I almost titled this post "The Authors I'd Like to Edit," but I thought that would have the connotation of "authors whose works I would like to edit, so that I might help improve their books." What I would rather write about on this snowy evening is those mystery authors writing today whom I admire, and whose editor I would love to be.
Frankly, I find this woman amazing. I believe she is the heir apparent to Christie in terms of her unrelenting ability to stretch the boundaries of the genre. She is an innovator in all ways--from plot through structure through characterization. She's never written the same book twice, which is not something that a lot of mystery writers can say. She doesn't rely on a series character to carry any of the books, and she is ruthless with her readers, alternating between captivating and offending them. In addition to being a writer, she is an artist. Sometimes she's preachy or heavy-handed, and the work can be inconsistent from book to book. None of that matters to me. I pre-order every single one of her books, and I drop everything I'm doing the minute it arrives.
I've read only a few of the J.D. Robb books, and only one of the Nora Roberts (which my wife had been reading on a long flight. We both finished the books we'd been reading, so we swapped). She's good--damn good--at just about everything. But the reason I'd like to be her editor is the love she inspires in readers. It seems that everywhere I go, I hear people gushing about how much they love these books, the characters, and the plots. What an amazing experience it would be to be the very first person (perhaps other than an agent) to get to read the newest JDR/NR manuscript.
Oates has written many fine mystery/suspense novels under her pseudonym of Rosamond Smith, in addition to another pseudonym that I cannot remember right now. Oates seems to inspire the widest range of criticism of any writer I can think of, from vitriolic resentment of her output through the highest raptures regarding the way she captures the American character and experience. But I think a lot of people don't take the time to realize what an excellent plotter and story-teller she is. The Rosamond Smith Books (Lives of the Twins, Snake Eyes, Nemesis) are superbly crafted and creepy. Honestly, though, I'd actually be intimidated at being Oates's editor. How could I make any suggestions to improve the work? She knows a lot more than I do; and even as I read her books and think how they should be shorter, tighter, better focused, or less self-indulgent occasionally, I also think that the book wouldn't be the same--wouldn't be an Oates book--if I tried to hold her back in any way.
Like Oates, George seems to elicit strong reactions. I am always a bit amazed at how angry some critics get regarding what they consider as George's English "pretensions." That doesn't bother me--what has bothered me in recent books is Havers' annoying and stubborn low-class ways, as well as Lynley's snobbery. But like Minette Walters, George is an innovator who rarely rests on her laurels. At her finest, I think there is no better creator of character in mystery fiction. I so admire her technique, which I think I kind of, sort of understand but can't quite put into words. Having chats with her about her methods would only make me better at my job.
What can I say? I simply adore the Precious Ramotswe Botswana books, and I like the other series, too (Isabel Dalhousie). These books transport me to a different place where life is simpler, where I don't fight traffic, crowds, and rudeness every day of my life. I find McCall Smith's simple prose to be incantatory--he simply casts a spell, and he is an effortless writer (at least it appears effortless). Not a word ever seems to be out of place. Being McCall Smith's editor would likely lower my blood pressure and add pigment to my gray hair. And I'd have no work to do. I'd halfheartedly think that maybe I should recommend a stronger mystery plot, or that he tell us, one of these days, what Mr. J.L.B. Matkeoni's initials stand for. But I wouldn't--I'd just publish the manuscript as he sent it to me.