Article published on July 29, 2016.
ON MY MIND is where we give aspiring new writers space to develop some of the things which drove them to write – and here it’s Rod Reynolds’ turn.
1) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.
Chandler established so many of the conventions of the noir genre that it’s hard for anyone who’s followed not to be influenced by his work. The Big Sleep is my personal favourite of his for many reasons, but I’ve listed it here specifically for how it made me think about my protagonist. Phillip Marlowe holds himself in lower esteem than anyone else – the reader in particular – and that is a trait my ‘hero’, Charlie Yates, shares with him. Introducing himself, Marlowe says, ‘…and when I get knocked off in a dark alley sometime, if it happens, as it could to anyone in my business, nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out of his or her life.’ Not only is it one of the great lines in all of fiction, it’s also the jumping off point for all the cynical and world-weary noir anti-heroes that followed.
2) The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
Ellroy is undoubtedly my biggest single influence as an author. His book The Cold Six Thousand reignited my love of reading and inspired me to be a writer, but The Big Nowhere is probably his most underrated work. It’s the novel where Ellroy really hit his stride – nailing down his three-protagonist structure, establishing his towering villain Dudley Smith and painting all his heroes in shades of grey. That last trait fascinates and compels me as a reader, and its one I’ve employed in Black Night Falling, which features multiple characters of ambiguous morality.
3) The Power Of The Dog by Don Winslow
Winslow’s epic The Power Of The Dog is a blistering examination of the inception and first decades of ‘The War On Drugs.’ Although a novel, it is fuelled by years of painstaking research, and shows just what a tragedy this policy has brought about. The two main characters start out as friends but wind up bitter enemies, on opposite sides of the war – a convention I flipped around in Black Night Falling, which sees two former enemies find themselves working in common cause.
4) Muscle For The Wing by Daniel Woodrell
Muscle For The Wing encapsulates everything I love about southern noir, in a high-octane blast of Americana. Woodrell has never wasted a word in his life, and this book is no different. The prose and dialogue are spare but brilliant, and cut through with colloquialisms and turns of phrase that do as much to evoke the setting as any passage of description – a technique I’ve always tried to employ in my writing.
5) Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Not her most famous book but for me her best, Sharp Objects is a brilliantly authentic and evocative Southern Gothic tale of a damaged reporter returning to her hometown against her better judgement. This is a theme I play with in Black Night Falling, where Charlie Yates reluctantly returns to Arkansas, a place he dreads and fears after the events of my first novel, The Dark Inside. Equally stunning, in Flynn’s novel, is the original and convincing back-story she creates for her heroine – a feat I was keen to emulate in my books.
Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds, is published on 4 August by Faber & Faber (£12.99)
Rod Reynolds was born in London and, after a successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, he decided to get serious about writing. He recently completed City University’s Crime Writing Masters course and his first novel, THE DARK INSIDE, was published by Faber in 2015. The sequel, BLACK NIGHT FALLING, will follow in August 2016. Rod lives in London with his wife and two daughters. Contact him on Twitter: @Rod_WR