|photo: James Lum
Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero and Lefty Awards. A Dartmouth College graduate, Parks spent a dozen years as a reporter with the Washington Post and the (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger and is now a full-time novelist. His fifth Carter Ross thriller, The Player (St. Martin's Minotaur, March 2014), received starred reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal and was a Top Pick of RT Book Reviews.
On your nightstand now:
The Accident by Chris Pavone. Well, that and about a dozen other books (by Allison Leotta, Carla Buckley, Michael Connelly, Louise Penny, Cara Black, Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay... and that's just the fiction). Yes: I'm a slob who seldom cleans his nightstand.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Gentle Ben by Walt Morey. I checked it out from the Ridgefield (Conn.) Public Library on August 9, 1984. I know because I still have it. At 10 cents a day, the overdue fines are now over $700. They can come after me if they want to. I'm still not returning it.
Your top five authors:
Aw, man. Could we expand this to 50? Okay, going alphabetically:
Lee Child: The only author who makes me drop everything the second he comes out with a new book.
Harlan Coben: The reigning master of the twist you never see coming.
Michael Connelly: The best police procedurals in the business (Harry Bosch) and the best legal thrillers (Mickey Haller).
Lisa Gardner: Plot. Prose. Character. Voice. Her game has no weakness.
John D. MacDonald: My desert island author.
Book you've faked reading:
Paradise Lose by Whatsisface Milton. I faked reading it in high school and college. Though I hear it ends well for Satan.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I have probably recommended Megan Abbott's Dare Me at no less than 30 book signings. "It's a book about cheerleaders," I tell people. And when they look at me funny, I say, "But it's sort of like cheerleaders meet Macbeth."
Book you've bought for the cover:
I have bought books for their titles, blurbs, dust jacket copy, first lines, awards or simply because I liked the prose on a random page I opened. But never once for the cover. What can I say? I'm colorblind.
Book that changed your life:
This is a really, really geeky answer. But I'm a geek, so... The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. It's a book about how science comes to adopt new paradigms, but its conclusions can be extended to virtually any human endeavor.
Favorite line from a book:
"Where's Papa going with that ax?" It's the first line from Charlotte's Web, another favorite book from childhood. All you have to do is add Mrs. Arable's response--"One of the pigs is a runt... Your father decided to do away with it"--and you have one of the great thriller takeoffs of all time.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I've now read this book in three different decades of my life and gotten something completely different out of it each time. Maybe when I'm 90, I'll get everything out of it I should. And then I can die happy.
One thing from the reading universe you'd like to ban:
The phrase "guilty pleasure." It pains me when I talk to someone who says, "I can't wait to read (BOOK BY AUTHOR THEY REALLY LOVE) but first I have to get through (BOOK BY AUTHOR WHOSE NAME HAS BEEN REDACTED DUE TO PROFESSIONAL COURTESY)." Please don't slog through a book because you feel like you "should" read it, or because someone else has deemed it "important" or because, like a trip to the dentist, you feel like it's "good" for you. (Unless, of course, you really like going to the dentist--I'm cool with that.) If reading something gives you pleasure, don't feel guilty. Life is too short to go around apologizing for what's on your nightstand.