Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You owe it to Yourself #2: Genre Hopping

Like most teenagers, I was pretty opinionated.

Horror fiction was awesome, Romance fiction was not. Movies with explosions were cool, movies with emotion and dialogue were not. Dragonlance was awesome, Forgotten Realms was not. The most important thing of all was this... Stephen King was cool, Louis L'Amour was that western writer my mom though was cool, and therefore definitely, definitely was not.

And like most teenagers, I was not shy about saving my piece. Picture me in Grade Eight, wearing my Coke (TM) T-Shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. Kind of a scrawny kid with freckles and dark hair that stuck out at all angles. Most days I'd be holding some Role-Playing Game manual (D&D or Robotech were my favourites - more on those later), as well as whichever novel had most recently grabbed my attention. At that point it was probably something by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, as the Dragonlance series was just beginning to blow my freakin' mind.

Now if you were looking for an opinion on a western writer, isn't this exactly the kind of kid you would ask?

"Louis L'Amour?" I'd say in my know-it-all thirteen year-old voice, "why would I read something written by Louis the Love?" Yup, I was full of witty statements backed by my knowledge of junior high French.

Fast forward about a decade. I'm now 23 years old, married, and working at a video store. I've spent the last ten years of my life reading horror, SF, fantasy and comic books and am looking for a change. So one day I ask my mom if she's got anything good to read.

"Well there's always Louis L'Amour." She states. My mom has his complete works in her basement. The collection is massive, I mean this guy wrote nearly a hundred novels, more than a dozen books of short stories as well as a couple non-fiction books and books of poetry. For some reason I decide; Why not? I'll give the guy a try.

And let me tell you something. Louis L'Amour is the MAN! This guy's books are filled with action, adventure, romance, and some of the coolest guys I've ever had the pleasure to have read about. Two quick examples:

Tyrell Sackett, a lawman in the 1860's who when called by another man to draw, walks right up to him, guaranteeing them both certain death if they shoot and slapping the other guy across the face!

Mathurin Kerbouchard, a twelfth century runaway who in one novel become a galley slave, pirate, scholar, doctor, and alchemist and travels from England to Alamut, the assassins fortress in Persia.

I'm not sure which way I most benefited from reading the works of Mr. L'Amour. My reading horizons were widened, It was the first time I read all of an author's works in publication order, and I was able to show myself that my mom can pick some pretty great writers.

I guess I'd have to go with the last one. So here's what I'd like you to do this time; step outside of your comfort zone, pick a genre you are not necessarily familiar with and give it a chance. You might just find that some of the books you've turned your nose up to may actually end up being your favourites. Come on, you owe it to yourself.

Thanks Mom.

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