Matthew Klein

One wouldn’t necessarily expect a book that opens with a torture scene to be funny, but Matthew Klein’s latest suspense novel, No Way Back, proves that humor can indeed work in the most unlikely places. “I love books with a sense of humor — particularly in genres that aren’t ‘supposed’ to have one,” Klein says. This week, Klein celebrates authors that have made him laugh — even when writing a kind of book not typically regarded as funny.

Post Captain
By Patrick O’Brian
“Most people who haven’t actually read O’Brian have at least heard of him (most likely of his Master and Commander), and what they’ve heard has kept them away. A series of naval adventures set during the Napoleonic Wars, written in period style, full of nautical terminology that is never explained to lubberly readers? No thank you. But those people are missing out on some of the best writing of the century. They’re also missing out on some of the funniest scenes ever written in books about eighteenth-century naval warfare. (Just kidding; make that some of the funniest scenes ever written. Period.) Every few months, I return to my dog-eared Post Captain, especially to the scene in which Doctor Maturin convinces Captain Aubrey to keep a colony of bees aboard a man-of-war, for the doctor to study. The formal dinner in the captain’s cabin that follows is brilliant comedy.”

The First Law Trilogy
By Joe Abercrombie

“I’m not a big fan of fantasy novels, usually because they’re so dour and serious. You know the typical plot: We must find King Dendrick’s Crystal Whatchamacallit before Dark Prince Kalius reaches the Tower of… Zzzzzz. But I picked up Abercrombie’s trilogy on a whim, and I’ve been a convert ever since. Abercrombie is a great writer — particularly brilliant at describing battles and violence in a way that allows readers to understand the choreography of conflict — both army-to-army and man-to-man. But he’s also funny — deeply, darkly funny — and his First Law Trilogy has more laugh-out-loud moments than books in genres that are typically regarded as ‘comedic.’ Read in particular the scenes written from the point of view of Sand dan Glokta, whose profession (torturer) seems to leave little room for humor. I doubt you’ll be able to keep a straight face.”

By Trevanian

“I was inspired to become a writer by the waterlogged copy of Trevanian’s Shibumi that I found in my father’s beach bag the summer of 1981, when I was thirteen. Trevanian was the pen name used by film scholar Rodney Whitaker, who used a technique that can only be called ‘Method Writing’: first he created a character that would become the author of his book, and then he wrote the book ‘in character.’ In other words, he was a bit… out there. What’s funny about his books is that they are funny, but few people who read them in the 1970s and 1980s knew they were supposed to be. His first novel, The Eiger Sanction, was meant to be a spoof of spy novels. The problem was that the novel followed the conventions of spy novels so well — and was so perfectly crafted — that few readers realized it was a spoof. His most successful book (and my favorite) is Shibumi, which features super-assassin Nicholai Hel, the most perfect hero ever created: able to kill men by weaponizing everyday objects (pens, credit cards), of exquisitely refined artistic sensibility, and — oh yeah — a master of sexual technique. (The latter is the part I focused on when I was thirteen.) If you haven’t read Shibumi, pick up a copy. It’s the perfect spy thriller.”

The Works of Nelson DeMille

“If he’s not the father of the Thriller-Narrated-by-First-Person-Smart-Ass genre, I don’t know who is. That is a genre we take for granted nowadays, but, before Demille, it didn’t really exist. He blazed the trail for the rest of us in his books like The Gold Coast, and most recently, the John Corey series. When I grow up, I want to be Nelson DeMille, or at least have his sense of humor.”