Mason Cross: My Recommended Reading List

Mason Cross: My Recommended Reading List

1. Farewell, My Lovely – Raymond Chandler

I had always known I wanted to be a writer, but when I read Raymond Chandler I knew for sure I wanted to be a crime writer.

Chandler had an amazing combination of poetic prose and snappy dialogue that is still the gold standard for great crime novels today.

2. Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith

An all-time great hook: two strangers meet aboard a train and joke about swapping murders . . . except one of them isn’t joking.

No wonder Alfred Hitchcock jumped on this story, adapting it into one of his best films.

It’s more than just a great hook, though: Highsmith’s tightly plotted masterpiece keeps you turning the pages to the end.

3. From Russia, with Love – Ian Fleming

This is the best of the classic Bond novels, for my money.

I particularly like the way Bond himself is absent for most of the first third of the book as Fleming focuses on his adversaries, setting up the classic Cold War plot like a game of chess.

Again, it made for a great film (are you noticing a pattern yet?).

4. Black and Blue – Ian Rankin

You can’t be a crime writer from Scotland and not be influenced by Ian Rankin.

This book blew me away when I first read it: one of the best, most ambitious crime novels I had ever read, and penned by a guy who lived thirty miles away from me.

5. The Deep Blue Goodbye – John D. MacDonald

More people should know about Travis McGee – a self-employed ‘salvage consultant’ with a nose for trouble, he’s basically the missing link between Philip Marlowe and Jack Reacher.

I could have picked any of the books, but The Deep Blue Goodbye is as good a place as any to start.

6. A Kiss Before Dying – Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives are justly celebrated, but Levin’s first novel is my favourite: an accomplished murder mystery told from several different perspectives.

The first part of the book is narrated entirely from the point of view of the killer, so you should know all about him later on, right?

The only problem is, Levin doesn’t tell you his name, keeping the reader just as in the dark as the killer’s subsequent prey.

A genius move that I had to pay tribute to at one point in The Samaritan.

7. Out of Sight – Elmore Leonard

I actually saw Steven Soderbergh’s film of the book first, but was amazed when I discovered how much of what makes the movie great is lifted verbatim from Leonard’s book.

Leonard was one of the masters of crime fiction . . . or any fiction, really.

I make a point of rereading his ten rules for writing every time I’m editing one of my own books.