The best books about sheriffs

Many authors have picked their favorite books about sheriffs and why they recommend each book.

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Pop. 1280

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of Pop. 1280

I was introduced to this book through Tavernier’s brilliant adaptation, Clean Slate (Coup de Torchon, 1981). Set in Texas, Thompson’s novel was published in 1964, during the Civil Rights Movement, and it offers a portrait of petty-minded racism in the continuing aftermath of slavery. Tavernier’s adaptation transposes the story to 1930s French colonial West Africa. I remain haunted by the ways the two settings illuminate each other. Tavernier’s blending of a deadly serious historical crisis with touches of comedy—slapstick even—brings both eras and the novel itself to life in enjoyable and instructive ways.

Who am I?

I'm a recently retired Professor of French literature and cinema studies at Dartmouth College. Because I love both books and movies, I developed a course on adaptation, which I taught with pleasure for many years. I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn how to analyze literary texts and films, separately and in juxtaposition, and they especially enjoyed discovering how the “same” story works quite differently in different media. In addition to the two volumes on Tavernier, my published books include New Novel, New Wave, New Politics: Fiction and the Representation of History in Postwar France; Parables of Theory: Jean Ricardou’s Metafiction; and Rape and Representation (co-edited with Brenda Silver).

I wrote...

Bertrand Tavernier

By Lynn A. Higgins,

Book cover of Bertrand Tavernier

What is my book about?

Bertrand Tavernier is one of the most important French film directors in the generation that followed the New Wave. His oeuvre spans many historical periods and genres, including historical dramas, documentaries, science fiction, melodramas, intimate portraits of (fictional) artists, and even comedy. In the United States, he is best known for A Sunday in the Country [Un Dimanche à la campagne, 1984] about an aging post-impressionist painter in the period just before World War I, and Round Midnight [Autour de minuit, 1986], about an American jazz musician in 1950s Paris. Some of his most interesting and memorable films (including A Sunday in the Country) are adaptations.

Note: Readers who enjoy his films and/or my book about him might also want to delve deeper into his reflections about his individual films in my co-edited Bertrand Tavernier Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, pb 2022).

No Country for Old Men

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of No Country for Old Men

This too is a novel about a young man being pursued by a remorseless killer. I enjoyed this novel because of its unrelenting suspense and because it represents a struggle, not only for the soul of a young man but for that of the nation. In it, McCarthy gives us a stunning portrait of evil and he shows us what’s at stake. The language is stripped bare, making the story resemble an actual direct experience as opposed to something I was merely reading about in the comfort of home.

Who am I?

My family moved frequently and, as a result, I was raised in a number of different small towns in Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, and Massachusetts. I now live in a large city but the experience has never left me. There was always a certain amount of crime and corruption in the towns I grew up in, but I only had a child’s eye view of it. However, a child’s eye view is usually the most vivid. This experience and the books that I have listed above all had a direct influence on Blue Hotel.

I wrote...

Blue Hotel

By J.T. Conroe,

Book cover of Blue Hotel

What is my book about?

It’s the bitter winter of 1947. The young driver for a Chicago gangster flees his boss’s retribution carrying a valise full of stolen mob money. Suffering from an infected bullet wound received during his escape, he leaves his California-bound train and takes refuge in a dying Nebraska railroad town where he encounters a corrupt sheriff and a crippled war veteran who has been traumatized both by his combat experience and a tragic event back home that took place while he was fighting in Europe. This is a novel imagined as a sequel to Stephen Crane’s 1899 short story called “The Blue Hotel”.

The Sand Dancer

By Lydia Emma Niebuhr,

Book cover of The Sand Dancer

I found the novel The Sand Dancer a compelling mystery. I felt sorry for Carrie, the main character, who lost her parents when she was two years old. As I read about Carrie’s troubling life, bouncing from one foster family to another until she turned eighteen, I wanted her to find some answers to her past to have that closure and move on with her future. The suspense in this story is quite a page-turner. She showed that she was a strong woman and quick thinker.

Who am I?

I have a B.S. degree in Medical Technology and connect my stories with science. The more I began researching problematic issues in our society for the subject matter of my trilogy, the more I began to empathize with the different kinds of suffering that people endure. I’ve incorporated traumas in all of my Euphoria trilogy stories, from illicit drugs, illnesses, loss, burns, skin regeneration, and human trafficking. Societal awareness is my passion; presenting issues to people who don’t realize these problems are as widespread as they actually are. 

I wrote...

Saving Euphoria

By C. Becker,

Book cover of Saving Euphoria

What is my book about?

Mark Langley risked everything to protect his family. He was assaulted and burnt as his assailants tried to force information from him. Now his family believes he’s dead. As Mark recovers from his burns and PTSD, he must stay in the shadows and wait for the man behind the assault to return to the U.S.—even at the risk of losing his wife to another man.

Hailey Langley cannot accept her husband Mark is dead, but her children are grieving and she must bury her own needs to focus on maintaining some semblance of normalcy for her son and daughter.

Shoshone Mike

By Frank Bergon,

Book cover of Shoshone Mike

In 1912 a posse made up of cowboys and state police caught up with an Indian family on the run and massacred almost all of them. Murderous Indians, vengeful whites: a simple Western story that when told through the multiple points of view of its participants, the sheriff who couldn’t intercept the posse in time, the son of a murdered Basque rancher, and, most poignantly, Shoshone Mike’s adolescent daughter, has the elements of a Greek tragedy. 

Who am I?

Growing up in Salt Lake City in the 1950s I was very soon aware that I was living in a world of borders, some permeable and negotiable, and some almost impossible to cross. It was a city of Mormons and a city of those who weren’t; a city of immigrants like my grandparents, and about whom my mother wrote (and wrote well); and a Jim Crow town where Black men and women couldn’t get into the ballroom to hear Duke Ellington play. Finally, it was a city haunted by its Indian past in a state keeping living Indians in its many bleak government reservations. What to make of those borders has been a life-long effort.

I wrote...

An American Cakewalk: Ten Syncopators of the Modern World

By Zeese Papanikolas,

Book cover of An American Cakewalk: Ten Syncopators of the Modern World

What is my book about?

An American Cakewalk is about a group of American jazz musicians, poets, writers, philosophers, and yes, cakewalkers, who didn’t crash head on into the borders of racism, poetic tradition, received ideas and economic orthodoxy that surrounded them, but, like the enslaved men and women who watched their masters’ pompous cotillion, glanced off them through satire and sly subversion. I write about Emily Dickinson and Stephen Crane, Scott Joplin and Charles Mingus, Jelly Roll Morton and William and Henry James, Thorstein Veblen and Abraham Cahan – and squeeze in some others too.

Stealing Shadows

By Kay Hooper,

Book cover of Stealing Shadows

This book is an intense psychological thriller that kept me on the edge right towards the end of the book. Cassie Neil has psychic gifts and works with the detectives to locate serial killers wherein her ability to tap into the mind of the killer evoked a chilly feeling in me. But often, her ability to see through the murderer’s eyes didn’t ensure sufficient information to prevent the murders and this often took a toll on her emotionally and spiritually. This was a fresh and exciting read though more than often I was filled with dread hoping there wouldn’t be another victim or guessing who the next one might be! This haunting suspense with an unexpected but interesting twist at the end makes it a delicious paranormal crime thriller. 

Who am I?

I am the author of paranormal, fantasy, and middle-grade novels. The inspiration to write in these genres is because of my attraction towards anything supernatural be it paranormal science, mythology, Wicca, witchcraft, occult, fairy folklore, NDE, OBE, psychometry, clairvoyance, angels, necromancy, etc. I love to read and research about them. Child of Paradise (Listen to your Dreams),” is my sixth fiction book and is a paranormal crime thriller. This book touches upon subjects such as after-life, spirit guides, dream visitations, mediums, ghost hunters, homicide, police investigations, and family ties and are for readers who’d love a thriller or a mystery with a supernatural edge.

I wrote...

Child of Paradise: Listen to your Dreams

By Pratibha R DH,

Book cover of Child of Paradise: Listen to your Dreams

What is my book about?

It looked like the universe finally heard her wishes when Tia meets Ron, her secret crush all throughout school. Ron is equally besotted now and everything seems just so perfect…if not for Rianna, her sister, who doesn’t want her to be with Ron.  The bizarre part of it all was that Rianna was no longer alive! Tia was haunted by dreams of her sister who kept warning her of Ron. 

The police closing off her sister’s case as suicide had left Tia deeply perturbed and broken that never seemed to heal. Will she be able to fulfill her sister’s last wish? Will she make the right choice between love and justice? Find out more in this story of corporate ambition, greed, lust, and betrayal. 

30 Days Of Night

By Steve Niles,

Book cover of 30 Days Of Night

The graphic novel is one rush of scares and thrills. Set in the city of Barrows, Alaska where the sun doesn’t rise for thirty days during winter, the place becomes the perfect grounds (feasting, that is) for a group of vampires. And these monsters aren’t sparkling and pretty by any stretch. It’s up to Sheriff Eben Olemaun to survive with a group of townspeople, but the how and they why they do is one great story, aided by atmosphere illustrations.

Who am I?

As a writer of murder mysteries, it goes without saying I’m a fan of whodunits. But I’m also a fan of horror stories and those tales that keep me turning pages and looking into the shadows. So in my newest book, I wanted to combine the two. That is, mixing scares and thrills with a whodunit and adding a big dose of Latino culture and characters. In a lot of my work, I write about the culture with which I grew up. I also love to tap into the Mexican myths and folk stories I heard as a kid then revamping and retelling them into something new.

I wrote...

Under the Blood Moon

By Patricia Marcantonio,

Book cover of Under the Blood Moon

What is my book about?

Guadalupe, New Mexico is usually a pretty quiet town. That is until everything starts going to hell with a series of bizarre murders. Not to mention, a demon gives birth at a park. A boy disappears in the middle of a swimming pool. Rattlesnakes invade the town. Asked by his best friend, the sheriff, to assist in the investigation, Prosecutor Matthew Riley suspects a high-end resort development is at the heart of the crimes. But he also discovers a conspiracy of the living has opened the door for an ancient evil seeking revenge for old and new betrayals that threaten his own family.

Off Season

By Jack Ketchum,

Book cover of Off Season

Ketchum’s classic survival horror novel about cannibals attacking a cabin of vacationers is pure 80s slasher goodness. It was perhaps the darkest book of its kind for a long time and pulls no punches with the intensity of its chase scenes. Ketchum’s economical writing style makes it a very easy read, one where you will root for the good guys, and be left emotionally drained by the end.

Who am I?

I’ve always been a fan of horror because a good scare makes the adrenaline flow. Personally, I don’t think ghosts and demons are real, and they don’t scare me. But humans…humans can be downright evil. This is why I gravitate toward serial killer and slasher fiction when I’m looking for a scare. Sometimes I just want to test my endurance for the dark side of human nature. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to write a really depraved book without taking the time to make the reader care about the characters, which is why these novels are my favorite works of darkness. These are great, disturbing books with genuine pathos.

I wrote...

The Summer I Died: The Roger Huntington Saga, Book 1

By Ryan C. Thomas,

Book cover of The Summer I Died: The Roger Huntington Saga, Book 1

What is my book about?

Dubbed one of “The Most Intense Horror Novels” ever written by many thriller review sites, The Summer I Died is the first book in the Roger Huntington saga and a cult classic among fans of dark thriller fiction. Best friends, Roger and Tooth, are shooting beer cans at Bobcat Mountain, catching up on lost time, thinking about their futures, when they are suddenly thrust into the middle of a nightmare. Forced to fight for their lives against a sadistic serial killer, they must decide: are heroes born, or are they made? says “You’re in for a surprise!” and says, “If you want to freak yourself out on your next camping trip, you can’t really do any better than The Summer I Died!”

Girl Waits with Gun

By Amy Stewart,

Book cover of Girl Waits with Gun

Okay, this one is a stretch because it takes place during the years just prior to the Roaring Twenties. But it’s such a winner, I couldn’t resist including it. Stewart is a gifted writer and her research is impeccable. I was fascinated to learn that, unlike the fictional characters in the books mentioned above, the three Kopp sisters were very real. Constance Kopp was New Jersey’s first female deputy sheriff and her sisters led similarly unusual lives for their time. Her notes at the end where she explains her research are, for me, as entertaining as the story itself. So far the Kopp sisters have seven books, and I’m betting that the eighth will push the timeline into the 1920s. Do not miss this marvelously entertaining historical series! 

Who am I?

Historical fiction, specifically historical mysteries, is my favorite category whether I’m reading for pleasure or writing my own stories, and the decade of the Roaring Twenties is certainly the most colorful era in American history. As a historian, I want to learn; as a writer, I want to teach. But—and this is a big “but”—it’s critical that historical novels are both accurate and subtle. If I find the author has misrepresented the history or larded the story, I’m done. Which is why I can recommend the following five Roaring Twenties series. All feature characters that grow as the series progresses so it’s best to begin at the beginning and proceed mostly in order.

I wrote...

The Mystic's Accomplice

By Mary Miley,

Book cover of The Mystic's Accomplice

What is my book about?

It's 1924, and Maddie Pastore has it made. A nice house, a loving husband with a steady job - even if it is connected to Chicago's violent Torrio-Capone gang - and a baby on the way. But then Tommy is shot dead, and she learns her husband had a secret.

Penniless and grieving, Maddie is only sure of two things: that she will survive for the sake of her baby, and that she'll never turn to the mob for help. So when she's invited to assist a well-meaning but fraudulent medium, she seizes the chance. When Maddie unearths potential evidence of a dark crime she faces a terrible dilemma: keep quiet and let a murderer go unpunished, or follow the trail and put herself and her baby in danger . . .

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of The Killer Inside Me

This is one of my favorite books by Thompson. The thing that really hooked me in with this book is that the protagonist and killer in the book is a sheriff. On the surface he appears to be a dull, by-the-book law enforcer, but Lou Ford is harboring a dark side that has been with him since childhood. The idea of one who is supposed to protect probably being the most dangerous and violent person in town is quite intriguing to me. There is an extra element of danger added because of the killer’s profession. I also appreciate that Thompson connected the past with what is driving the killer to act out against his victims. 

Who am I?

I have a passion for killers in fiction because...well, they're just tons of fun if done right. At one point in my life, real \-life serial killers were very intriguing to me, and though that interest has wane a bit, I still have a strong appreciation for an interesting murderers in fiction. When writing my book, A Shepherd of Wolves, I was heavily influenced by a few works that featured serial killers in lead roles and showed them as complete people. The books I am recommending all had some sort of impact on the story I wanted to tell in my own work. 

I wrote...

A Shepherd of Wolves

By R.J. King,

Book cover of A Shepherd of Wolves

What is my book about?

Edmund Glass has never fit in. His neighbors find him odd and few have ever gotten to truly know him. After years of tempering his appetite, he finally gives in to the beast, taking a life and consuming the victim. Soon, he can’t control himself, taking victim after victim and leaving what’s left of the remains scattered around the small town of St. Anna, South Carolina. Detective Raymond Wright didn’t think a serial killer would ever show up in his hometown, but as Edmund’s body count grows, the detective must question everyone and everything if he’s going to catch a killer who is committing unthinkable acts.

Fools Rush in

By Kristan Higgins,

Book cover of Fools Rush in

This book was Higgins’ debut and holy moly does it deliver! It’s endearing but not in a sappy way, sweet but not to the point of annoyance, swoony but not in a “I need Lava Soap" way, and most importantly it’s laugh-out-loud funny! Just like her many other books since, her characters are perfectly flawed with makes them beyond relatable and oh-so addictive! A great book to get to know this author!

Who am I?

I love to laugh. Quite often it’s at inappropriate times or at someone else’s expense, but either way, it’s a huge part of who I am. Second only to prayer, I find laughter to be the best remedy for a difficult situation. It’s hard to be sad when you’re laughing, and as a writer who puts characters into very challenging positions, that’s always at the forefront of my mind. While readers may not always relate to the exact circumstance my characters are in, they may very well find common ground in the levity they seek when trying to survive it.

I wrote...

See Jane Snap

By Bethany Crandell,

Book cover of See Jane Snap

What is my book about?

Handsome, successful husband. Adorable daughter. Chairmanship on the PTA. Security for her ailing mom. Jane’s got everything life has to offer. Including the lie that could destroy it all.

See Jane Snap is a laugh-out-loud story of a woman who’s committed to faking it ‘til she makes it…or loses her mind trying.

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