Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reading List

So, after my mini-freak-out yesterday I went to Amazon and quickly decided that it's not a great resource for what's current in the marketplace. I absolutely love Amazon and it's my primary source for buying books, movies, and music, but for browsing? Not so hot. Nothing is categorized by genre and there's not an easy way to search for, say, recent pirate fiction. There's not even a great cross-referencing section so that I can find books similar to ones I already like.

Take Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell, for example. I mentioned it yesterday because it's got a pirate theme to it, even though it's set on another planet. Amazon will show me other books bought by people who also bought Crystal Rain, but that's of limited use. Those recommendations are all for other scifi books. Not at all what I'm looking for. You can also search for other books with particular Key Phrases, but those tend to be proper nouns or what Amazon calls "statistically improbable phrases." "Pirate fiction" isn't a statistically improbable phrase.

A little more useful is the Customer Tags feature, but if I search that for "pirates" I get 229 items including Pirates of the Caribbean movies and a book called The Alphabet of Manliness. There are also reference books, pirate dictionaries, The Goonies... but it's hard to drill down to what I want.

A quick Google search for "pirate novels" was also unhelpful. There's actually a book called Pirate Novels, so I got a lot of links for that. Wikipedia has an entry on Pirates in Popular Culture, but of the six books they list, only three of them were written in the last decade: a Tween series, a self-published print-on-demand deal (not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not a good indicator for what publishers are currently buying, you know?), and a series that looks absolutely hilarious but isn't at all like what I'm trying to do. Of the six books on Wikipedia's Pirate Books page, the most recent was published in 1988 (although that one sounds very much like what I'm trying to do with Le Corsaire).

After reading yesterday's post, my friend Shara suggested that I also search LibraryThing, which is a great idea. Searching their tags is going to be a little easier than searching Amazon's because there aren't any movies and CDs to filter out, but it'll still be challenging.

All is not lost though. I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday to do some browsing. I checked out the Young Adult and the Fantasy/SciFi sections to see if there's anything new there that looks like me, but there isn't. What I did see though, in the Fiction and Literature section, was something that reminded me of an Arturo Pérez-Reverte book, and everything clicked for me.

Comparing myself to Pérez-Reverte is pretty frickin' arrogant, so let's just say that he's the guy that I dream of sitting next to on a bookshelf. I may never be that talented, but he's writing exactly the kind of stuff that I want to write. A little swashbuckling, a little mystery, a little fantasy... I've already got The Club Dumas and The Flanders Panel at home, so I left the store with a copy of Captain Alatriste. And that reminded me that there is actually a sub-genre that's doing what I want to do. For the last year I've been Wish Listing what I call Historical Mystery titles off of Bookgasm. Stuff like Napoleon's Pyramids, The Conjurer's Bird, The Poe Shadow, and The Historian. And as I'm perusing my Wish List to remind myself of these books, I also remember that if I want something specifically pirate-themed, there's always The Mark of Ran. And, of course, Crystal Rain.

So now I just have to start reading them.

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