I thought this would be a slam-dunk subject, but, like many of my assumptions, this one proved to be wrong.
What’s so hard about what I am currently reading? The problem is that I am a book addict. Discussing my odd reading habits is like watching someone raid the refrigerator at midnight. All that cake and miscellaneous leftovers headed to the mouth isn’t something anyone wants on YouTube. Nonetheless, this is the Age of the Internet, and I better get with the program. I won’t make you suffer through my breakfast menu, but I will barrage you with titles.
The last few weeks have been the poster child for self-indulgent book addiction. Colin Cotterill’s Curse of the Pogo Stick with his seventy-ish Laotian coroner is a fine example of a good mystery laced with wit as well as murder. Anthony Berkeley’s Roger Sheringham and the Vane Woman is a classic Golden Age but a revelation to me since I hadn’t read him before. What a master of twists, clever dialogue, and tongue in cheek jokes about mystery writing! For those who think classic = dust dry, try him.
Those were two mysteries, but I read other books like Donald Bogle’s Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams. This is a history of African Americans in Hollywood. I have no idea if Bogle is a respected historian (deferring to Rita here), but he made the problems, compromises, courage, and tragedies crystal clear. One of my favorite stories was an early actress (who was in Birth of a Nation and remained a lifelong friend of Griffith) who changed her name to “Madame Sul-Te-Wan” so that those who insisted on calling her “Aunty” would still have to address her as “madam”.
On to the gossipy… I never was a Hemingway fan, although I concede he wrote a couple of good books. After reading Gioia Diliberto’s biography, Paris Without End: the True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife, I may dislike him even more. From the biographer’s viewpoint, he never should have divorced Hadley, although I might have been on his side when she lost all of his short stories. The last book I’ll mention is Alexandra Popoff’s The Wives: the Women Behind Russia’s Literary Giants. I had read her previous book on Sophia Tolstoy, so I knew I would have killed Leo had I been in her shoes. Anna Dostoevsky was a saint and handled Feodor’s gambling well, but who knew the Nabokovs shared such a passion for butterflies!
So why mention all the non-mysteries in a mystery blog? Because nothing you read is ever a waste of time. The lightest or least relevant book can spark an idea. Although my era in mysteries is medieval, I learn much about human nature from any biography or history.
So my time of rampant reading abandon is coming to an end. Time, soon, to get back to work. But the brain has been to the beach for a lovely holiday and, yes, I do have a couple of new ideas…