I haven’t always been a reader. Sorry Mom, it’s true. She likes to tell people that I’ve always loved to read. You remember that summer you made us read every day for an hour? I read Treasure Island. I hated it, with a passion. That was one hour a day that I could have been playing video games, watching TV, or playing outside. That was always the worst hour of my life, but somehow, I grew to love reading anyway.
Most of the reading I did in high school consisted of books that were assigned to us. I didn’t much like these books, at the time, but I’ve gone back to re-read them again and I can appreciate every single one of them. These include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, Great Expectations, Adventures of Huckleberry Fin plus many, many more. In between all of these great novels and authors I was able to fit in some recreational reading also.
Some of my favorite authors from my high school years included Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Anything they put out I tried to get my hands on. If I would have started this blog a year or so before I did, I’m sure I would’ve been able to say that they both influenced my writing. I can’t say that though, because their styles and individual voices aren’t very similar to mine. Aside from the language one can find (I really don’t cuss, promise, not an act) I’m not a Californian or a New Englander. I don’t talk that way, but there is something I do take away from King. I try to write how I talk. There’s someone who does it better than these guys, and his writing even sounds a lot like me.
One of the easiest authors for me to read, back then, was John Grisham. Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas Grisham is from my neck of the woods. Now, I can’t speak much about lawyers, judges, plantations or death row. But I do know something about southern hospitality, drinking, and down home cookin. Has anyone seen the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? When I think about Grisham this movie comes to mind. I can picture Grisham playing the role that Kevin Spacey did, other than the shooting people thing, of course. The first novel of his I read was The Client. A story about a boy and his brother, who become witnesses to a suicide/murder. This one had me hooked automatically. He was a voice of the South, in my mind.
Others that I enjoyed included The Firm, The Chamber, The Runaway Jury, and my favorite, A Time to Kill, which happens to be his first published work. All great, Southern novels. Later on he wasn’t just the voice of the South. His voice extended to all types of people with titles like Bleachers, Skipping Christmas, Playing for Pizza and his latest Calico Joe. Grisham causes me to be comfortable with speaking my southern drawl, in real life or on paper. I’m not afraid to write like I talk. I mean, how else am I supposed to do it? Thank you John. Ain’t nuthin better than readin, specially when you’re behind the words.