On the road. My travels require purchasing paperbacks. My trenches must contain reading material.
All. The. Time.
I can’t go anywhere without a book. I’m obsessed. Well, anywhere beyond a trip to Walmart or the Dollar Store or out to dinner with friends.
If a trip’s involved I need a book. In case I’m stuck in a line somewhere or I can’t sleep at night. I feel better when I have a book, a nice little paperback that fits in my fanny pack. It gives me a sense of security. Sure, I always have a notebook, in case I get an idea for a story or see something I want for future reference—an interesting name for a river, ya know.
But I gotta have a book.
And it has to be a book I buy somewhere along the way.
I have more books in my house than I will read in what’s left of my lifetime. I could easily take one of those with me on the road. But that defeats the purpose of my literary journey. I have to buy a book along the way, and it has to be something I wouldn’t normally buy, an author I’ve never read. I force myself to widen my horizons.
During one trip I purchased George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream. He was in Louisville, and he signed the book for me, and we had a lovely chat. I own more than a few Martin novels now.
It’s also how I discovered Ed McBain and my love of reading—and now writing—police procedurals. Back in the day I read only science fiction and fantasy and I worked for a company that produced role-playing games. I was at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, flying to a game convention where I was to give lectures and such. I didn’t have a book with me and the flight was delayed. I strolled into one of the bookstores—O’Hare has a few—and decided I’d try something different. An Ed McBain 87th Precinct novel looked interesting. They didn’t have any fantasy or SF on the rack that caught my eye. I devoured it on the plane, and when I got back to Wisconsin I started buying more Ed McBains, relying on eBay to get the older out-of-print books. I even emailed him, and he graciously emailed me back. How awesome was it to correspond with Ed McBain? He told me he’d written one SF book, and that the genre was too difficult for him, so he stuck with crime novels. I have that SF book—Tomorrow and Tomorrow—and I’ve not read it yet. It’s one of my treasures.
I found Preston & Child at a different airport. It was their first book, Relic. I probably have all the Pendergast novels now, though not read in any particular order.
At a convention in Wisconsin I met Michael Connelly and bought The Black Echo. I’ve got all the Bosch books now. ALL OF THEM.
At a convention in Nashville, I bought books by Kevin O’Brien and Jaden Terrell…and have since purchased more from these talented wordsmiths.
Traveling is hazardous, as it can be expensive…books, they are not cheap, ya know…and they lead to buying more books and more books and…
There are other hazards: buying a bad book and being forced to read it because you’re on an airplane and have nothing else to do. You thought it would be good. You wanted it to be good. The blurbs on the back promised it would be good. The cover looked good. And yet it is abysmal. And yet you have to read it because you bought it and because you’re in the air. But you can leave it on your seat, unfinished, when you get off the plane…waiting there for some poor soul to pick it up.
Bentley Little writes horror; and I told myself I needed to read horror, expand my horizons. After all, I’d loved Fevre Dream, right? And I sometimes picked up a Stephen King. A Bentley Little book enticed me when I was in the Denver airport. I bought it, and was drawn in—
—until it got really, really, really squishy. So it isn’t fair for me to say his novels are abysmal. Some people like an inordinate amount of squish. I tried him a second time when I was in an airport in Oklahoma. I’d forgotten until I got into the book, then looked to see “other titles by,” that I’d previously tasted his prose. Oh, this one might be different, I thought. Again, the writing was shiny…until it got really, really, really squishy. Too graphic for my tastes. (Odd, eh, as I can dish out graphic violence.) Again, I left it on the plane, unfinished. I hope some later traveler enjoyed it.
I’m rambling. Hey, isn’t that what you do when you travel…ramble down the road?
My travels have broadened my taste in fiction, introduced me to authors I would not have otherwise considered…and maybe they led me here, to write mystery books. Without my travels I might not have strayed from buying strictly SF and fantasy. I certainly encourage others to pick up a new author on their jaunts.
I’ve a few out of state trips planned this year. Wonder what new books and authors I will discover along the way?