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The Sirens of Suspense




After stints as a manual laborer, dishwasher, bartender, restaurant manager, commercial photographer, magazine editor and public relations executive, Michael W. Sherer decided life should imitate art. He’s now an author and freelance writer. Mike has published six novels in the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series and a stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, which was a USA Book News “Best Books” award-winner in 2008.

Night Blind is the first of Mike’s new thriller series set in Seattle featuring Blake Sanders, and he’s working on the fourth in the series now. He’s also completed the first book in a YA thriller series.

A member and past regional vice president of Mystery Writers of America, Mike has served as an Edgar Awards judge. He’s also a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Authors Guild.

Mike grew up on a farm in northern Illinois, went to prep school and college “back east,” and lived in Chicago for 20 years. He and his family now reside in the Seattle area.

Find Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

item1 My Five Most Influential Books item1

No doubt there are many authors out there who will pontificate on the literature that influenced them most as writers, books such as The Sound and the Fury, The Sun Also Rises, maybe Ulysses or some Shakespearian sonnet. It’s not that I didn’t read and even study many of the classics in school, nor is it that I don’t appreciate good literature. But the books that influenced me most weren’t so esoteric. They didn’t have such lofty goals. For the most part, they simply entertained, but each moved me in some way. Here are my (for the moment) top five in chronological order.

1. My older brother was cool. Nearly five years my senior, he got to do things I had not yet dreamed of. When I was five, he introduced me to the heroes of DC Comics. My favorites were Batman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern. When I was eight or nine, I saved up all my allowance so I could split a bottle of Brylcreem with him, so we could look like Edd “Kookie” Burns.

At nine, he introduced me to a book that was a revelation: books could be fun; books could hold my attention. He let me borrow his copy of Tom Swift and His Flying Lab, by Victor Appleton II, (a pseudonym of writers—mostly James Duncan Lawrence—hired by the Stratemeyer Syndicate). I loved the Tom Swift, Jr., books. They showed me where imagination can take you.

2. Around the same time, we moved from the Chicago suburbs to a farm 80 miles northwest of the city. My parents built a ranch style house for us, in which we had a “library”—a small den which had cupboards on one wall above which were bookshelves. The books on those shelves included a complete encyclopedia set, a six-inch thick dictionary and books of all sorts, some of which my parents had read as children.

Among the gems I found on those shelves was The Vanishing Shadow, by Margaret Sutton. The first in the Judy Bolton mystery series, published two years after the first Nancy Drew mystery put out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. (Grosset & Dunlap published both series, but Sutton said the publisher eventually killed her series due to pressure from Stratemeyer.) I went on to read many of the Nancy Drew stories, too, but always preferred Judy Bolton as a more believable character. And those stories, of course, made me a mystery lover.

3. Through a series of unfortunate events (and no fault of mine), I had to over-elect the final semester of my senior year to make up a credit. Too late to get into many classes I would have preferred and desperate to find something, I went to an English professor and asked him if he’d be my sponsor for an independent study project in creative writing. He said, “What do you have in mind?” I told him I was going to write a novel. He said if I actually finished he’d give me a B.

I’d been reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.—de rigueur in those days—but it was Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land that made the biggest impression. Maybe it was all that free love and grokking, but I embarked that semester on a science fiction opus, figuring that writing a novel entailed no more than sitting down and typing a story until the story ended. I got a B+ for my efforts despite how awful the novel was.

4. I wrote my second novel, a science fiction mystery, shortly after graduation. I didn’t like the result much, but I liked the central character (there’s another story in there). So I started on another novel, a straight mystery this time. A friend dropped by one night while I was working on the book and started reading. After half an hour or so, he looked up and said, “Have you ever read John D. MacDonald?” I told him I’d never heard of the man. He said my book reminded him a lot of MacDonald’s Travis McGee series. At some point after I finished that novel, my friend’s comment came to mind, and I picked up A Tan and Sandy Silence. Reading the McGee series, I discovered, is like eating potato chips—you can’t stop at one. I went back and started at the beginning and devoured every one I could get my hands on.

5. Ah, so many books, so little time. And all so good, how do I choose just one that stands out, above the rest in terms of influence. So many authors crowd my “favorite” list now, and I’m constantly finding new ones. My first mystery novel was published in 1988. After I published my fifth book, I read a mystery in which the author not only told a good story, he did it with such lyrical writing that I finally began to understand the difference between good and great writing. T. Jefferson Parker’s California Girl won an Edgar in 2005, for good reason.

The list of mystery/thriller authors who thrill me with their writing as much as their stories has grown to include Don Winslow, Gregg Hurwitz, Tom Piccirrilli, Lisa Unger, Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Jonathan Kellerman, Michael Gruber, Tim Hallinan, Charlie Huston, Gillian Flynn and more.





WHAT BOOKS HAVE INLFLUENCED YOU? WHY? Tell us, or ask Mike a question by commenting below or visit us and share your thoughts on our Facebook page. and be entered to win a copy of Night Blind! Mike is also running a contest on his website through December 15 to give away a Kindle Fire enter HERE.

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