Iles Brought Me Back

After dropping out of college for the first time, I took a break from reading, one I much regret. I was skateboarding in 105% of my free time, and working until three and sometimes four in the morning. That all changed when I went to visit my mom for Christmas about six years ago. I was looking at her bookshelf and asked if she had any recommendations to get me reading again, part of the problem was that I hadn’t really found a favorite author yet. She recommended I read The Devil’s Punchbowl, by Greg Iles.

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here

I was hooked from the first few pages. The book is part of the Penn Cage series, and it starts out in a cemetery where he is to meet someone to discuss secrets dealing with his hometown of Natchez Mississippi. The book takes you through Penn’s adventure to make his hometown a better place, as he does in most of the Penn Cage novels. This was easily the longest book I had ever read at this point at over 700 pages, but that wasn’t a thought in my head as I couldn’t put it down. Iles made me fall in love with Penn, and this is the book that got me reading again, and ultimately led me to the conclusion that I should pursue a career in writing.

When I finished Natchez Burning a few years later, after reading all but two of Iles’s books, it was about four in the morning, but I was so moved by the ending that I got out my computer and just started typing to see what would happen. I saw the sun come up that morning, and got about halfway through one of my favorite, and first, short stories I’d written.

Before Iles I was all poetry, I had written a few things for school in English classes, but mainly emotional poetry. I have about six or seven journals that are packed full of my wild range of emotions throughout high school, and the time after. They are quite interesting reads, funny, sad, unbelievable, and at times, quite shocking. While they are some of my favorites, they will stay in my closet, and thanks to Iles, and my mother of course, I have begun my quest to have something more than poetry published.

If you’re interested in Greg Iles, you can find him here, and if you’re interested in any of my poetry, you can find it here. The further you go back on the site, the older they get, and there’s about 550 posts right now. Enjoy!

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Finding My Way

I fell in love with everything science fiction and horror at an early age. My first memory encountering these genre’s occurred during a family trip (my mom, my sister, and I) to visit my grandmom in Atlanta. It was a six hour trip from our house to hers, and on this particular trip my mom decided to introduce us to Ray Bradbury‘s “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed.” I don’t know if my mom was trying to change my life, or if she was just sick of me and my sister arguing, but that tape brought quiet to the car either way. I felt like I was actually on Mars watching the story unfold. I don’t remember much else from that trip besides being in awe for a few hours, not thinking for a second about the passing miles under our feet. Before I knew it we were in Atlanta, and all I did know was that I wanted more of this peculiar feeling that this sci-fi recording had given me.

As for the horror, we got a taste for that on the return trip in the form of a 1946 radio show called “Suspense.” My mom owned the whole set of old tapes, and I couldn’t be more thankful. On this week’s episode of Suspense was a story called “The House In Cypress Canyon,” a story written by Robert L. Richards about a couple moving into a new house on the edge of a canyon. There are many things off about this house, and during the story the couple gets quite acquainted with these oddities. At two or three particular parts during the tape, I remember actually screaming because of the intense volume change where the suspense is broken. My heart was racing, and again I felt as if I were actually in this house and the story itself was happening to me, I was terrified, and loving it.

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My ideal dinner dates

It wasn’t long after this trip to Atlanta and back that I picked up my first “scary” book, whatever you call horror for kids. Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine, stole the show. I wasn’t one of the kids who could just read for thirty minutes and put a book down, I would sit for hours, and start to finish a book, given the series was easy to read, and rather short. After flying through the Goosebumps books, I don’t think I read for a while. I believe I was going into middle school at this point, and sports, friends, and girls were taking over most of my daylight hours. At night I had to do homework, and was forced to read things I absolutely hated. I think school negatively affected my reading for a good while after elementary school.

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What i felt like being forced to read

Required readings would be the death of me. I can’t explain how much I hated doing things I didn’t want to as a child. Every summer I had a list of books I was to read, they might as well have been different types of torture I had to endure. Sure, I read the books, but I didn’t retain anything, my senses weren’t alive while reading. I was a zombie whose eyes were just reading back and forth and up and down across pages. I don’t think I started really reading again until maybe eighth or ninth grade when two of our required readings were Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, and 1984, by George Orwell. I fell in love with reading all over again. While reading Of Mice and Men, I found myself in tears, an event I didn’t think was possible whilst reading, and 1984 just completely blew my mind. I was old enough at this point to realize that these were just stories people dreamed up, and I was actually thankful that they were required readings, otherwise I don’t know if I would’ve gotten to them on my own. Reading was once again something I could see myself doing in my free time.

I started reading the Resident Evil books, by S.D. Perry. I loved the way Perry described the world, the monsters, and the way the suspense drove you onward as a reader. However, this stretch of reading didn’t last too long. Skateboarding and girls had taken over my life. Required readings were once again the bane of my existence.

It wouldn’t be until I was in my mid-twenties that I would start, and continue to read in my free time. I have my mom to thank for this new uptick in reading. She recommended I read some Greg Iles books. I hadn’t read a book from cover to cover since dropping out of college (for the second time at this point), and figured I’d give it another go. I started reading The Devil’s Punch Bowl, the first crime thriller I ever read, and I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t get enough Penn Cage, the main character in a good few of Iles’s books. Iles quickly became my favorite author, and Penn Cage my favorite character.

My second favorite author, the author of my favorite book, This Book is Full of Spiders, is David Wong. This book, along with John Die’s at the End, made me laugh out loud multiple times while keeping me mesmerized by his storytelling. If you haven’t read either one, I highly recommend them, John Die’s at the End is the first in the supposed trilogy (the third hasn’t come out yet), and Spiders the second.

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The first in the trilogy

Stephen King is unquestionably my third favorite author, and I believe my writing style is most influenced by him. I would read myself off a cliff if he so wrote me there.

I’m currently reading End of Watch, by King, the third in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.

I’m patiently waiting for the third book in the Natchez Burning trilogy “Mississippi Blood,” to come out. And, am also patiently awaiting for David Wong to come out with the final book in the John Die’s at the End trilogy. I can’t wait any longer!

If you’re interested in any of the readings mentioned you can find more information on them  below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Dark They Were and Golden Eyed

The House in Cypress Canyon

Goosebumps

Resident Evil

Of Mice and Men

1984

Natchez Burning trilogy

John Die’s at the End

Mr. Mercedes trilogy

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