1. E.M. Dalton—my wife has published short fiction and poetry, so how can I not list her as the most influential writer in my life? We have been together since I was 20 and just celebrated our 23rd Anniversary. I think it is one of the great injustices of the world that I have been paid more to write piranha and frankenstein and bigfoot movies than she has to write fiction that could influence the human condition.
2. Robert Heinlein—I am afraid to go back and reread these books but as a kid I read and reread his novels, like Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Rocket Ship Galileo especially.
3. Mickey Spillane—my fevered teen years were spent discovering these, especially loving My Gun Is Quick and Kiss Me Deadly and Vengeance is Mine.
4. Joseph Heller—solely based on Catch-22 which I reread often as a teen and probably most influenced my writing now.
5. Cornell Woolrich—wrote haunting noir like Rendezvous in Black and The Bride Wore Black and was the sole ripoff/influence for my senior Honors Thesis at Ball State University, Deadlines, and my first attempt at an adult short story, Dead Wong.
6. John Lennon and Paul McCartney—especially Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Be and Abbey Road.
7. Chester B. Himes—I found him as an adult and loved his political, allegorical noir and would someday like to write something as good as The Heat's On or The Real Cool Killers.
8. David Gilmour and Roger Waters—especially Wish You Were Here, Meddle and The Final Cut.
9. Bob Dylan—especially Blood on the Tracks and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
10. Philip K. Dick—a raging genius who when great is untouchable; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and A Scanner Darkly and Clans of the Alphane Moon and The Man in the High Castle and Martian Time-Slip just the tip of the iceberg.
11. Joe Bob Briggs—in the early 80s I saw his funny movie reviews in a college newspaper that we used to receive in the newsroom when I worked at the Ball State Daily News—I think it was The Daily Texan--and had no idea who he was (for the longest time I thought he was a student—this is before the internet), but immediately tried to emulate his writing style.
12. Michael Tolkin—when I was trying to learn screenwriting I read a lot of bound screenplays that I checked out from the library, and really was influenced by the commentaries that he included; much later in life I blogged about this and was surprised to get a nice email from Michael Tolkin, and I have never forgotten him reaching out to me.
13. Samuel R. Delany—I am coming to him later in life but only wish I could write as imaginatively as him; Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand I think is a great novel that I wish I wrote but Nova ain’t slouching either.
14. Roger Ebert—when I was a kid I actually thought he was at the local PBS station in Muncie, Indiana; I worked there later and never saw him around. He is only growing in influence with his writing.
15. Haven Kimmel—I have to end where I began, with a writer I actually know, my wife’s best friend growing up and the first friend of hers I met when we married. She is a bestselling author who, strangely and possibly to her own detriment, has always cheered on my humble screenwriting career.
There’s fifteen, and if I did this again tomorrow I might juggle it a bit and include Terrence Rafferty, William Goldman, and Steve Gerber, but this is awful close.