Houston is a literary hotbed with the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program, organizations like Inprint, Nuestra Palabra, Arte Publico Press, and others all calling H-town or the immediately surrounding area home. We have our fair share of successful novelists, here's our list of the top ten.
First a few words about some people who aren't on the list. Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist, is getting lots of praise for her debut novel about the personal awakening of a young typist in a New York City police department precinct in the 1920s. We like the book, but Rindell isn't on our list because while currently a doctoral student in literature at Rice University, she lives in New York.
Elizabeth Black and Tom Abrahams are both getting buzz for their recent debuts, (Black's suspense novel The Drowning House and Abrahams' Sedition: A Political Thriller.) If this were a list of the top upcoming Houston authors, they'd certainly be on it. For now, let's say they made remarkable debuts and we expect big, big things from them both.
And then there's Gwendolyn Zepeda, who has published poetry, children's books and chick-lit. One of our favorite writers, Zepeda is Houston's first ever poet laureate. Her next upcoming title, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, is a book of poems. Ditto Sarah Cortez, whose new book is also poetry. (This is a list of novelists, sorry.)
10. Barbara Taylor Sissel Evidence of Life No list of Houston authors would be complete without a romance novelist - we're the home to the Romance Writers of America after all (the association was founded here in 1980). Sissel's Evidence of Life, about a woman struggling to cope after her husband and daughter disappear during a camping trip in the Texas Hill Country, was released by Harlequin MIRA in March. Her first novel, The Ninth Step, was published in 2011 (she released a total of three books that year).
9. Larry Watts Cheating Justice League City resident Larry Watts spent 20 years in law enforcement. His on-the-streets experience translates into hard-hitting, gritty crime novels.
8. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Oleander Girl Divakaruni, a professor in UH's Creative Writing Program, tells the story of a young woman raised by her traditional family in India who moves to America after 9/11 in her latest release Oleander Girl.
7. David Berg Run, Brother, Run A lawyer with offices in Houston and New York, Berg's Run, Brother, Run recounts the murder of his brother, Alan Berg by hitman Charles Harrelson (actor Woody Harrelson's father) in 1968.
6. Katherine Center The Lost Husband A woman's life is transformed when her husband dies suddenly and she moves to the Texas Hill Country. To live on a goat farm.
5. Justin Cronin The Twelve Fans loved Cronin's horror novel The Twelve. So did filmmaker Ridley Scott who optioned it for development. Cronin fans are a bit in a tiff right now, though. Seems his next release is 2014, which readers have deemed as much too long to wait.
4. Kerrelyn Sparks Less than a Gentleman The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo Paranormal/historic romance novelist Kerrelyn Sparks has two books coming up in the next few months. One is a follow-up to The Forbidden Lady and set in the Civil War. The other part of the Love at Stake series featuring a Scottish vampire in a kilt. Ah, wanna guess which one has a bit of comedy in it? 3. Kathryn Casey Deadly Little Secrets: The Minister, His Mistress, and a Heartless Texas Murder Casey's crime novels are often set in Texas. Her journalist background comes in handy when she has to pour over hundreds of pages of court transcripts, looking for the perfect quote or revealing detail.
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2. ReShonda Tate Billingsley A Family Affair Rumor Central The Motherhood Diaries Friends & Foes (with Victoria Christopher Murray) A former newscaster, Billingsley may just be one of the most successful authors in Texas. She's got some 30 titles to her credit, several of which have been optioned for movie and production deals. She's also among the state's most prolific. She's got four (count 'em, four) titles being released in 2013.
1. Dean James Out of Circulation (Cat in the Stacks Mystery) Local author Dean James doubles as a librarian and bookseller. With a handful of pseudonyms, James writes cozies (mysteries where somebody gets killed, but without a lot of blood and gore). His latest title features a librarian/sleuth who has a big Maine coon cat for a sidekick. (We miss his comedic Simon Kirby-Jones series which featured a gay vampire. Come back Simon!)