Which books are (or were) automatic buys for you?

A post at Kittling:Books made me think about books that one buys automatically, without knowing anything about them other than the author’s name. Bernadette’s subsequent post at Reactions to Reading took the concept a little further, in asking which authors were once auto-buys but are no longer.

Auto-buys for me include J. K. Rowling and Ian McEwan, but I’ll limit myself here to crime fiction. Authors whose books I buy as soon as one is published include:

Michael Connelly
Karin Altvegen
Liza Marklund
Arnaldur Indridason
Adrian Hyland*
Asa Larsson
C J Box
Helene Tursten
Andrea Camilleri
Catherine O’Flynn*
Stef Penney*
Peter Temple
Johan Theorin
Deon Meyer

*Even though these authors have each only written two novels, they’re on my list.

These authors have one thing in common, they don’t simply reprise the structure of their last book. Each novel they write can be guaranteed to have some different perspective, or if it is a series, to vary the structure and content in some way to produce an original book.

Authors who were in that category, but who have become disappointments and so I read no longer, include:

J. D. Robb (Eve Dallas series – good idea, rapidly became predictably formulaic)
Lindsey Davies (Falco series – original concept, not developed so became boring)
Elizabeth George (Lynley/Havers series – became far too long and content-free)
James Patterson (yes, I admit to enjoying his first half-dozen books, pre-franchise anathema!)
Richard North Patterson (I loved his early legal/political thrillers but he’s become too ponderous)
Karin Slaughter (quite gruesome, OK for the early books but the later ones focus on gruesomeness and are very slow)
Thomas Harris (Red Dragon is one of my favourite crime novels. Silence of the Lambs was OK-ish. Hannibal was thrown across the room, what a load of rubbish).
Patricia Cornwell (once a true original following on from Harris’s concepts in Red Dragon, now utterly tedious)
Jonathan Kellerman (I was addicted to the first half-dozen Alex Delaware books but then they lurched into monotony)
Janet Evanovitch (the first two books were funny and fresh, but rapidly became a stale re-working each time)
Lee Child (excellent first few books, now suffering from superman syndrome as well as flatness)
Denise Mina (I still read her but judiciously, but she has not matched her auto-buy days of the Garnethill trilogy or Sanctum)

One thing that strikes me about many of these ex-auto buy authors is that they have achieved “best-sellerdom” after I discovered them. And it is perhaps the pressures of “best-sellerdom” that requires someone simply to reprise a formula each time, than to risk something different, hence becoming non-reads for me. It is sad that this is what “mass market” readers seem to like. Not all the authors are like this: Elizabeth George varies her structure and subjects, but the problem with her books now is that they need editing to half the length (i.e. the same length as her first few).

From the “still auto-buying” list, Michael Connelly is a perfect example of an author who sells in shedloads, but who remains true to his readers – he simply does not take the lazy way out. That is, he has talent and, in his case, that’s what sells. Other authors on my auto-buy list are similarly varied in creating their compelling novels, but probably don’t sell in the same size of shedloads as Connelly 😉

There are many other favourite authors whose books I am very likely to read, but I would check out their latest title before automatically buying it. There are also some recent good candidates who may well go on my auto-buy list, for example Gail Bowen, Y. A. Erskine and Julia Spencer-Fleming, but the jury is still out. There are also a few who have been auto-buys but who are currently wobbling in the light of their most recent titles. Some authors I enjoyed in years gone by, but for unknown reasons have become bored with their books – eg P D James, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Frances Fyfield.

Let me know what you think: do you like any of the authors on my lists? Who are your auto-buy (or ex-auto-buy) authors?

Search my book review archive by author name for reviews of books by authors in my auto-buy list.