The Book Q & A

book-q-and-aThere’s a fascinating post over on Margot Kinberg’s blog – Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. Margot was asked by Angela Savage, author of the Jayne Keeney series of books, to answer the following questions and then pass it on. Margot left it as an open invitation for her readers so I thought I’d take up the baton. So prepare yourself for a searing insight into my reading history and habits. Off we go!

What are you reading right now?

Going through a Golden Age month at the moment. I’ve just finished The Bat by Mary Rinehart and have just started my first ever Perry Mason novel, The Case Of The Crooked Candle by Erle Stanley Gardner.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

A few more Golden Age mysteries – if I’m feeling worthy, then Tragedy At Law by Cyril Hare, Frequent Hearses by Edmund Crispin and/or This Private Wound by Nicholas Blake. If I’m in need of some comfort reading, another Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr.

Following on from that, goodness only knows. Whatever takes my fancy from my shelf, but as ever, something from Paul Doherty, Peter Tremayne, Kate Ellis or Martin Edwards is never far away. Oh, and add Michael Jecks to that list as well.

What 5 books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

Um… there are all sorts of worthy books that I probably OUGHT to read , but don’t have the inclination to, as I’m not inclined to soldier through something that I’m not necessarily enjoying. But I ought to get round to:

  • A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • Roseanna by Sjowall & Wahloo
  • Probably some more Scandinavian crime…  can’t make it to five, I’m afraid.

I probably should read some Chandler or Hammett but really can’t be bothered.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?

Loads of puzzle magazines, BBC Good Food and Empire.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

Dead easy to answer, but I made a promise to the publisher after I reviewed it that I would never link to the review ever again. We decided that it was really more arty, for want of a better word, than a standard mystery, and, in hindsight, I probably wasn’t the best person to review it. In fact, the book caused me to change my reviewing policy and will no longer finish or review a submitted book if I’m not going to enjoy it. If you’re desperate to find out what it is, read my reviews from the summer of 2012 and you can probably make an intelligent guess.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

There are a couple of cast-iron classic mystery novels that seem over-rated to me. John Dickson Carr’s The Crooked Hinge has a deeply stupid explanation that annoys the heck out of me, and Murder On The Orient Express is massively overrated. For non-mysteries, the later Harry Potter books were in dire need of an editor.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

For a classic, She Died A Lady by John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson. For a more recent novel, everybody needs to read Holmes On The Range by Steve Hockensmith. But there are so many more that I could put here.

What are your three favourite poems?

Poems? Me? Well, Ozymandius by Shelley sticks in the memory from school, but that’s about it.

Where do you usually get your books?

Paper books – you know, the real ones – tend to come from charity shops, second hand shops (via Abebooks) or samples from publishers. Generally, I find new books to be over-priced, but if I want one, I’ll go to my local bookshop. In this day and age, ebooks from the usual sources or review copies from NetGalley. Given the amount of books I read these days, I’m always on the lookout for bargains.

Where do you usually read your books?

Anywhere – I always have my Kindle or a small paperback in my jacket pocket. If I know I’ll be waiting around for five minutes or more, then I’ll always make sure I have something to read. At home, in an armchair, in the garden, in bed… anywhere, really.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

Reading a series of books to exhaustion before moving on – Famous Five, Secret Seven, Doctor Who, Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, Agatha Christie, and so on.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

Very rare – if I’m sleepy, then I’ll sleep. But Countdown City by Ben H Winters certainly falls into this category.

Have you ever ‘faked’ reading a book?

Only once – aged 13, our English teacher had the class reading an abridged version of A Tale Of Two Cities. We were one book short, so I had to read the full book in the same time as the rest of the class had to read the short version. I had to pretend that I’d read it for a number of assignments. It didn’t go well…

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

On occasion, I’ve bought copies of books that I was going to read anyway in an older edition so that the covers on my shelf match – I much prefer the originals to the re-issues of the Michael Jecks books, for example.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I wasn’t one to re-read books over and over, but Winnie The Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner are still favourites.

What book changed your life?

Changed my life is a bit strong, but The ABC Murders got me into the mystery genre – a great first choice from Dame Agatha. More recently, Nightshade by Paul Doherty has kick-started an interest in medieval history, in particular the Plantagenets.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

For sheer audacity, the opening line of A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill. But I can’t explain why without spoiling the whole book.

Who are your top five favourite authors?

So many to choose from, but –

  • Agatha Christie (duh)
  • Paul Doherty
  • Nev Fountain
  • Steve Hockensmith
  • Ben H Winters

Ask me tomorrow and it’ll be different though…

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Countless mysteries that litter my blog but The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall needs to be much better known. Bizarre and clever and totally original.

What 3 books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

What are your favourite books by a first-time author?

Apart from the last four books mentioned?

And for the classics –

  • The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie

What is your favourite classic book?

To take the definition of classic somewhat loosely, The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. Otherwise, although not a book, Richard II by that Shakespeare chappie.

Other Notable Mentions?

So many authors.

  • Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma mysteries
  • Kate Ellis’s Wesley Peterson mysteries
  • Michael Jecks’ Puttock and Furnshill mysteries

So, apologies to everyone that I’ve forgotten and thanks again to Margot for bringing this meme to my attention. I’ve probably exposed the shallow nature of my reading compared to other people, but I enjoy what I read and that’s the important thing.

Anyone who wants to take up the baton and have a go, please do.


  1. Oh, great answers here! I can’t encourage you enough to read Roseanna. I think it’s a truly excellent police procedural, and the start of one of the great series in the genre. Oh, and I agree with you about Hill’s A Killing Kindness too… Thanks for the kind mention!


  2. Great answers! I was especially interested to see learn how you manage to read so much. I thought you were some kind of sorcerer for a while there! Editing has taught me to read very quickly, but I only tend to read for pleasure in long sessions, so I don’t get through nearly as many books as I’d like. Maybe I should try switch to the “five minutes here, five minutes there” approach. Then I might finally get round to reading Nine Men’s Murder, The Last Policeman and The Raw Shark Texts, all three of which are glaring accusingly at me at the moment (I’ve had The Raw Shark Texts for YEARS, and I’ve never heard anyone else mention it. I wondered if I was the only person who’d bought it! I always feel a bit guilty when I see it. I’ve promoted it to the top of the pile).


    • My reading style does mean that I have trouble getting in to a book sometimes which is probably why I return to old favourites so often. And do let me know what you tjink of Raw Shark Texts


  3. Well done for taking up the challenge of filling this one out. I was tempted, but some of the questions had me so thoroughly stumped that I decided to pass for the moment. You’ve got some terrific answers here, though, and it was fascinating to see them.


  4. I enjoyed your answers to these questions. I am with Patrick. I would love to answer these but I think half of the questions I have no answer to.

    A lot of your favorites or recommendations are already on my list because I saw reviews here in the last year. I saw that you recently read and reviewed A Study In Scarlet and I plan to read that soon myself. I have never read any Sherlock Holmes books or stories!


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