I agree that good novels are escapist, in the most positive sense of the word: short-term vacations that lift us out of our daily routine and allow us to experience some control over things we otherwise can’t control in real life.
One author who has always been consistent is Jonathan Kellerman. I’ve read every one of his books and we email each other occasionally. Kellerman’s first book was written in 1985. His wife Faye Kellerman is a fantastic writer too. His son and a young daughter are authors too.
As for the rest of the authors, I’ve done Frederick Forsyth, Lorenzo Carcaterra (Sleeper), Kinky Friedman, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Boris Pasternik, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the doctors turned writers Michael Crichton, Michael Palmer, Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen (in her email to me, this American-Chinese doctor-writer seemed surprised that we in Singapore read her books), Walter Mosely, Alice Sebold (Her bizarre The Lovely Bones has a dead girl talking about her rape and murder), Mario Puzo, Gabriel García Márquez, Arundhati Roy, Haruki Murakami, Mani Sankar Mukherji, Michael Connolly, Bernhard Schlink, Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, JRR Tolkien, Raymond Chandler, John Steinback, Robert Crais, Mickey Spillane (whose hero treats women like dirt), John le Carré, Wally Lamb (long-winded but fascinating writer of This Much I Know is True), Dick Francis (everything about horse racing), Carolyn Parkhurst (her Dogs of Babel is weird, weird, weird), Robert Goddard, Ernest Hemingway, Nicholas Sparks, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vikas Swarup, Linda Fairstein, Elizabeth Kostova (Her The Historian is a gripping read about a illegitimate daughter’s search for her missing professor father which ended in Transylvania – yup, go figure), Greg Iles (some books are page turners, some are duds), John Grisham (who’s is a publishing industry all by himself – his books have sold over 250 million copies worldwide), Richard Harris, David Baldacci and all the rest of them.
Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner (about Afghanistan) is brilliant, though his second book A Thousand Splendid Suns is disappointing; I wish he will write more. Sujata Massey’s books always keep me enthralled – she’s responsible for my falling in love with Rei Shimura. The Tender Bar was JR Moehringer was a great read too, I think that’s the author’s only book though – I’m waiting for his next book. Hope it’s not the case of Lee Harper revisited. Harper wrote To Kill a Mocking Bird in 1960 and that was it. The end. Till today we are still waiting for her second book. Till today we are still waiting for JD Salinger to reappear.
The very very prolific – some 60 books written so far – James Patterson is another kettle of fish. I have a love-hate relationship with him, I love his books but each time I go through one I feel rather cheated and swear I’ll never touch another of his books again, then I’ll go on to buy the next one. Reading Patterson is like binging on potato chips – easy to eat, hard to stop, no nutritional value whatsoever, but it is so addictive and it feels so good. You swear off it, and then you get sucked into the whole cycle again. Patterson was formerly the chairman of advertising company JW Thompson; I suspect he writes like he writes advertising copy and uses lots of ghost writers. He does not hide the fact that he uses co-authors (or copywriters?)
The completely over-the-top Shantaram – as thick as a telephone directory – by Gregory Roberts is really something; he’s either a world class raconteur or a world class bullshitter.
Go check it out for yourself.