Liz and Gianna are two of a dying breed--traveling sales reps for book publishers--who sell books in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and the Deep South. Since we're constantly on the road hawking books, we must find ways to amuse ourselves. So here we've decided to share our anecdotes, adventures, favorite books, and efforts in making the world (or at least these few states) a more literate place to inhabit.
I read mysteries in spurts but certainly have read my fair share. It’s too hard to pick my favorite mystery so I will just pick my favorite mystery writer who wrote several of my favorites. My favorite is Texan Patricia Highsmith. I tend to like psychological thriller more than a formulaic mystery (although they certainly serve a purpose), and the psychological thriller is Highsmith’s strength. She is most famous for the Ripley series but her first novel, Strangers On a Train, is probably my favorite. Highsmith was a sad troubled soul and I suppose that may be what draws me to her. In fact, I read a biography, Beautiful Shadow, which described her as “cruel,” and I thought, “hmm… alcoholic, talented, depressed, and cruel…I would date her.” [Based on this information, I'm more than a little surprised that Gianna hasn't tried to date me. Maybe I don't drink enough?] Interestingly enough, and by interestingly I mean sadly, she was also very anti-Semitic (although one of her closest friends was Jewish – what was that dude's problem, right?) and she was racist as well. But everything worked out because in her old age she developed a terrible hump and couldn’t stand up straight (no pun intended…get it? She was a lesbian!).
So I never read mysteries, and then I discovered that I would be selling to Murder By the Book, the premier mystery bookstore in Houston, and I decided that I should at least attempt to read a mystery or thriller. I don't know why I never read a lot of mysteries; I love suspense movies and many of my closest friends (by which I mean, of course, about four of the six Liz Friends) are mystery fans. I took a crash course in mysteries, reading The Big Sleep and learning names like Hammett, Cain, and Ambler. I dutifully read the Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc) and decided that "Lisbeth Salander" sounded an awful lot like "Liz Sullivan" and told a bunch of people that Stieg based the character on an intrepid, slightly disturbed, Random House sales rep. I read Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo, Larsson's fellow Scandinavian writers. If I have to pick a favorite book, though, I'm going to pick Mildred Pierce. I admit it--I've never read this book. I haven't seen the HBO movie yet either. But the HBO movie stars Kate Winslet, and I've known Gianna long enough to know that Kate can do no wrong. The HBO version, therefore, is perfect (and the Emmy nominations, 22 of 'em, suggest as much too), and the source material is obviously the finest mystery writing ever. Therefore, it's my favorite.
(I really should read more mysteries. Tell you what--we'll take mystery suggestions, both here and on Facebook, and Gianna and I will read the top recommended mystery. No, I haven't asked Gianna about this yet. And in the meantime I'll try to squeeze Mildred Pierce onto my reading list.)