Night Table Recommendations

Night Table Recommendations

Posted on February 10 by E.R. Brown
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I remember a quote from David Byrne, who advised a young musician that, if he wanted to write better pop songs, he should listen to opera. His point, I think, was that musicians—and I'd expand that to creative people of all kinds—should explore outside the familiar.

I’m a crime novelist, but more than half the books I read are from the literary shelves. When I’m writing a book, as I am at the moment, I completely avoid crime or mystery. Perhaps I don’t want to find myself mimicking a style, or finding a similar plot hook. Maybe there’s a limit to the fictional stress and anxiety I can take!  

Here’s what’s waiting for me on the floor beside my bed: Robin Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a book of early T.C. Boyle stories called Greasy Lake, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and Forget Kathmandu, a book on Nepal’s recent history by Manjushree Thapa.

My night-table recommendation would be the book I most recently finished, Will Ferguson’s 419. I must admit, I was surprised to find a Giller-winning literary novel opening with a police officer at a gory crime scene! As it turns out, every one of 419's several plots are driven by crime, from the email fraud that sets the story in motion, to international economic, cultural and environmental crimes that are perpetrated by corporations, governments, tribes, and most compellingly, by ordinary human beings in life-and-death situations. 

I’d recommend 419 for anyone’s night table, whether you’re usually a literary reader or whether you prefer crime and mystery. While the story digs into the big issues of our time, most readers will simply lose their hearts to Amina, a desperate, pregnant refugee from the Sahel, and Laura, a lonely Calgarian who has lost her father to suicide.

E.R. Brown

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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E.R. Brown

E.R. Brown is an award-winning advertising writer whose fiction has been heard on CBC Radio 3 and seen in national magazines. Born in Montreal, he lives in Vancouver.