Friday 19 December 2014

A Big Long List of the Books I Read in 2014: Novels, Graphic Novels and Short Story Collections

NB: Linked in Patti Nase Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books roundup, 19/12/14. Thanks Patti!

Well that threw a spanner in the works. I had every intention of posting one last book review – of Victor Canning's third "Birdcage" novel, The Mask of Memory (1974) – before embarking on my traditional, widely reviled, even more widely ignored, still more widely unregistered, end-of-year review of the year; but then the illustrated books publisher I work for, Ilex, got bought by a bigger publishing company, Octopus, and my life was thrown into disarray (short version: in the space of less than two weeks I went from living and working in Lewes, with a walk to work of fifteen minutes, to living in Lewes and working in London, with a journey to work of at least two hours) and blogging had to take a back seat while I wrestled – continue to wrestle – with a long commute and new offices and new work colleagues and new systems and so forth. The upshot of all of which is that not only will the book review have to wait, so will the widely reviled/ignored/unregistered review of the year – possibly until this time next year; as things stand it's unlikely I'll have either the time or energy to properly unpack the year's events chez Louis XIV before 2014 draws to a close.

Instead, because it's a comparatively less taxing task, I thought I'd assemble my similarly traditional big long list of the books I read, with its equally traditional links to whatever I've written about each book (if anything) and ensuing attendant half-hearted, half-arsed analysis. And this year's list, arranged in roughly the order in which I read the books, looks like this:

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Hodder, 2013)
Richard Stark's Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke (IDW, 2013)
Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (Knockabout, 2013)
Nobody's Perfect by Donald Westlake (Hodder, 1978)
Firebreak by Richard Stark (Robert Hale, 2002; originally 2001)
Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens by Michael Gilbert (Hodder, 1982)
To Catch a Spy, selected by Eric Ambler (The Bodley Head, 1964)
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice by Mike Carey, Peter Gross et al (DC/Vertigo, 2013)
Batman: Detective No. 27 by Michael Uslan, Peter Snejberg et al (DC, 2003)
High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (Jonathan Cape, 1975)
Ashenden, or, The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham (Heinemann, 1928/1934)
Point Blank by Richard Stark (Allison & Busby, 1984; originally 1962) (reread)
The Man with the Getaway Face by Richard Stark (Allison & Busby, 1984; originally 1963) (reread)
The Outfit by Richard Stark (Allison & Busby, 1984; originally 1963) (reread)
Russian Roulette by James Mitchell (Hamish Hamilton, 1973)
The Moonshine War by Elmore Leonard (Dell, 1970; originally 1969)
The Whisper in the Glen by P. M. Hubbard (Atheneum, 1972)
The Tin Men by Michael Frayn (Collins, 1965)
High Tide by P. M. Hubbard (Macmillan, 1971)
A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (Michael Joseph, 1954)
Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1977)
Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes by Patricia Highsmith (Bloomsbury, 1987)
The Black House by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1981)
A Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1965)
Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1967)
Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1974) (reread)
Unsung Road by Simon Harvester (Jarrolds, 1960)
Firecrest by Victor Canning (Heinemann, 1971)
The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning (Heinemann, 1972)
Breakout by Richard Stark (Robert Hale, 2003; originally 2002)
Her by Harriet Lane (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014)
Danger in the Dark by Patricia Carlon (Ward Lock, 1962)
City Primeval by Elmore Leonard (W. H. Allen, 1981; originally 1980)
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (Hutchinson, 1968) (reread)
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (Gerald Duckworth, 1978)
Split Images by Elmore Leonard (W. H. Allen, 1983; originally 1981)
Cat Chaser by Elmore Leonard (Viking, 1986; originally 1982)
The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)
Killshot by Elmore Leonard (Viking, 1989)
The Finger of Saturn by Victor Canning (Heinemann, 1973)
The Mask of Memory by Victor Canning (Heinemann, 1974)
Ant Colony by Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)
Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs (Koyama Press, 2014)
Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith (Collins, 1981)
The Mammoth Book of Cult Comics, edited by Ilya (Robinson, 2014)

Including Gorky Park and The Mammoth Book of Cult Comics, both of which I'm still reading but both of which I'm reasonably confident I'll finish before the end of the year (there's something to be said for commuting by train at least: I get to read more now), I make that forty-five books, which is five more than I managed to get through in 2013 – something of a surprise, I must admit: what with work and Edie and everything I had thought I was going to be down on last year's total. And of those forty-five books: all were fiction; thirty-one were novels; five were short story collections; one – Ashenden, or, The British Agent – was both a novel and a short story collection; seven were graphic novels; and one was a graphic novel short story collection.

Nine of the books were recently published, i.e. in the last year or two; three were first published in the 2000s; eight were first published in the 1980s; twelve were first published in the 1970s; eleven were first published in the 1960s; one was first published in the 1950s; and one was first published in the 1920s. The vast majority were new to me, however; there were just five that I'd read before – and one of those, Patricia Highsmith's Ripley's Game, I'd read at least a couple of times before. (I was inspired to do so again this year as a result of acquring a scarce 1989 Heinemann reissue of the novel and watching Wim Wenders's film adaptation of the novel, The American Friend – and rewatching Liliana Cavani's later adaptation Ripley's Game.)

Speaking of Highsmith, she ties with Donald E. Westlake for most-read – and reread – author this year: six books in each case (that's if you exclude Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptation of Westlake/Richard Stark's Slayground, which I do). Elmore Leonard was their closest rival with five books, then Victor Canning – this year's major discovery for me – with four, and P. M. Hubbard with two. Everyone else was one book apiece. Twenty-three of the books were what one might class as crime fiction; ten were spy fiction; and the rest were a mixture of science fiction, horror, fantasy and literary works. All of which, glancing back at my lists for 2013 and 2012, suggests that the makeup and breadth of my reading was not dissimilar to that of previous years.

And as in previous years, for my next post I'll be picking my ten favourites from the books I read over the past twelve months – although whether that post will appear before 2014 breathes its last is anyone's guess.