Philip José Farmer Recommends

Farmer's short story The Volcano was written under the name Paul Chapin (one of his many fictional author stories). Chapin was a character in the Rex Stout novel THE LEAGUE OF FRIGHTENED MEN. I checked out this book-on-tape from my library and enjoyed the story so much I went back and listened to the first Nero Wolfe mystery FER-DE-LANCE. I then checked out about twenty more Nero Wolfe books-on-tape and then read the last twenty five or so Nero Wolfe novels. They are now my all-time favorite mystery series and in a couple of years, when the details begin to fade from memory, I will read the entire series again.

Reading Phil's introduction to the Dennis McMillan printing of HOUSE OF CAIN, by Arthur Upfield, led me to read several of Upfield's Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mysteries. I will read more of them as I can find them. Reading Phil's The Problem of the Sore Bridge-Among Others got me interested in the original tales of Raffles the gentleman burglar, by E.W. Hornung. I have now read them all.

And it isn't just the writers of Phil's youth that he has turned me on to. Phil once told me that one of his favorite mystery writers is Carl Hiaasen and that his own mystery novel NOTHING BURNS IN HELL, was written in a similar style. I have read about half of Hiaasen's novels and plan on reading the rest of them before the end of the year.

All of this is an explanation of how this page came to be. Phil has exposed me to so many great authors—that I most likely would have never come across without his influence—that I thought it would be a good idea to share this type of information with his fans. So I called Phil and asked him if he would do a monthly update on the web page, most often asked to name his ten favorite something or another.

I will not be asking him to name his ten favorite science fiction writers. That hits too close to home and would probably be as hard for him answer as if we asked him to pick his five favorite grand-kids. We may ask him more specific questions like, name your ten favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, but nothing where feelings might be hurt because he left someone off a list. Below are the results, I hope you find this as interesting as I do.

Click here to see blurbs from Philip José Farmer on book covers.

I asked Phil to come up with a list of his ten favorite mystery writers. I gave him a two weeks to think about it and then I called him back. This is what he said:

Dashiell Hammett

Raymond Chandler, especially THE BIG SLEEP.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Paul Auster, his New York trilogy (CITY OF GLASS, GHOSTS, THE LOCKED ROOM) is wonderful.

Carl Hiaasen, DOUBLE WHAMMY was the first one Phil read and still is his favorite.

Arthur Upfield, the Inspector Napolean Bonaparte mysteries are great.

Janwillem Van de Wetering, his series of police procedures set among dutch police.

Rex Stout, the Nero Wolfe books of course.

G.K. Chesterton, the Father Brown's mysteries are great, he is a marvelous writer.

Dorothy Sayers, the Lord Peter Whimsey mysteries.

Maj Sjöwall & Pers Wahlöö, a husband and wife team of Swedish writers, they write mysteries about Sweden as a socialist country. Very well written.

He actually gave me eleven answers instead of ten. I don't know if these authors are in order by most favorite, in the order he thought of them, or in no order at all. I don't know about you but there were several surprises there for me. I had never heard of Paul Auster, Janwillem Van de Wetering and Maj Sjöwall & Pers Wahlöö but I plan on checking them out. I have not read anything by G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers yet either, but I will.

This question is a variation on the old high school question; "if you were going to be stuck on a desert island for ten years, and could only have ten albums to listen to, what would they be? I asked Phil; if you were going to be stuck on an island for twenty years and all you had for entertainment were the complete works of ten authors, who would those authors be? Phil sent the answers below, and just like last month, there are some surprises.

Mark Twain

A. Conan Doyle

Alexandre Pere Dumas

H. Rider Haggard

Paul Auster

Charles Bukowski

Thomas Pynchon

The Complete Arabian Nights

Theodore Roscoe

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Directly because of Phil's influence I have already read some of Dumas and Haggard. Once again Thomas Pynchon and Paul Auster appear on the list, and I have not read either of them, an oversight I will soon remedy. Also, I was just rereading a recent interview with Phil where he was asked about the state of science fiction today. He replied that he didn't read very much science fiction anymore, he mostly read books about science, history and works by Pynchon and Auster.

Phil took last month's question and ran with it. When he sent me the above list, he also sent me the list below, which is; ten single books he would want to be stranded on a desert island with. I think picking ten books is much harder than picking the comptete works of ten authors, and I plan on reading everyone of these books.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

The Brothers Karamazov, by F. Dostoyevsky

Journey to the end of Night, by Louis-Ferdinand Celine

A Voyage To Arcturus, by David Lindsay

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell

The Tropic of Capricorn, by Henry Miller

Nada the Lily, by H. Rider Haggard

The Nova Express, by William Burroughs

The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon

V. by Thomas Pynchon

For this month's question I asked Phil what he thought were the ten most influential science fiction novels. What I got was a longer list but we did stray outside of science fiction and off the topic a bit. He instead sent the novels that he feels influenced him the most when he read them as a kid.

Mark Twain:
Huckleberry Finn
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court
Pudd'nhead Wilson
The Mysterious Stranger
Captain Stormfield's Visit To Heaven

Jules Verne:
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
The Mysterious Island
From The Earth to the Moon

H.G. Wells:
The Time Machine

Edgar Rice Burroughs:
Tarzan of the Apes
A Princess of Mars
The Warlord of Mars
The Mucker

Jack London's short stories and novels

H. Rider Haggard:
Nada the Lily
King Solomon's Mines

I've decided that for next month, rather than asking weighty questions about influential books, I have simply asked him to name his ten favorite science fiction novels, or stories, written after 1952.

This month Phil didn't really have any good answers to the question I asked him (above) so I just asked him to recommend anything he thought would be of interest, and here is the result:

I recommend reading Japanese science fiction authors such as Kobo Abe and Haruki Murakami. Kobo Abe has written THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES and THE FACE OF ANOTHER among many other clasasics. These two were made into famous movies, both of which I highly recommend.

Murakami's THE WIND UP BIRD CHRONICLE, the first of a trilogy, is a realistic fantasy covering much of Japan and some choice bits of Japanese history in this (20th) century. These above novels should lead you to more fabulous stories by the same authors and enrich your minds.

This type of thing shows why I was so nervous the first time I went to Phil's house to interview him. The man has read everything, he knows about everything, he can be very hard to keep up with.

THE PASTEL CITY, by M John Harrison
"Harrison makes a tone poem of the far distant future where men and creatures which delight and terrify the imagination fight in the never-ceasing battle of good against evil."

THE IRON DREAM, by Norman Spinrad
"Hitler's fierce belief in his parallel univers over-powers your sense of credibility ... and transports you into the very heart of horro ... this book should give him the kind of immortality he deserves!"

THE LAST WESTERN, by Thomas S. Klise
"Idiosyncratic, wildly logical, superbly imaginative, deeply moving."

ISLE OF THE DEAD, by Roger Zelazny
"Zelazny, telling of gods and wizrds, uses magical words as if he were himself a wizard. He reaches into the subconcious and invokes archetypes to make the hair rise on the back of your neck. Yet these archetypes are transmuted into a science fiction world that is as believable - and as awe inspiring - as the world you now live in. Zelazny, like any writer worth his salt, or any human being who isn't afraid to think, wrestles with immortality and dares the numinous."

"Panshin, a young Ancient Mariner, dramatizes the struggles involved in getting rid of the albatross - our immaturity. In a send, this book is a parabolic sequel to Darwin, Panshin's Ascent of Man."

"This is a series I enjoy very much."

DRAGONWORLD, by Byron Preiss and J. Michael Reaves
"The text of Dragonworld is as charming and faerylike as the illustrations. I loved both, and I bid bon voyage to this novel of dragons, coldrakes, heroes, and quests. The book is indeed a magic casement."

THE STARS ARE THE STYX, by Theodore Sturgeon
"If the stars are the Styx, then Sturgeon is Charon. You pay your money and get on his boat—hang tight!—you're off on a journey you'll never forget. You'll see both Hell and the Elysian Fields."

SONG FROM THE STARS, by Norman Spinrad
"Remarkable ... beautiful ... this is one of the truly uplifting works I've read ... not a false word uttered."

SOFTWARE, by Rudy Rucker
"One of my all-time favorite writers. He warms the cockles of my heart and fires up the little gray cells."

NO ENEMY BUT TIME, by Michael Bishop
"When I was a youngster, I read London's BEFORE ADAM and Crump's "Og" books. I've been enthralled ever since by tales of pre-Homo sapiens. NO ENEMY BUT TIME is the best fictional re-creation of these I've come across. It makes a glowing reality of the dry bones of this field."

WEST OF EDEN, by Harry Harrison
"Brilliant...a hell of a gripping story."

CIRCUMPOLAR!, by Richard A. Luppoff
"Circumpolar! is beyond circumspection. It's unlimited fun and ingenuity. Certainly it's no circumcision of the imagination. Wrap yourself around this book."

TALES FROM THE SPACEPORT BAR, by George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer
"How I love reading these beer-and-skittles, gourmet bar-and-club tall ales!"

KISS YOUR ASS GOOD-BYE, by Charles Willeford
"'What is Truth?' Pontius Pilate said. Willeford has answered him in his many works, including Kiss Your Ass Good-Bye. This is a grim but funny drama taking place in South Florida, the boot camp of Hell."

"Brutal yet lyrical, THE CHILDREN OF HAMELIN strips off the surface to expose the heart and guts of humanity."

"This is the kind of novel I long to find yet seldom do. Desolation Road is a rara avis... Extraordinary and more than that!"

THERE ARE DOORS, by Gene Wolfe
"THERE ARE DOORS is another splendid example of what I call the Loop-the-Lupine school of writing. Gene Wolfe is its originator and sole practitioner. His works are always singular and brilliant, the rare kind you read until you're at the end, everything else going to hell while you read."

"I wholeheartedly recommend this Mission Impossible/Philip Marlowe/Mike Hammer/John Milton Faith Opera."

PORNUCOPIA, by Piers Anthony
"Pornucopia is one of the greatest f---ing novels I have ever read. Extrememly imaginative and sexually extrapolative, and very amusing."

PRINCE OF CHAOS, by Roger Zelazny
"The Old Master, Roger Zelazny (I can remember when he was the Young Master), brings order to the Prince of Chaos and does so most lyrically and powerfully. He also solves some of the mysteries his devoted readers (among whom am I) have been wondering about. Let there be light, and let there always be Roger Zelazny."

THE BRAZEN RULE, by Steven Burgauer
"Burgauer's THE BRAZEN RULE is tightly plotted, has excellent characters, and shows basic human nature as it is, a thirst for power."

"An Exaltation of Larks is a splendid macroscopic and microscopic novel, the kind of cosmic-idea science fiction we readers lust for but seldom get."

GREENHOUSE SUMMER, by Norman Spinrad
"Spinrad is famous for writing realistic and scary science fiction with outstanding characters. This is his most frightening work. Its apocalyptic scenarios and powerful ending seem inevitable in the real world. Though Spinrad is a unique writer, this book also reminds me of certian aspects of the works of Kobo Abe, Haruki Murakami, and Ferdinand Celine. Highly recommended."

WORSE THAN DEATH, by Sherry Gottlieb
"Worse than Death intrigues me. It's inventive and very amusing. Highly recommended."

ANIMIST, by Eve Forward
"Eve Forward's Animist is mentally and emotionally stimulating and sails along like a China-tea clipper, propelled by the winds of high invention."

"The Astonished Eye is not only about mysteries, it is about the Mystery. It deals with the sacred."

"I'm an old and weary book reader, but Tracy Knight's The Astonished Eye is a gripping page-turner ... always inventive and twisting and turning in unexpected but logical directions ... a deep pleasure."

A TARZAN CHRONO-LOG (Second Edition), by Alan Hanson
"Just wanted to tell you that I use your Chrono-log a lot and get much information and entertainment from it. I wonder at it--so much labor of love in it."