Well, I’d like to be able to say someone like Fyodor Dostoyvesky, or Gustaf Flaubert, because they would probably carry lots of clout, but I’m not a clout person. I have read them, and others, like Hugo, Melville, Achebe, and I could go on. Truthfully, though, how many of us read a steady diet of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov?Oh, they have impressed me, but they haven’t inspired me. Normal, everyday types of writers do, like Anne Cleeves, Sebastian Junger, Daphne Du Maurier and Mary Karr. They each inspire me for different reasons, too, but the crux of it is, they are approachable people who don’t have to die to make a name for themselves.
What I like about Ms. Cleeves is that she has a flare for creating mystery and aura around her settings, like in the Shetland Islands series, for example. I can actually see how she crafts heer work. It’s formulaic, and she doesn’t apologize for that. She just cranks the next book in the series out, pockets the money on the last and does it all with a smile. I like that. I also like it that her characters feel real, like your next door neighbors, or maybe sometimes eccentric, like possible serial killers hiding out in the outer reaches of the Baltic Sea. They are ordinary folk with heavy brogues and big hearts, trying to eke out a living on the peat-sodded crofts, are always embroiled in some murder mystery Detective Perez has to solve before the final page arrives, which is always one page too soon for me. And the mysteries, as I said, formulaic, enough for me to solve them just a smidgen before she tells me. So, though they may be page turners, they aren’t intense. You can always count on Ms. Cleevess throwing in multiple murders and enough twists to keep you guessing, but not enough to keep you up all night. Anne Cleeves is my “going to sleep” read each night and lives in my robe pocket. She inspires me to remember that it doesn’t take a Dostovesky to win writing awards and be appreciated by common folk like me.