These are often books about historical subjects that interest me such as the early civilisations of Greece, Egypt or Rome, or I may be researching topics that have a bearing on what I myself am trying to write about, such as for example the Korean War or, more recently, the war in Vietnam.
When I do get a chance to read fiction for pure relaxation then I enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s novels, particularly the warrior chronicles. He is in my opinion a worthy successor to Rosemary Sutcliffe who wrote amongst others Warrior Scarlet and The Shield Ring and also Henry Treece author of a trilogy, namely Vikings Dawn, The Road to Miklagard and Viking Sunset.
I have read too some of the Nordic Noir, for example The girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but for sheer escapism I find the American crime writers like John Grisham and James Lee-Burke second to none. I just started one by Lee-Burke called Feastday of Fools.
Let’s also not forget the golden oldies. I have just bought to re-read The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Alan Poe in which Paris is terrorised by two horrible murders until the culprit is discovered and turns out **spoiler alert** to be an Orangutan with a razor.
The important thing as far as I am concerned is not the sometimes gruesome details. In my view the quality of the story itself is paramount. It is that that gives, what might otherwise be an over-long and over-detailed book, the reader an anchor.
A writer has to be a good story teller. The reason we feel so engaged when we hear a story, read a novel or see a play – whenever we experience a narrative – is quite simple. When we are being told a story, our brain experiences it as if it was really happening to us.
Of course this may seem obvious to some but in the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne “Easy reading is damn hard writing”