Mary Heaton Vorse: Author of my favorite quote, “Writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Firebrand, labor activist, novelist.
Earl Thompson: Hands down my favorite writer. Garden of Sands and Tattoo take you to the dustbowl during the depression, and keep you there.
Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird. No need to say anything else.
Vance Bourjaily: Almost forgotten but should be remembered. Confessions of a Spent Youth is must reading for anyone contemplating writing a memoire. Also read Now Playing at Canterbury and The Violated.
Francois Villon: Born in Paris in 1431; a scalawag, gifted poet and middling criminal mind who mysteriously vanished in 1463.
Rebecca Wells: I loved all the Yayas except the best-left-unwritten prequel.
Calder Willingham: Eternal Fire, Rambling Rose, and of course, the screenplay of The Bridge on the River Kwai and Spartacus. Could anyone live a better writer’s life?
Honoré de Balzac: Read Le Père Goriot preferably in the original French. If you can’t do that, get a translation.
Helen Fielding: Bridget Jones is one of my favorite modern characters.
Jon Hassler: He wrote right to the end. Staggerford, North of Hope, The Dean’s List. A master of storytelling and the king of small town tales.
François-René de Chateaubriand: The epitome of French Romanticism. And a madman.
Guy de Maupassant: The father of the short story. La Maison Tellier was written more than a century before Best Little Whorehouse…
John Updike: Simply the best American writer of the past 40 years. Except for Earl Thompson (see above.)
Florence Aboulker: My sister, author of La Galère and a dozen other novels. She died in 2002 and I miss her.
Michael Gruber: Valley of the Bones and The Good Son are esoteric novels written with elegance and authority. A man not afraid of words.