So today is the 13th and its time for another Sucker for a Series post! Taking part today is author Tracey Sinclair.
Without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Tracey…
When it comes to reading, nothing makes me happier than finding a good series. While, if you asked me what my favourite books are, they would almost all be standalone works of fiction, when it comes to my favourite authors, it’s another matter – the writers who get me excited tend to be creators of series I can get my teeth into.
In part, I admit, it’s a comfort thing: I love an original, challenging book, but I also don’t have the energy to read that kind of thing all of the time. Sometimes I want to relax into a book like a warm bath, welcoming back characters I have come to know and love like old friends. I also think that genre, character-based series, while often neglected or even sneered at by literary critics, can be excellent vehicles for social and political commentary, without being heavy handed: I defy anyone to present a better example of toxic capitalism than Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal – and that’s a book that features trolls and golems. Dennis Lehane has written many fine standalone novels, but it’s in the seemingly throwaway details on the edge of a murder case for longstanding characters Kenzie and Gennaro (one of my favourite couples in fiction) that he presents a searing indictment of how the recession affected ordinary people.
As a writer myself, I’ve been on both sides of the table. My first novel was a ‘literary’ story, but I’m now thoroughly immersed in a series – my Dark Dates paranormal / urban fantasy books. And I can certainly see the appeal: it’s a joy to come back to characters who have become so real to you, and the reader reaction is addictive. Like any writer, I love hearing that people enjoyed my books, but when people start to care about your characters, it’s a completely different – and intoxicating – feeling. One of my proudest author moments was when one of my friends told me that she and a couple of workmates had had a heated water cooler debate over which of my male leads they fancied most!
John Connolly’s Charlie Parker books
I often start reading series out of order, since I tend to pick up a lot of crime novels in charity shops. (I never feel bad about this, since if I like a writer, I then tend to buy their backlist – so they are making their money off me!). Many of my favourite series – Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden – I started mid-way, fell in love and went back to the start. (And there’s a particular pleasure in finding a series that is already well established, so you know you have a decent backlist to wade through without having to wait). My current obsession was the discovered in the same way – and I’m glad.
I had fancied reading John Connolly’s Charlie Parker books for a while, drawn by their interesting covers, which seemed to imply a supernatural element, which always appeals to me. So when I found one in my local Oxfam – book 12 in a series that now stretches to 14 – I picked it up for a song, and discovered a gripping thriller with a fascinating underlying arc. Charlie Parker is a compelling lead, and his friends, Angel and Louis (a gay couple whose pasts are as bloody as Parker’s own) are two of my favourite characters in any books, ever. Yet to be honest, having read them all now, if I’d read book one first, I’m not sure I would have stuck with them: for a start, they feature my least favourite trope from fiction (man driven to seek justice for dead wife and child) and the characters didn’t feel as fully fledged as they were to become. I suspect this is true for many series, and why the majority of those I love I’ve started in the middle: unlike reading an author who specialises in standalone works, where it can be hard for them to bottle lightning twice, writers of series tend to improve, as they – and we – get to know their characters. I’ve seen this in my own work – the reviews I am getting for my latest book, Angel Falls, which is the third in the series, almost all say similar things. This can be galling (‘what’s wrong with the earlier books?!’ you want to demand, grumpily) but is also nice to read: after all, who doesn’t want to get better?
So I would say if you want a fantastic series of dark thrillers (and bloody hell, they are dark – you have to be okay with some fairly brutal killings) featuring some of the most interesting characters in genre fiction, all set against a mysterious but coherent and convincing arc that gets better as it goes on, then Charlie Parker is your man.
Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her latest book, Angel Falls, the third in the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series is out now.