul looks up and sees Coffey watching him from an overpass.
Marathon Man by William Goldman
I knew the film first, but by the time I got around to reading the book I’d forgotten much of what happened in the movie – other than Olivier’s dental masterclass. What sticks with me about the original novel is the two-speed nature of it: the first half is just Goldman slowly putting his ducks in a row; but the second absolutely rattles along – the very definition of a page-turner. Once he lands the game-changing twist at the halfway point, it becomes a simpler, more standard chase thriller. But that’s not a criticism: it’s one of those books you only really appreciate once it’s done – when the pieces fit together – and its key moments, especially the ‘Is it safe?’ scene, are even creepier and more disturbing in print.
Wild Justice by Wilbur Smith
When The Lion Feeds was one of the first adult books I remember reading. My mum was a massive Wilbur Smith fan, and used to buy his novels religiously, so they were always lying around at home when I was growing up. I’m pretty confident Wild Justice isn’t anywhere close to being his best book, but what I like about it is how different it feels to his other novels. It’s almost obssessively efficient: after it opens on a plane hijacking in the Seychelles, it just accelerates away and keeps on going, eschewing the epic scope and ambition of his other work for unapologetic economy. I love it for its lean, pared-down feel; it feels pulpy (and occasionally, endearingly, silly) but never seems embarrassed by it.
The Poet by Michael Connelly
To be honest, it’s hard to pick a favourite Michael Connelly, as I’ve been reading him since I first bought The Black Ice in my teens, so it feels like me and Harry Bosch (and Jack McEvoy, and Mickey Haller, and Terry McCaleb) have grown up together. But The Poet will always be special because it was the book that made me realise I wanted to write crime fiction. It’s not that it was a particularly original spin on the serial killer thriller, more that the plotting is so good, and the narration so tight. Plus, I think you connect with certain writers in some difficult-to-quantify way, the way they write, the characters they bring to life, the way in which they treat you as a reader. What I remember most about The Poet is the big reveal of the villain: I just never saw it coming at any point, and when a writer outfoxes you like that, the book stays with you. I have even more admiration for Connelly since becoming published myself – his consistency, across almost 20 years, is scary.