In the last few weeks, I read a few books – mainly mysteries, mainly recent material. I followed some serials that I already knew, and I started a new series. I tried to write a review of each one for Blogcritics. I don’t want to turn this blog into a book review blog, and Blogcritics wants the text so that’s where the reviews have gone.
Since the second week of September, I read Retro, The Bookman’s Promise, Tularosa, Mexican Hat, Echo Burning, The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St. Germain and The Priestly Sins. I read Larry McMurtry’s Sin Killer, a surreal novel of historical fiction set in the American West in 1832 (review pending) and I am working on Nino Ricci’s The Lives of the Saints – Canadian literary fiction.
I also caught up on some magazine articles. I subscribe to Penguin Eggs, a comprehensive magazine devoted to Canadian Folk, with more than a little attention paid to the UK scene and World music. I subscribe to a Canadian History magazine.
I like mysteries and thrillers, and I have read a lot. I like them because they have a plot and a story. A lot of literary fiction is like abstract art – it only makes sense to critics and scholars. There are a few mystery writers who are simple superlative writers – Scott Turow, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, John LeCarre, Ian Rankin. Sometimes a journeyman develops into a fine writer – Sharyn McCrumb, Dana Stabenow. Sometimes a moderately good writer creates a character of great force and power as John D. MacDonald did with Travis McGee. Mysteries can be simple puzzle stories, but they often involve a very fine weighing of the souls of the villain and the hero who must enter the netherworld to vanquish the villain. The interogations in LeCarre’s Smiley novels, like “The Honourable School Boy” are insightful and finely nuanced studies in mutual deceit. There are moral issues on the use of force to achieve justice. The genre sometimes requires a degree of suspension of disbelief as the body counts mount, but that is a convention of the genre.
I am less impressed with the mediocre regional detectives, often spunky single women of indeterminate age including the belle of Richmond, Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta. Women like this should be too busy getting therapy to have time to solve crimes. And I can’t abide the pack of deformed and disabled detectives. They do not represent good models for the potential of handicapped persons, or good and realistic detectives.
My interests and appetites shift. For a few months I may pursue historicals like Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series or Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin. I like Stephen J. Gould essays, and have discovered David Quammen. I read some philosophy and theology.
I like the feel of a book in my hands, and flow of the story, and the excitement of finding a good story that draw me along. I admire a good writer. Time spent with a good book is never wasted.