Although I have always loved to read, there are a few novels that are indelibly etched into my brain as exciting, thrilling, and thoroughly entertaining. Listed here are seven books that have had a profound impact on me as a reader and as a writer. I’ve listed them in chronological order as to the date when I first read each book.
Homer: The Iliad and Odyssey—Ever since I was old enough to read, I’ve enjoyed Greek and Norse mythology. The stories move and are packed with action and adventure, heroic deeds, and tragedy. By far my favorite is Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, relating the tales of Ulysses and other great heroes as they carry out the siege of Troy and then struggle to return home, having pissed-off the gods. A two volume hard-bound copy has a prominent location in my library.
Clive Cussler: Raise the Titanic—Anyone who has read my interview by Chris Graham knows that Clive Cussler was the first modern author who hooked me on the action-thriller genre. Raise the Titanic was the book, and I first read it in about 1980. Since that introduction to Dirk Pitt, I’ve read all his adventures, and I still enjoy Pitt’s wit and resourcefulness.
Jon Land: The Alpha Deception—Jon Land created a fascinating character named Blaine McCracken. Along with his trusty sidekick—Johnny Wareagle—McCracken led thrilling adventures against some really despicable antagonists. Darker than the Dirk Pitt series, but equally exciting, these novels added high-tech mystery to gun-blazing action.
Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park—A master at his craft, Crichton blended science fact with science fiction better than any other author. And Jurassic Park is the best example of a seamless merging of fact and fiction. The use of amphibian DNA to fill the gaps in the aged dinosaur DNA is simply brilliant, and forced me to research the science of DNA and cloning to understand what was real and what was speculation. With a fast pace and loads of cliffhangers, this is a must-read for any thriller fan.
Matthew Reilly: Ice Station—I was lured into Ice Station by the back-cover blurb, and quickly became a huge fan of Reilly. Ice Station is the first of the Scarecrow series, and marked a new sub-genre of action-thrillers for me—I call this the ultra-action thriller. This book is the prototypical example of the phrase “can’t put down.”
Matthew Reilly: Scarecrow—Once I became a fan of our leatherneck warrior, code name Scarecrow, I kept reading the series as fast as the books were released. Scarecrow makes my list of influential books in part due to the intense plot and non-stop action characteristic of the author, and in part due to the non-conventional way Reilly handles some of the main characters. I won’t say too much (no spoilers), but suffice it to say this is one damned good book and full of surprises.
James Rollins: Map of Bones—Another great franchise is the Sigma Force, with characters and stories from the imagination of James Rollins (pen name). Map of Bones is not the first Sigma Force novel, but it was the one that hooked me. To this day, Rollins’ writing of the Sigma Force novels has had more influence on my writing than any other single author.