It's probably not surprising that male readers might take a pass these days on mysteries written by women authors, seeing as how so many of them involve adorably quirky female leads enmeshed in cutesy romantic subplots.
But male readers who have found themselves overcome with cute might want to check out best-selling author Karin Slaughter, whose latest thriller, "Fallen" (Delacorte Press, $26), features her characteristically complex characters, gritty realism and tight writing.
Not to mention a chapter that evokes -- in intense, chilling, skin-crawling detail -- what would probably be going through your mind if you're ever being held captive by thuggish kidnappers who have seen too many stupid movies.
Slaughter will visit Las Vegas on Tuesday for a talk and book signing at the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road. There, she'll discuss writing and one of her pet causes: the importance of America's public libraries.
During a recent phone interview, Slaughter -- speaking from Georgia with a voice filled with smoky Southern sass and sharp wit -- is asked how she would describe her work.
"I always say 'thriller,' " Slaughter answers, even though "if they see you're a woman -- and you're a blond woman -- people assume you're writing about cats and romances where somebody has died."
"They always think 'romantic suspense,' " Slaughter adds, which is "sad, because there are so many good women writers" -- she names Lisa Gardner, Mo Hayder, Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs off the top of her head -- "who are writing very meaty stories with very multilayered characters, and I just kind of cringe when I think about the fact that you don't seem to celebrate them as much."
Unlike, maybe, some authors we could name, but ...
"I'm going to name a name," Slaughter interrupts. "Janet Evanovich. She writes the same book over and over, and I read every single one of them and eagerly anticipate them."
She laughs. "And I shouldn't say that because we publish on the same day. Get mine at the bookstore and get hers at the library."
But, Slaughter says, "I don't have disdain for things in that genre, because it's a talent I could not duplicate. I love it that so many people, the majority of them women, get such a wonderful experience from reading that, but the fact is 80 percent of all book buyers are women.
"So, obviously, we are interested in diverse stories, and we can be interested in Ken Follett or (Lee Child's character) Jack Reacher," Slaughter says, while "men are more particular, and they're not going to grab something with a bodice-ripper cover on it.
"I have a lot of men who will say to me, 'I don't read books by women, but I like you.' I'm thinking, 'Gosh, think of all the books you're missing because you don't read books by women.' Conversely, if I said to you, 'I don't read books by men,' you'd think I'm some kind of lesbian man-hater, but a man can say it and it reinforces his masculinity somehow."
"When I do the event in Las Vegas, it will be interesting to see, because I think anywhere from 30 (percent) to 50 percent of my audience is men now," Slaughter says. "And it started out just guys whose wives would say, 'OK, you've got to go to the bookstore' ... and the guys are looking bored and, after hearing the first chapter, say, 'I think I'm going to go and read your book.' "
Slaughter writes what fans know as the Grant County series (set in a small Georgia town with characters that include a woman coroner/physician) and a series set in Atlanta featuring agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The characters have crossed over between series, however, and "Fallen" continues that trend with Will Trent and Faith Mitchell from the latter interacting with Sara Linton from the former.
The crossovers "sort of began to happen when I wrote (2006's) 'Triptych,' my first book, with Will Trent," Slaughter says. "I knew Will Trent would eventually meet some of the people from Grant County."
It's no gimmick. Rather, Slaughter says, "it's just my goal to deliver the best story I can, and I want to make sure each book is better than the last, and in order to do that I have to take chances. It was my grand design of making sure I wasn't 60 and writing the same book over and over again."
In addition to writing, Slaughter is passionate about libraries. America's libraries "need help," she says. "They are all in dire straits and not many people realize that, and not many people know how important libraries are to communities."
To raise both funding for and awareness of libraries, Slaughter has spearheaded the creation of Save the Libraries (SaveTheLibraries.com). The organization's first benefit, for the DeKalb County Public Library in Georgia, raised more than $50,000, and a second, to benefit the Boston Public Library, is scheduled for October.
Slaughter has written about how, when she showed an interest in reading as a child, her father -- who grew up in poverty in a family of nine children -- took her to the local library and told her that she could read any book she saw as long as she promised to talk to him if she read something that she didn't understand.
It was, Slaughter writes, "the greatest gift my father gave me. Though he was not a reader himself, he understood that reading is not just an escape. It is access to a better way of life."
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.