The best books to celebrate an author’s literary style

Who am I?

I'm a lifetime, passionate reader. During the summer vacations, my brother and I would often ride with our father to his job in downtown Mobile and walk to Mobile Public Library, where we would spend all day exploring and reading. Well-written novels with remarkable but believable characters—such as those I've noted here are my passion. I have included novels in my list where I can identify personally with the protagonist. My list of books is varied. They have one thing in common: believable characters who struggle with life—authored by legitimate wordsmiths. When I wrote Angry Heavens as a first-time novelist, it was my history as a reader that I used as a writer.

I wrote...

Angry Heavens: Struggles of a Confederate Surgeon

By David Michael Dunaway,

Book cover of Angry Heavens: Struggles of a Confederate Surgeon

What is my book about?

As the Civil War inevitably approaches, two young Charlestonians, the Irish Catholic Mary Assumpta Bailey, and the English Protestant, Dr. James Merriweather, who are intertwined through marriage, medicine, and their aversion to slavery, are confronted with an inevitable decision on whether to fight or flee.

Dr. Merriweather joins the War confident that he can use his surgical skills to save the injured and send them back to their families. However, rather quickly, Merriweather realizes he is unprepared for the horrors of battle. Thus, he begins a slow journey into his personal war with darkness – his sanity hangs precariously in the balance as his family weathers their own war on the small family farm on Horlbeck Creek, South Carolina.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Prince of Tides

David Michael Dunaway Why did I love this book?

When Pat Conroy died in 2016, I knew what the late Southern gentleman-writer, Lewis Grizzard, meant when he wrote, Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself.

Pat Conroy understood the Southern male in ways that only fellow Southerners can know in all its fullness. I felt less Southern at his passing than I had felt in a long time. Pat Conroy was my better self as a Southern male. He understood me without knowing me.

The Prince of Tides protagonist, Tom Wingo, is undoubtedly filled with the simplicity and complexity, goodness and evil, connection to history that describe the southern male who often will define being Southern as a fundamental personal value.

Want some insight into the Southern male, and who wouldn't? The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy is where one should start.

By Pat Conroy,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Prince of Tides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pat Conroy's inspired masterpiece relates the dark and violent chronicle of an astounding family: the Wingos of Colleton, South Carolina. No reader will forget them. And no reader can remain untouched by their story.

All Wingos share one heritage ... shrimp fishing, poverty and the searing memory of a single terrifying event - the source of Tom Wingo's self-hatred and of his sister Savannah's suicidal despair.

To save himself and Savannah, Tom confronts the past with the help of New York psychologist Susan Lowenstein.

As Tom and Susan unravel the bitter history of his troubled childhood, in episodes of grotesque…

Book cover of The Charm School

David Michael Dunaway Why did I love this book?

The Charm School was written at the height of the Cold War and is the story of a young American aspiring to drive a Pontiac Trans Am into and across Russia. After not many days of arduous travel—after all Russian roads and gasoline access points were not built for a Pontiac Trans Am muscle car of the 1960s—he accidentally comes across a Russian village unlike any he has seen thus far—a village far into the pinewoods that looked as if it had been plucked out of New England America with its residents speaking perfect American English free of Russian accents and filled with typical Americanisms. He knows he must reach the American Embassy in Moscow and alert the CIA station chief.  

Given the current state of affairs with Russia, there may not be a more informative book to read. The Charm School is simply the #1 spy novel ever written. It is filled with suspense, intrigue, pseudo-diplomacy, assassinations, and escape.

I have read each of Nelson DeMille’s books, and The Charm School remains my favorite DeMille book and my favorite spy novel by any writer.

By Nelson DeMille,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Charm School as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"True master" and #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille presents a chilling, relentlessly suspenseful story of Cold War espionage perfect for fans of the hit FX show The Americans (Dan Brown).

On a dark road deep inside the Russian woods at Borodino, a young American tourist picks up an unusual passenger with an explosive secret: an U.S. POW on the run from "The Charm School," a sinister operation where American POWs teach young KBG agents how to be model U.S. citizens. Their goal? To infiltrate the United States undetected. With this horrifying conspiracy revealed, the CIA sets an…

Book cover of Fort Sumter to Perryville

David Michael Dunaway Why did I love this book?

Whether one is a Civil War buff, or a fan of Sun Tzu’s military strategy, you will find plenty of both in this three-volume set. Volume 1 is: Fort Sumter to Perryville. Volume 2 is: Fredericksburg to Meridian, and Volume 3 is: Red River to Appomattox.  

Shelby Foote’s work provided most of the background of Ken Burn’s PBS epic, The Civil War. Anyone who watched that masterpiece and heard the knowledge of Shelby Foote spoken in the most lovely Southern drawl, will not be disappointed in this collection. 

The Civil War: A Narrative – 3 volume box set provided significant detail and motivation for me as I wrote my own book.  When I had a question about a date, geography of a battle, written correspondence between fighters or allies, or conversations such as took place at Appomattox Courthouse between Generals Grant and Lee, I went immediately to Shelby Foote’s three-volume set because I would find it there in exceptional detail. 

By Shelby Foote,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Fort Sumter to Perryville as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This first volume of Shelby Foote's classic narrative of the Civil War opens with Jefferson Davis’s farewell to the United Senate and ends on the bloody battlefields of Antietam and Perryville, as the full, horrible scope of America’s great war becomes clear. Exhaustively researched and masterfully written, Foote’s epic account of the Civil War unfolds like a classic novel. 
Includes maps throughout.
"Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives…a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters."—Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

"A stunning book full of color,…

Book cover of Robicheaux

David Michael Dunaway Why did I love this book?

James Lee Burke is now 85 as of the date of this submission and writes every day. As I just turned 76 this month, his remarkable work habits are a goal to which I can aspire. 

James Lee Burke’s writing is filled with memorable metaphors and similes that no one uses quite as well as this Southern man of letters

In Robicheaux: A Novel, Burke reminds us that Robicheaux is plagued by the acts he committed in Vietnam, now manifested in the ghosts of his alcoholism and tendency to violence. Complicating his life even more is the sudden death of his beloved wife, Molly. The New Iberia man who killed Molly is also killed, and colleagues accuse Robicheaux of murdering the man who killed Molly.

Dave Robicheaux is a good man who does not tolerate evil deeds by others, even though he must battle his tendency to react violently when encountering criminals.

By James Lee Burke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Robicheaux as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James Lee Burke’s most beloved character, Dave Robicheaux, returns in this New York Times bestselling mystery set in the towns and backwoods of Louisiana: an “enthralling yet grim novel that…will captivate, start to finish” (Publishers Weekly).

Dave Robicheaux is a haunted man. From the acts he committed in Vietnam, to his battles with alcoholism, to the sudden loss of his beloved wife, Molly, his thoughts drift from one irreconcilable memory to the next. Images of ghosts pepper his reality. Robicheaux’s only beacon remains serving as a detective in New Iberia, Louisiana.

It’s in that capacity that Robicheaux crosses paths with…

Book cover of Bright Orange for the Shroud

David Michael Dunaway Why did I love this book?

John D. MacDonald is the father of modern fictional detectives—especially Robert Parker—who, like MacDonald, is a writer of sparse dialogue. John D. MacDonald’s main character is the unforgettable Travis McGee. Travis McGee lives on his houseboat, The Busted Flush, which he won in a poker game. McGee has no steady job. Instead, he takes on salvage jobs as he can find them and is paid 50% of the value of the recovered items he returns to the owner.  

Bright Orange for the Shroud—interestingly, is typical for John D. MacDonald as each of his books is connected to a color—The Deep Blue Goodbye, A Purple Place for Dying, and The Empty Copper Sea. 

While enjoying another short “retirement” Travis McGee is visited by Arthur Wilkinson, a friend from days gone by. In terrible health, McGee nurses him back to health only to find that Wilkinson has been bankrupted in a land purchase scheme.

Retirement for McGee is defined as doing nothing on the Busted Flush and playing poker with his friends who also live on houseboats at the marina.

In Bright Orange for the Shroud, the shroud is an orange housecoat that a young woman wore as she committed suicide. McGee tells his colleagues that orange is not an apropos color for death because it is so animated. 

Like every fictional main character, I have noted here, Travis McGee has his fateful flaws. For the reader, this is not a bad thing if you are like me and tend toward flawed main characters.

By John D. MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Bright Orange for the Shroud as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From a beloved master of crime fiction, Bright Orange for the Shroud is one of many classic novels featuring Travis McGee, the hard-boiled detective who lives on a houseboat.
Travis McGee is looking forward to a “slob summer,” spending his days as far away from danger as possible. But trouble has a way of finding him, no matter where he hides. An old friend, conned out of his life savings by his ex-wife, has tracked him down and is desperate for help. To get the money back and earn his usual fee, McGee will have to penetrate the Everglades—and the…

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Through Any Window

By Deb Richardson-Moore,

Book cover of Through Any Window

Deb Richardson-Moore Author Of Murder, Forgotten

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Mystery aficionado Beach lover Mother Gardener Housing advocate

Deb's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Riley Masterson has moved to Greenbrier, SC, anxious to escape the chaos that has overwhelmed her life.

Questioned in a murder in Alabama, she has spent eighteen months under suspicion by a sheriff’s office, unable to make an arrest. But things in gentrifying Greenbrier are not as they seem. As Riley struggles to forge a new life, forces are gathering in the tension-plagued neighborhood where glitzy new homes rise alongside crumbling mill houses, and everyone, it seems, can peer into a neighbor’s window.

When murder explodes, someone unexpected is caught in the crossfire. Detectives are left to ponder: Are the deaths personal or the result of rich and poor living in such close proximity? And will Riley take the blame as someone so meticulously planned?

Through Any Window

By Deb Richardson-Moore,

What is this book about?

After being questioned in a murder investigation, Riley Masterson has spent eighteen months under suspicion by the sheriff’s office. Anxious to escape accusing eyes, she finally decides to leave Alabama and move to South Carolina.

But Greenbrier isn’t the stabilizing influence she hopes for, as her neighborhood is slowly being gentrified, with homeless people living in the shadows of mansions. As Riley struggles to forge a new life, forces are gathering in the tension-plagued neighborhood as glitzy new homes rise beside crumbling mill houses, and everyone is able and willing to peer into a neighbor’s window.

When a ghastly crime…

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