|photo: Madison Parker
In his work, Rick R. Reed explores the romantic entanglements of gay men. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of novels, novellas and short stories, including Dinner at Home (Dreamspinner Press, May 9, 2014). Lambda Literary Review described him as "a writer that doesn't disappoint." Reed lives in Seattle, Wash., with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier.
On your nightstand now:
I just finished Catherine Ryan Hyde's When I Found You and was amazed at her depth of characterization and the simple kindness that radiated from the story. There was such complexity and depth of emotion in the novel that, by the end, I was sobbing. Right now, I'm reading Help for the Haunted by John Searles, a book that purports to be about paranormal activity, but what it's really about is families--what holds them together and tears them apart.
Favorite book when you were a child:
A passion for the movie version of The Wizard of Oz led me to the L. Frank Baum books. I'm old enough to recall that the broadcast of the movie every spring was a big event for my friends and me. This was before videotapes, DVRs and streaming, so you only had one chance each year to see the movie. I was delighted to find not only the book that inspired the movie in our local Carnegie library one Saturday, but the whole series of Oz books. I read them all, then started over and read them all again.
Your top five authors:
Ruth Rendell: The doyenne of British mystery, in my opinion. She is an astute observer of the human condition and that comes through in her suspenseful, well-crafted and gripping books, which transcend genre. Her books really should be classified as literature and will be one day, I think.
Patricia Highsmith: No one shines a light on the darkest depths of the human spirit better than Highsmith. Her deceptively simple prose exposes us at our worst and leaves us aching for redemption, which she may or may not allow us to have.
Flannery O'Connor: Are you seeing a theme here? Dark women? Dark deeds? Twisted psyches? O'Connor is awe-inspiring in her homespun, yet gothic, short stories set in the South. Stories like "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" stick with me to this day and continue to influence me.
Stephen King: Okay, King himself has said he is the literary equivalent of McDonald's. But I think he's smart enough to know he's selling himself short. I've been reading him since I was a teenager and some of his work approaches the brilliant. Of any contemporary author, he is the one who will still be remembered a century from now. He is the Dickens of our times.
James Purdy: He's one of the best and most-underrated voices in 20th-century literature. His prose is lyrical and unique. His stories explore the human longing for connection with such incredible poetry and depth that they remain imprinted on one's brain long after reading.
Book you've faked reading:
Honestly, I don't know that I've faked reading anything. I like everything from trashy bestsellers to small, independent gems to the classics. I will admit that these days I have a predilection for the former. I just want to be entertained! Now, if you'd asked which book I wish I could read but have to admit I haven't a clue about, it would be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I tell everyone I know that my favorite book of all time and the one they must read (for its humor, its horror and its heart) is John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. The only reason I didn't list Toole above is because his life was cut so tragically short that we really have no body of work to consider. But Confederacy is ribald, hilarious, scorching and brilliant.
Book you've bought for the cover:
K.Z. Snow's novella Visible Friend has one of the most beguiling and intriguing covers I've ever seen. It's stark and beautiful and the words beneath the cover live up to cover artist Anne Cain's incredible artwork.
Book that changed your life:
James Purdy's In a Shallow Grave showed me that colloquial, ordinary speech could be both poetic and powerful. The book is, or should be, a classic of 20th-century American literature and demonstrated to me that a simple story illustrating the longing for human connection could be mesmerizing and, really, life-changing. This is one book that made me not only want to be a writer, but a good one.
Favorite line from a book:
"It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not."--Paul Auster, City of Glass. I am a connoisseur of first lines, and who couldn't keep reading after an opening like that? I love Auster's blend of the mystical and the real.
Which character you most relate to:
*Blush.* The first thing that came to mind was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I don't even know if it was in the book, but the last line of the movie, "There's no place like home," resonates so deeply with me, it's sort of a guiding principle. Because, really, what's more important that what that line encompasses?
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty gripped me totally when I read it at age 14. I want to see if it would have the same effect.