My little rants, flights of fancy, and recollections of begone years is just my way to deal with the asinine collection of deluded, power hungry, and greedy hairless primates running human civilization and its increasingly steep spiral into the abyss. So what is a mostly harmless Southern boy to do in the face of the near certain apocalyptic circumstances of human extinction and running out of beer? Why I sit down at my computer and write, but to write you have to read and while I freely admit I am but a subatomic particle compared to the following gods and demigods they at least have had a profound effect on me.
1.) Michael Suib: For some reason I have always had an affinity with Key West. This started long before I ever heard the first song by Jimmy Buffett on the radio. Maybe in the forgotten recesses of my mind I remember stories told by my dad's brother who served in the navy and was stationed there or maybe in a past life I was a pirate who passed by its shores.
Whatever the the case when I discovered Micheal's columns from Key West I found someone who could capture the basic humanity of a place and its people. He helped me to discover that if you only stop, look, and listen a whole new world can open up around you. This new world is not often pretty but it is far more real and honest than the prepackaged homogenized reality most of us willingly accept. For more see his book which is a collection of his columns: Confessions of a Key West Cabby.
2.) Fred Reed: Simply put Fred is not in any shape or fashion politically correct. The best way to describe his columns comes from a review of his books: "Neither a liberal nor a conservative—he describes these as 'twin halves of the national lobotomy'—he is just Fred. He figures it is enough. Anything more would be multiple-personality disorder."
Fred is an expat living in Mexico and I have enjoyed his columns about as long as Michael Suib's. At least until, like Michael, Fred recently called it quits and went off to travel the world. Many will find Fred a racist, sexist, and probably nutter than grandma's Christmas fruit cake but he has never minced his words and has been completely honest about how he feels. It would do society well for a few people in the position of power to copy his tendencies. I truly wish I had the time and balls to write as honestly as he did.
3.)Pat Conroy: Even with all its faults and sins the South use to be a special place to live. Whether black or white the people that lived down in this humid, mosquito and alligator infested place dealt with life in a whole different manner that was both heaven and hell. Now the South is one huge theme park filled with echos of what once existed but has been replaced with urban sprawl, the rat race lifestyle, and the true places of worship in modern America the enclosed mega-shopping mall. Conroy has the unique ability to transport the reader back to that simpler time exposing both the heaven and sheer hell only the South could be. My two favorite books of his are "Beach Music" and "The Prince of Tides". I have stupidly tried to follow his lead in writing about what the South was like when I was a kid and all my efforts have failed completely.
4.)Carl Hiaasen: One of my biggest issues with American civilization is that once the country was so big and the people so relatively few that we were not all jammed up together and could spread out. Of course the Native Americans never wanted us around and quickly learned that once a few Europeans show up the neighborhood takes a quick nose dive to hell. But now we are way over three hundred million strong with our national pastime pissing each other off. Hiaasen's novels explore the absurdity of what we have wrought along with putting his characters in very special positions all in the Sunshine State. I just wish we had a few real Skip Wileys and Skinks around.
5.)Mark Twain: Its very late, or very early on your point of view, and my daughter will be up in a few hours wanting scrambled eggs so I'll wimp out on Mark. Beside from letting me ride down the Mississippi with Huck anyone who said: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so," and "If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be -- a Christian." Is someone I would definitely like to open a few bottles of whiskey with, smoke a few cigars, and lament about the numerous assholes running around claiming to be a Christan and that odd mutant, the modern Conservative.
6.) John Steinbeck: I've been racking my brain trying to think of something dignified to say about the man that I recently just rediscovered. But no matter what I do it is all worthless flotsam so I will just leave it to the great one to explain for himself.
Steinbeck wrote to an aspiring writer from Salinas: “Don't think for a moment that you will ever be forgiven for being what they call ‘different.’ You won’t! I still have not been forgiven. Only when I am delivered in a pine box will I be considered ‘safe.’
the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
7.) Charles Dickens: Once again trying to put into words how this author influenced me difficult. Sort of like describing a color to someone who is blind. I just don't have the ability. All I will try to say is that Dickens pulls you into his world. My favorite work of his is "Great Expectations" which I read the first time in middle school.
8.) Theresa Foley and 9.) Allen Meece: I stumbled upon a collection of short stories put out by what is apparently a defunct association called the Key West Author's Coop. Both of these authors short stories are crisp, very descriptive, and write at a level I hope one day meet.
10.)Stephen King: The master of horror as far as I am concerned whose sheer output is astounding. "The Stand" and "Cell" are my two favorite works of his. The only drawback I have with his work is that he is often a little too dark for my taste. I write this because the world is dark enough in its own right.
11.) Dean Koontz: On the other hand is Dean Koontz who delves in the darker aspects of humanity but finds something greater than ourselves and hope along the way.
12.)Peter F. Hamilton: An English science fiction writer who is the master of the space opera. Despite the financial success of George Lucas' Star Wars saga as science fiction it leaves something to be desired. He borrowed heavily from existing concepts with weak characters populating his works but in Hamilton's case he created whole new concepts along with juggling scores of highly developed characters and keeping it all straight.
13.) Ernest Hemingway: Duh!
14.)David Brin: A hard science fiction writer that takes real trends and cutting edge concepts working them into a hardcore story. His characters are real people (when there not aliens) with real human strengths and weaknesses coming to grips with a cold, indifferent universe.
15.)Mickey Spillane: What can I say? Had a very brief meeting with him once when I was very young in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. His writing is some of the best crime stories I have ever read, but that should go without saying.
16.)Jim Webb: I'm a big fan of the Senator Webb's especially after he almost punched Bush right after his narrow election to the senate sending punk ass George Allen home. I have a few short story ideas involving military combat but I simply don't have the talent to turn those ideas into words just yet. His works are what I am reading to get to that point.
17.)Edgar Allen Poe: Just because "The Telltale Heart" scares the hell out of me.
18.)George Orwell: "Animal Farm", "1984", and a book of his essays I found once while browsing the library. He is sheer genius, although his political beliefs are a little hard sometimes to get around.
19.) Herman Wouk: "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" are two of my favorite historical fiction novels. Along with "Don't Stop the Carnival" which hold a place in this Parrothead's heart.
20.)Harper Lee: "To Kill a Mockingbird" Her descriptions of the South early in the twentieth century are very accurate and show both the heaven and the hell I spoke of earlier.
21.)John Updike: As Randal said "Duh, partie deux". I'm getting tired.
22.)H.G. Wells: For his ability to ask questions about the nature of man that are just as important now as they were during his life.
23.) Jack London: "The Call of the Wild" was one of the few classics I was made to read in high school that I enjoyed. Enjoyed the hell out of Buck's adventures and the question of what is civilized and uncivilized behavior.
24.) Paul Theroux: "The Happy Isles Of Oceania", an unbelievable book I go back and read every couple of years.
25.)Peggy Pendleton : An inspiring author full of imagination and depth. Hope I can develop just a quarter of the talent she has.