We asked Alan Jacobson, author of The Darkness of Evil, the latest in the wildly popular Karen Vail series, to divulge the tomes that have inspired and entertained him over the years. He responded with a list of books so thrilling you might need to clear your schedule–and then read every single one.
The concept of someone losing their memory and having the skills that Bourne possesses, yet not knowing who he is or why people are trying to kill him, was—in retrospect—a big influence on my own writing and plotting strategies.
I grew up reading science fiction (and idolizing the original Star Trek), so the marriage of science fiction and science fact (and, c’mon, bringing dinosaurs back to life!) was a winning combination for me. When I decided to return to writing after selling my chiropractic practice, Jurassic Park was the first novel I read. It reignited my excitement for writing and got the thriller juices flowing.
This was the first Nelson DeMille book I read, and it gripped me from page one because of the voice of the main character, Detective John Corey. It impacted me greatly because I had just started writing Karen Vail, who has a similar sense of humor to Corey. Vail comes from somewhere deep inside me—a product of my New York upbringing—and in John Corey, I found a “kindred character.” In DeMille, I found an author who valued the same type of suspense and blend of humor as I did.
When I gave DeMille the manuscript of the first Vail novel, The 7th Victim, to read, I asked him for an endorsement—if he felt it was worthy of his recommendation. Five days later, he told me he absolutely loved it and wrote a magnificent blurb. That blurb meant a great deal to me because DeMille was the type of writer I aspired to be.
The Day After Tomorrow
This is a well-written thriller that came from an author whose style resonated with me. The staccato sentences, the sense of big scenes and scenic locales, were the way I wrote. Reading Folsom (and The Day After Tomorrow was the first I read) showed me how to execute a story flawlessly.
McNab is a decorated British SAS officer who in real life carried out missions akin to those our Navy SEAL Team Six tackles. Remote Control pulled me in and showed me the world of covert ops in beautiful detail in a way that did not detract from the suspense or action.
O. Henry’s Collected Short Stories
My first agent felt that the way I constructed stories with major twists at the end harkened back to O. Henry. She recommended I read his stories, and I did. Indeed, they are brilliant. To this day, I marvel at his ability to make a story turn on a dime. It’s very difficult to do, and he did it repeatedly in a minimum number of pages.
Featured photo courtesy of Alan Jacobson