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OK. WHAT DO I READ?

Having grown up with early twentieth century classics, I love the novels of DH Lawrence, Arnold Bennett and Thomas Hardy. These days I'm a huge fan of John Connolly, Lee Child, Susan Fletcher and Harry Bingham, to name a few. I admire each of their styles, from the beautiful narratives of Susan Fletcher to the breathtaking pace of Lee Child. I don't aim to emulate any of them, but if I could immerse the reader as they do, use language which rolls off the tongue and structure story line just a fraction as well, I'd be a very happy lady.

Read on to find out why these authors are those who appeal to me.

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JOHN CONNOLLY

is a well respected author, and in my opinion, quite rightly so. His books sit on my shelf, unread for ages, for the simple reason that once I start them, I will get to the end, and I never want to finish reading his work.

If you've never read him, my advice is to start with the first 'Charlie Parker' novel entitled 'Every Dead Thing'.

While the books in this series can be read as stand alone novels, the protagonist's character develops beautifully as the series progresses, to the extent that the reader truly gets to know him, and certainly in my case, wants another published. Here is a small taste of that first book.

'It was a twenty minute walk to the bar. When the first shot of Wild Turkey hit my stomach the tension dissipated from my body and I relaxed into the familiar routine of the drunk: angry, then maudlin, sorrowful, remorseful, resentful. By the time I left the bar only the hard-core remained, a chorus of drunks and sots battling with Van Halen on the juke-box. I stumbled at the door and fell down the steps outside, barking my knees painfully on the gravel at their base.

And then I stumbled home, sick and nauseous, cars swerving wildly to avoid me as I swayed onto the road, the faces of the drivers wide with alarm and anger.

I fumbled for my keys as I arrived at the door, and scraped the white paint beneath the lock as I struggled to insert the key. There were a lot of scrapes beneath the lock.

I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the front door and stepped into the hall.

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LEE CHILD

As with John Connolly, Lee Child is an author whose novels I keep - they never find their way to the charity shop! He writes the 'Jack Reacher' series, but his work is very different. To start with, each one stands alone easily, but the main difference is the pace, which he achieves with succinctly written short sentences. The reader moves with the action. Between scenes, Lee Child's work is full of wonderful narrative, but overall each story is fast, engaging and simply has to be finished. Here's a taste from 'One Shot'.

"'You've got blood on your shirt,' Helen Rodin said,

'But not mine,' Jack Reacher said.

'What happened back there?'

'I was in the bar watching the game. Minding my own business. Then some underage red-haired bimbo started coming on to me. I wasn't playing and she got it to where she found a reason to slap me. Then five guys jumped up. She said they were her brothers. So took it outside.'"

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SUSAN FLETCHER

Susan Fletcher was recommended to me by someone at Waterstones, a few years ago. Her work captivated me from the moment I started reading Let Me Tell You About A Man I Know. Her poetic prose never falters, the words conjuring vivid images of colour and light which stay with the reader.

While each novel is independent, Fletcher's brilliant style makes them instantly recognisable as hers. They are all beautiful and well worth reading more than once. Here is a passage from Witch Light.

'You are back. You are - and do you know any more of Appin? Of who is there? You mentioned it so casually as you left, last night, that all I thought of in the dark was who is in Appin? Who made it there? Who is safe? I have barely slept. I have had a thousand imaginings of what may have happened, since that bloody night and now. I know that the blizzards and mountain routes will have unpicked them. Killed more than the muskets did.

Do you have names?

Please listen for them. Ask? And if you hear names of people still living, then pass them to me. Every night and each morning I think let him be safe. Let him be mending. The others too - let them all be safe. But I think of Alasdair most of all.'

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HARRY BINGHAM

I have only read the Fiona Griffiths series to date, but have become completely immersed in her. Bingham's ability to create such a complex character, to make it work throughout each new book, and indeed to make Fiona work in a normal setting (OK. fictional) is to be envied.

As with John Connolly, our understanding of his protagonist develops further with each novel in the series, engaging the reader so completely that she could be much more than fictional. Below is an extract from Talking To The Dead.

'I much prefer a shot of her taken at the crime scene. All expression gone. The contingencies of life wiped away. The person herself remaining. That photo I could look at for hours, and might well do except that it's April who fascinates me. April Mancini, the sweet little dead girl. I've got six pictures, all eight by tens.

In a sudden burst of decisiveness, I thrust the pictures of Janet back into my bag and Blu-Tack the pictures of April up over my mantelpiece, in two rows of three. She's a peaceful presence. No wonder she was a popular child. I like having her in the house. The toffee-apple kid.

"What do you have to tell me, little April?" I ask her.

She smiles at me but tells me nothing.'