A while back, I went through my semi-annual cleaning and de-entropification of my bookshelves. In doing so, I found several older books that I wanted to re-read. In particular, books by John MacDonald and Alistair Maclean caught my eye.
As I have re-read these books, I have found that a number of my friends are not familiar with the authors, which is a shame. Once an author dies and stops writing books, they kind of fall out of the public consciousness, unless you are Lawrence Sanders and have a post-humus "ghost" writer.
Now, I am not one to poopoo other people's choice of books. In fact, I am very familiar with the look of disdain I get from time to time as I am reading Tom Clancy or Steven King or even Terry Pratchett from someone who is shocked I am not reading Sartre or some other Faulkner-esque book that is gravid with meaning. However, I will tell you that not knowing these two authors is a lost joy, and an opportunity to have some real fun reading.
John MacDonald may not be known to most of the current generation, but he is to current writers. More modern novelists than you can shake a stick at have grown up influenced by MacDonald's prose. The place to begin is with his Travis McGee books, which are fabulously well written in addition to being fun to read and good mysteries to boot. Any one will do, but if you have a choice, you might try the Long Lavender Look (all of the McGee books have a color in the title)., which is consistently rated as one of his best. The Deep Blue Goodbye is the first of the series. I like Pale Grey for Guilt, because you see a little of MacDonald the Harvard MBA coming out, but other die hards don't like it as much. MacDonald was very prolific, and has written a number of other great books you might know better from movies and TV, including Slam the Big Door, Cape Fear, and Condominium.
Alistair Maclean is a different kind of writer. While his prose may not be as beautiful as MacDonald's, before there was Clancy or Crichton or even Ian Flemming there was Alistair Maclean. Maclean is best described as a writer of great adventure stories. My favorite is Where Eagles Dare, which actually is an awesome movie as well. A close second is Ice Station Zebra. Both of these share in common a lot of action and a ton of twists and turns - those who were confused by Mission Impossible need not apply. Other great books include Guns of Navaronne, Breakheart Pass , Puppet on a Chain, HMS Ulysses, and Fear is the Key. Breakheart Pass was particularly good, with a great story set in the old west, and Puppet on a Chain is perhaps his very best taut suspense novel, though it is about the only one on the list that was not made into a movie.