Book Brahmin: James Renner

James Renner is the author of two books of nonfiction that detail his adventures in investigative journalism: Amy: My Search for Her Killer and The Serial Killer's Apprentice. His work has been featured in Best American Crime Reporting and Best Creative Nonfiction. His new novel is The Man from Primrose Lane (Sarah Crichton Books, February 28, 2012). He lives in Ohio.

On your nightstand now:

Koko by Peter Straub. I picked this one up at a used bookstore in Akron for a buck--and it's a hardcover, first edition! It's also the first in Straub's classic Blue Rose trilogy, which is about a serial killer whose trademark is a playing card with the word "KOKO" scrawled on it. When I opened it up, a playing card fell out. True story.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Encyclopedia Brown series. A great introduction to the structure of thrillers and mysteries for beginning writers. I've never forgotten the solutions after all these years.

Your top five authors:

Stephen King, John Irving, Mark Winegardner, Dan Chaon and Richard Harris. I like great big meaty books with fully realized characters and a smidge of rambling.

Book you've faked reading:

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. I was assigned this book five separate times in the writing program at Kent State and failed to finish it every single time. Read the synopsis online. Now I'm haunted by the ghosts of dead veterans.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock. My favorite book of 2011. Gritty, sparse, bleak but graceful. Ohio claims its own Cormac McCarthy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. And I wasn't the only one. I think the cover had more to do with the success of the book than the story or the writing. The cover is gripping. The words, not so much.

Book that changed your life:

The Gunslinger by Stephen King. It wasn't even my Christmas present in 1990. My grandmother bought it for my cousin, but as soon as I saw the strange man with the crisscrossed bullet belts on the cover I knew I had to find out what it was all about. The book opened my eyes to the large and wonderful world of fantasy/sci-fi.

Favorite line from a book:

"It was a pleasure to burn."--from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. We're too close to this becoming real.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Hobbit. My mother read this one to me when I was little. I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy my senior year in high school. I'm planning to read The Hobbit to my son very soon. Can't wait to rediscover Middle Earth together.

Book you wish you had written:

Weaveworld by Clive Barker. Residents of a pocket universe decide to hide from an evil force by weaving their world into a large and elaborate carpet. What a fantastic idea. Also, there's time travel, a magic jacket and a fallen angel who has forgotten who it is. Wonderful story.

photo by Danny Vega

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