After repeated (and increasingly severe) purges of my library, I’m down to a couple of medium-size bookcases. A few hundred books at most. To keep a spot a book has to be one I can read over and over. Mostly crime fiction with a recurring character(s). In no particular order:
- Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly)
- Lucas Davenport (John Sandford)
- John Corey (Nelson DeMille)
- Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block)
- Travis McGee (John D. MacDonald)
That would be my starting bench but there’s some good folks on the bench:
- “Mac” McCorkle and Michael Paillo (Ross Thomas)
- Artie Wu and Quincy Durant (Ross Thomas)
- Spenser & Hawk (Robert B. Parker)
- Almost any protagonist in an Elmore Leonard novel
Footnote: I do NOT count any novel published after the author’s death (written by someone else). Don’t read them, don’t count them. Sacrilege.
Reflecting on the characters above, I’m reminded that I like a ruthless streak in my protagonists. In one of the Matthew Scudder novels, some guy jumped Scudder in an ally with the intention of killing him. While the bad guy was unconscious, Matt positioned his leg on a curb and fucked up his knee so the guy would never walk right again. Almost too painful to read.
Library Thing is an only database for keeping track of your books. And it does so much more than that. Today,for example, I discovered a page that illustrates the height of my books if stacked (higher than the Sphinx, shorter than the Statue of Liberty):
And that they would fill 21 U-Haul book boxes or 5 IKEA Billy bookcases. Or, if I tore the books apart and laid all the pages end to end, they would stretch for 13.25 miles.
Interesting, but not very useful. And then I found a page that listed all the characters in the books in my library. Now that is handy. Can’t remember one of the bad guys in a John D. MacDonald novel? You can find it here. [Boone “Boo” Waxwell, Bright Orange for a Shroud]
If you are daunted by the prospect of entering all of your books into the Library Thing database, I believe there are scanner apps for your smart phone.
Four years ago today I started jotting this stuff down. My first post was a quote from Carl Hiaasen’s novel, Basket Case, describing two types of journalists. I’m hardly a prolific blogger (just 1,800 posts in four years), but I’ve been reasonably consistent. I spent a few minutes browsing, trying to get a sense of what I thought was interesting or important enough to write about. My tags tell the story: Advertising, blogging, books, dogs, friends, family and home, journalism, radio, Kennett, movies, music, podcasting, Sheryl Crow, television and work. And death.
My father died in 2002 and my brother couldn’t get home from Indonesia in time for the funeral. I recorded the service and put it online so he could hear it. I said goodbye to Larry Joe and Mr. Rudy. I shared John D. Macdonald’s view of death and my own thoughts on reincarnation.
I posted a lot of quotes from books and lines from movies. Which was one of the reasons I started this journal. I discovered a fascination with tattoos I didn’t know I had. I wrote about shoes more than is probably healthy. And I felt it important to tell you about every dental check-up.
I stumbled across the term “podcasting” in October, 2004. In August of last year I moved from Blogger to Typepad. I met Steve Mays West.
I confessed that I thought I looked my best in theater restrooms. I sold the family home and got my best clue, if not my first. I shared some great blues; helped some friends start blogging and watched this little girl dance for hours on end.
I spent a lot of time feeding and caring for this beast. But it’s been good for me. Time well spent. I don’t want to spend too much time looking back but it’s nice to know I can.
On page 253 of John D. MacDonald’s Nightmare in Pink, Travis McGee shares his measurements: Jacket: 44 extra-long; Pants: 35 waist, 35 inseam; Shoes: 13C; Shirt: 17-35. I always pictured him as a larger man.
I’ve walked out on more than a few movies but I almost never fail to finish a novel. I try to get through even the dullest of books. But I just can’t finish Robert Tanenbaum’s latest Butch Karp novel, Fury. I loved this series and was puzzled and disappointed as I slogged through the first hundred pages of the latest in the series. I couldn’t believe the words were written by Robert Tanenbaum. Then I came across a mini-review (of a previous Karp novel that I somehow missed) on Amazon:
“Unlike the previous books in Tanenbaum’s oeuvre, this one lacks the skill and verve of Michael Gruber (Tropic of Night), the uncredited writer largely responsible for making the series come alive on the page. Whoever took over needs to learn the difference between telling and showing before he or she tackles the next in Tanenbaum’s series.”
Pardon me? What the fuck is an “uncredited writer?” Just how much of Tanenbaum’s novels were written by Mr. Gruber? This probably happens in the publishing world all the time and I’m too far out the sticks to know about it, but it sucks. I’ve read my last Butch Karp novel and will let you know how I enjoy Mr. Gruber’s work.
In the meantime, I’m cleansing myself with John D. MacDonald’s Nightmare In Pink.
“The dividing line is communication, I think. A friend is someone to whom you can say any jackass thing that enters your mind. With acquaintances, you are forever aware of their slightly unreal image of you, and to keep them content, you edit yourself to fit. Many marriages are between acquaintances. You can be with a person for three hours of your life and have a friend. Another one will remain an acquaintance for thirty years.”
— Bright Orange for the Shroud, John D. MacDonald (page 15)
“Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and you have to stand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you, are upriver from you. The younger one stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly moving down that river of time, washing away at the upstream end and building up downstream.
Your time, the time of all your contemporaries, schoolmates, your loves and your adversaries, is that part of the shifting bar on which you stand. And it is crowded at first. You can see the way it thins out, upstream from you. The old ones are washed away and their bodies go swiftly buy, like logs in the current. Downstream where the younger ones stand thick, you can see them flounder, lose footing, wash away. Always there is more room where you stand, but always the swift water grows deeper, and you feel the shift of the sand and the gravel under your feet as the river wears it away. Someone looking for a safer place to stand can nudge you off balance, and you are gone. Someone who has stood beside you for a long time gives a forlorn cry and you reach to catch their hand, but the fingertips slide away and they are gone. There are the sounds in the rocky gorge, the roar of the water, the shifting, gritty sound of the sand and the gravel underfoot, the forlorn cries of despair as the nearby ones, and the ones upstream, are taken by the current. Some old ones who stand on a good place, well braced, understanding currents and balance, last a long time. Far downstream from you are the thin, startled cries of the ones who never got planted, never got set, never quite understood the message of the torrent.”
–From John D. MacDonald’s Pale Gray for Guilt
That seems at least as true as “you are what you eat.” I’m not a public library person. If there’s a book I want to read, I want to read it now. I don’t have the patience to put my name on a list. So I buy the books I read. 500+ hardcover and paperback titles fill up my two little book shelves. I know because I recently made a list. If I average ten hours per book, that’s almost seven months of my life. But I can’t think of a better way to spend them. If forced to list my Ten Favorite Authors, they would probably be:
1. William Gibson
2. John D. MacDonald
3. Robert K. Tanenbaum
4. Elmore Leonard
5. Lawrence Block
6. Ross Thomas
7. Robert B. Parker
8. John Sandford
9. Sue Grafton
10. Bill Granger
For some reason I couldn’t find a very good website for John D. MacDonald or William Gibson. Leonard, Block and Grafton have excellent sites. Ross Thomas and John D. are long gone and I’m not sure about Bill Granger.
Isn’t there something about cannibals believing they become stronger by eating their enemies? If we are what we eat, I’m pretty much screwed (Sonic chili dogs, Beenie Weenies and mall Chinese). But if we are what we read, I am enriched by consuming the words of these fine story tellers.