Reading to inspire the writer within.
Dr. Ted Cogan, ER surgeon and self-defined womanizer, must fight to clear his name when Kristen Kroiter, a young patient treated six months before, commits suicide, leaving behind a diary entry that implicates him in terrible crimes. David Carnoy’s debut novel, Knife Music, is a medical thriller that examines the sometimes uneasy relationship of male doctors and female patients. Here he shares three books that inspire him.
By Norman Mailer
“A lot of crime writers revere Capote’s In Cold Blood. I certainly do, too, but I’m throwing Mailer’s Executioner’s Song on my list because I don’t think it gets talked about as much as it once did and perhaps has gotten a little lost in the masterpiece shuffle. Also, for my writing sample to get into graduate school, I wrote a short story about a prisoner on death row. I’d met Sister Helen Prejean, a nun who counseled death-row inmates, while I was bartending in Manhattan (yes, nuns drink). I spent some time interviewing her and came up with this short story called “The Kindling,” which helped get me into the Columbia MFA program. In my story, the guy on death row is asked who he’d like to see play himself in a movie. He says Sean Penn. A couple years later, Dead Man Walking, the movie based on Prejean’s book, came out. The lead character was played by Sean Penn. “
By Mario Vargas Llosa
“I’ve long been a fan of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa’s work, particularly his earlier novels. His best is probably War of the End of the World, but I have soft spot for his more humorous work, including Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and this novel, which involves a buttoned-down army captain who’s sent to an Amazon outpost to quell sexual unrest among his troops. With Who Killed Palomino Molero? (1998), he took at a stab the police procedural genre. It’s considered a minor work but is enjoyable nonetheless and reminded me a little of a Garcia Marquez’ superb Chronicle of a Death Foretold.”
By Kate Atkinson
“I just liked the overall tone and structure of Kate Atkinson’s novel, which had a good mix of heavy themes, appealing yet flawed characters, and just the right amount of humor. I remember reading and thinking this is the type of novel I’d like to write and I appreciated how she intertwined the three story lines into a tight knot that came together at the end. In my novel, I jump back and forth in time, particularly at the beginning; my story isn’t linear. Some readers can find that challenging to deal with at first but Atkinson—and others—inspired me to take some chances and avoid being formulaic.”