Tony Parsons is a bestselling novelist and an award-winning journalist who began his writing career as a staff writer at the music paper NME. His semi- autobiographical novel Man and Boy won the Book of the Year prize in 2000 and was published in over 50 languages. His most recent books have been the Detective Max Wolfe series of thrillers – #Taken, the sixth Max Wolfe title, has just been published. He writes a monthly column for GQ magazine.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca is the novel that has everything. Love story, murder story, mystery and a great opening first line – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” An opening line that has entered the bloodstream of culture and is known by people who never read the book. Well, they should. Although it was published in 1938, Rebecca has a take on jealousy, passion and feelings of inadequacy – how can the narrator, the second wife of brooding widower Max de Winter, ever take the place of the late beautiful beloved Rebecca? This is where psychological thrillers begin and end. It has a great ending too – a twist to make your mouth drop open.
Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Elmore Leonard was a writer of genius who was underestimated because he worked in a genre – crime. Leonard is brilliant on the essential stupidity of criminals. This is a collection of his short stories (I love short stories) and contains my favourite short story of all time – When the Women Come out to Dance. Two women – a former stripper married to a rich plastic surgeon and her housekeeper plot the murder of the former’s husband. Not one word wasted.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
This was the book that made me want to be a writer. When I was 10 years old, a teacher read my class the book – the story of a family of eccentric English toffs who relocate to Corfu between the wars. It was like being struck by lightning – I realized how books could totally immerse you in a world that you have never seen, how the world of the book could be more real to you than the world outside your window. I loved the descriptions of Corfu’s sea, sun and countryside and, of course, identified like crazy with the free-wheeling, animal-loving boy. Part of me still wants to be that boy wandering the dusty sun-soaked backroads of Corfu alone.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This is one of the books I re-read every year. Totally original and very bold – it takes some nerve to write a 500-page love story where one of the characters is a time traveller. But time travel was never written like this before. This is time travel is an affliction, a curse, a disease that can’t be conquered and can only be managed. A book with a massive heart and huge intellect.
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
Nobody did terse, tough guy crime stories quite like James M. Cain – brief, brutal books written in this pared down, sub-Hemingway prose. The best of Cain – Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Ring Twice – are somehow always the same story. A morally-blank man meets a hot, unhappy wife and they decide to bump off her hubby. And then it all goes very wrong.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Although the HBO series was set in southern California, I thought Big little Lies was a very Australian novel. It is wonderful on middle-class Aussie life, so much of it revolving around the beach. What I love about Liane Moriarty is that her characters seem familiar – you can imagine meeting them at the school gates or a dinner party – and yet you always believe that absolutely anything could happen to them. Ordinary people stumbling into extraordinary situations. My favourite.