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I'll play. But I'm going with books, in no particular order.

1. Gone With the Wind. The book that made me want to write the next Great American Novel.

2. Moby Dick. Ditto.

3. Burn Marks by Sara Paretsky. Turned me onto mysteries with kick-ass women protagonists.

4. The Great Gatsby. The perfect novel.

5. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. A perfect crime novel.

I'm not going to play, I just wanted to say that I'm pretty convinced that all those authors are lying.

I mean really, who reads some of those books more than once?

My picks would be the expected - Chandler, Hammett, Leonard and Hiaasen. The ones that might not be are Brautigan, Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Vonnegut, Lenny Bruce (his autobiography) and Big Bill.

Reasons? Chandler and Hammett taught me that a man can do the wrong things for the right reasons. Leonard taught me that when two people have a conversation, there are two very different agendas going on and I better be true to them both. Hiaasen makes me laugh out loud.

The others are people who changed writing and made me think about the craft during my most impressionable years.

Shakespeare is the only one I go to at least once a year for a refresher course. On the stage or on the page, he's still Big Bill.

Norby's comment cracked me up and I totally agree.

Pat Conroy - showed me how to tell a story.

Lois Duncan - she wrote the first mysteries that really had an impact on me.

Robert B. Parker - showed me that dialogue carries a story.

Dennis Lehane - just because those Patrick and Angie books knocked me out.

Robert Crais - showed me how to use humor.

I agree too, Norby!
As for me:

Elmore Leonard - FREAKY DEAKY. Best first page of any book, ever.

Thomas Pynchon -- VINELAND. Best last sentence of any book, ever.

Dennis Lehane -- MYSTIC RIVER. Because of his great sensitivity and the ability to get into character's heads.

Somerset Maughm -- OF HUMAN BONDAGE. (See Lehane.)

Dostoeyevsky -- CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Like Karen said.)

Well, Lori and I are a lot alike :) . . . Stephen King and Nora Roberts/JD Robb are on my top five list.

Like Jeff, Lois Duncan was a huge influence. Now my two oldest daughters are reading her! Scary how old that makes me feel . . .

Linda Howard, who is the goddess of romantic suspense and writes incredible love scenes.

Dean Koontz who, even when it's scary and a whole host of bad things happen, usually has a happy ending.

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