Ladies, has this ever happened to you?
You are knee deep in the busiest, most frantic month of the year – oh, let’s call it January. You have mountains of responsibilities, from tending to the needs and emotional meltdowns of over a hundred people, most of them children, in pursuit of a finished goal (the winter musical) to handling the day-to-day meltdowns of another hundred people, most of them children, in pursuit of a higher goal (their education). You find yourself bombarded with e-mails, all of them requiring your prompt attention, and then you have to handle the thousand details prompted by questions from your lighting, costume, and sound designers. You essentially give up on the “higher goal” as the show demands your constant attention. And when the it finally opens, you have to contend with a fever that is making its way through the cast and crew. And all you want to do is lie in bed, eating the gluten free equivalent of bon bons, and trying to make a dent in the 795 books in your TBR pile. Kate reads a mystery a day. JJ reads three a week. All you ask for is the time to read one . . . lousy . . . book.
Calvin, take me away . . .
Be careful what you wish for.
Having foolishly believed that I could tag a slight case of the sniffles in mid-January as My Winter Cold, I woke up early in the am this Tuesday with a bad cough. This has kept me home for the past three days, and I figured that this could be my Calgon moment, a chance for me to bury myself in a nice, distracting book. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.
I could blame the cough. I hate coughing because I do it so well. No slight “kaff kaff” for me, in the manner of Garbo’s Camille. No, my cough is the Sarah Phelps version of Camille – deep, ugly and convulsive. It utterly exhausts me and yet – I can’t sleep because I’m coughing. And quite frankly, I hate lying in bed when I’m sick. I tend to go a little stir crazy when stuck at home at the best of times; a cold makes me go plumb loco, pardner.
I could blame Donald Trump. I blame him for pretty much every sad feeling I have these days, and being home as the end of the impeachment trial unfolded was no picnic. Plus, there was the State of the Union address/reality show, which I managed to skip (but I’ve watched the meme of Nancy Pelosi tearing up Trump’s speech a dozen times!) Add to this the fiasco that was the Iowa caucus, and you could find a few distractions from reading.
Really, though, I blame the books.
Book Collection A to C, guarded over by Jemima the Giraffe
Ever since I entered this blogging community, I have purchased so . . . many . . . damn . . . books that I don’t know what to do! My mystery collection spills over into every room of the house, and space is tight, even with the trick of creating double rows for a single author that JJ taught me. There’s a growing collection on my Kindle as well. In short, there is a plenitude of reading material to choose from . . . except nothing is quite working out. Maybe the cold has dulled my enjoyment of crime fiction in the way it has staunched my appetite, but everything bores me. That revived British author of the moment? Boring. That hot new unreliable narrator tome that already has a movie deal? Boring. That classic honkaku where all the girls get chopped into pieces? Repellent and boring.
Book collection D – Queen.
Someone has trounced my Ellery Queens. Was it the cat – or JJ??
Maybe my mucus-addled brain couldn’t tolerate the interweavings of a clever mystery plot. Maybe I needed something different – a non-fiction take on the mystery. Fortunately, I had my birthday present right at hand: The Hooded Gunman, John Curran’s coffee table-sized take on the history of the Collins Crime Club.
If John had written nothing more than the two volumes describing Agatha Christie’s notebooks, he would still be an idol of mine. I met John when I attended the last Bodies from the Library. We had a lovely conversation about Christie. When John spoke at the conference about two little known Irish crime writers, including D.M Devine, I went right out and bought Devine’s masterpiece, My Brother’s Killer. (It’s standing on the shelf in my bedroom, erm, still unread.)
Collection (with guard): oversize, Quentin – So, Christie audios.
The Hooded Gunman is a mystery reader’s dream: it begins with a concise history of how the Collins Crime Club developed, then offers a decade by decade look at trends in writing, all of this accompanied by every cover ever published. In terms of the trove of cover art it displays alone, it is a treasure. The best part of all, for me, is that nearly half the book is made up of the cover blurbs for every one of these books, approximately two thousand titles.
Collection Stout – Z, plus the start of mystery film collection.
My one caveat is that I have reached the age where I have issues with the size of the print in that all-important back section. But it is unmitigated pleasure to read descriptions of books and authors both familiar and unknown, to revel in the political incorrectness of an earlier time, and to see what sold in those days. I also found it fascinating to see which authors were not published by Collins: Christianna Brand, for one. John Dickson Carr for another.
Living room books (there’s Kate lying on the top!)
Surely, though, this was the book to peruse as I made my way through thermoses of tea and multiple boxes of Kleenex.
Of course, it all turned out to be a huge mistake.
If you place my book list next to that of the CCC, I figure I own, what? – five or six percent of the books listed here. Who knows how many of the other 95% is a must read or a lost title? Sure as shooting, some of these will be re-released as part of the ongoing renaissance of classic crime. And then where will I be? Can I fit a bookshelf on the stair landing? Should I consider removing the dining room furniture and creating Study #2? Do I move to bigger digs?
General reference and . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . miscellaneous
Thank you, John, for creating this headache to compete with the sinus pressure I’m currently experiencing. I’m thrilled that I will get to see you at the sixth Bodies conference this 4th of July, just so I can give you a piece of my mind.