Sunday, June 7, 2015

Favourite Fantasy Authors and Books A - Z (R)

Q defeated me, I admit it. In our library we have one book written by a Q author, and it's not a fantasy. So, I decided to move straight onto R. Curiously enough I could only locate two R authors I wanted to include here, which was surprising.

Laura Resnick is the daughter of the prolific and popular science fiction author Mike Resnick. While not as well known as her father, Laura has won awards for her own work. As well as writing, she's studied acting, taught languages and spent time working on a kibbutz in Israel, which is where I think the above picture comes from.

Her original break through into writing was under the pseudonym of Laura Leone and was in the romance genre. When she started to use her own name, she published a well regarded, but little known high fantasy series.

More recently she's written a successful urban fantasy series about the supernatural misadventures of struggling New York based actress Esther Diamond. 

Laura keeps a website at and tweets under the name @laresnick.

Because of the publishing history of the Esther Diamond novels I kind of came to them in a roundabout way. The first book I saw in the series was the second one Doppelgangster. I'd read that and it's sequel Unsympathetic Magic, before I even knew that there was a book before Doppelgangster. While they can be read as standalones and Laura Resnick does a good enough job of catching new readers up the story so far, I always knew that there was a story before Doppelgangster, and I wanted to read it. A bit of research led me to Disappearing Nightly. The book was originally published by Luna, an imprint of Harlequin. It didn't do as well as the publisher had hoped, and actually became kind of hard to find. After acquiring the series, new publisher DAW did eventually reissue Disappearing Nightly, with one of the cool and eye catching Daniel Dos Santos covers that suit the series so well. The names in themselves are quite a lot of fun, as well as the three I've mentioned we've got Vamparazzi, Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie and Abracadaver.

The Esther Diamond series is one of the most fun urban fantasy series out there, and it deftly mixes romance with police procedural and out and out comedy. Esther is a struggling actress, who accidentally hooks herself up with a 250 year old Hungarian wizard Maximilian Zadok, a handsome Irish Cuban detective Conor Lopez and an assortment of others, including her agent (later revealed to be a vampire) and semi retired wiseguy Lucky Battistuzzi. Esther really just wants to get regular employment as an actress and maybe have a relationship with Conor, but dead bodies and Max keep popping up when they're not wanted and drawing her into the investigations.

If Janet Evanovich had set her books in New York, and made Stephanie Plum into an actress rather than a bounty hunter, and used some supernatural elements she would have written the Esther Diamond series. Every time I read one of these I'm struck by the strong cinematic element to them and can't believe that someone in the TV industry hasn't taken the option to try and make them into a series.

Further and related reading: there is Laura Resnick's high fantasy series; The Silerian Trilogy, and if anyone could track them down her romances under the name of Laura Leone may still be available.

However for things similar to Esther Diamond, there are any number of police procedural urban fantasies out there. Top of the list, but with less romance and a lot harder edge there's Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series and Paul Cornell's Shadow Police series. Seanan McGuire's October Daye books are urban fantasy mysteries, but mainly operate on the fringes of our world and a lot in the faery kingdoms around it. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files is similar as well, but it's started to veer more out of our world over recent books. The closest thing to Esther is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, but that's not fantasy at all. Very little can get the mix of romance and action with fantasy quite right and Laura Resnick does that with Esther Diamond.

The woman above needs no introduction. For those that don't recognise her, her first names are Joanne Kathleen and she's better known by her initials J.K, because her publisher didn't think boys would buy novels about a young wizard if they thought they were written by a female author. This was of course an unfounded and ridiculous fear.

I don't think I really need to repeat the well known story about J.K Rowling being a young mother, who spent her days writing in a cafe, and found the dream of every aspiring author, by writing a series that caught the public's imagination and turned her into one of the wealthiest and most successful writers ever.

After Harry Potter she turned her talents to more adult fare and has written the drama A Casual Vacancy as well as two mysteries under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. While all three have sold well on the author's name, they haven't been as well received as Harry Potter, and it's unlikely that anything will ever replicate the phenomenon that was the Harry Potter series.

Again I probably can't add a lot to the multitude of words that have spoken at length about the series as a whole. A lot of people tend to pooh pooh those who admit to liking this series now. It seems to be popular to simply bag anything popular because it was popular. A bit of research shows that Rowling went to great lengths to put meaning behind what an initial or cursory look shows that a lot of thought went into what seems at first glance to be fairly simple concepts.

Harry Potter made reading cool again and introduced an entire generation to reading and to fantasy. It's what is now called a 'gateway drug' to the genre. It's become a springboard, and I think it's encouraged plenty of people to dream and to write, because their idea can too be just what everyone wants to read. For that alone it deserves all the praise that it has received.

Further and related reading: there are the other 3 books Rowling wrote outside of the fantasy genre. She has actually never seen herself as a fantasy writer, she wrote children's books, they just happened to feature magic as the focus. She also wrote a few companion pieces: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through The Ages and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Her influences ranged from Enid Blyton's Malory Towers school books to other 'girls own' fiction like Elinor Brent Dyer's Chalet School books and even things like Rudyard Kipling's Stalky and Co or Anthony Buckeridge's Jennings books, but all of those are set in rather idealised versions of the real world. There's a lot of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series about Hogwarts, especially the first book. Patrick Rothfuss also used elements of that in The Name of the Wind. The most similar, though is Lev Grossman's Magicians. His magical university of Brakebills is largely a tertiary version of Hogwarts.

So next week I have the S authors, and hopefully I can find more than 2.

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