What You Read is Who You Are

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At the end of a four-day weekend, my granddaughter was bored. Dad still had work to do at his desk, but the generally cooperative child who can easily entertain herself was tired of writing and even tired of Legos. Luckily, I called as pre-arranged to read with her over the phone. We had started E.B. White’s much-loved CHARLOTTE’S WEB (1952) during one of my visits, and got up to the part where Wilbur was on display at the fair. More recently, I bought a copy of my own so we could finish it together even though we live in different cities.

When we got to the last page, the 8-year-old said: “That’s the end? No way! – Wait – I have an idea.” I heard some shuffling and she returned with her copy of the book and suggested we go back and start all over again. Later that night, we read chapter I.

One of the ways I hone my writing skills is by reviewing for BookPleasures.com and also on Amazon, where currently I am ranked at 23,913, having contributed 58 reviews, which 68 people found “helpful.” That suggests how many people consistently offer at least a paragraph about what they read. I like to give my audience more than a glimpse into the subject matter and style of each author.

Over time, this has raised my consciousness about what I choose. These days I continually download books on Kindle, since I have trifocals and arthritis. I read a lot of mysteries, and often try free books that are suggested by a wonderful website called “Omnimystery News.” I still read paperbacks and will pay the original price if there is something irresistible, and I read “real” literature, too, lately Tan Twan Eng’s luscious prose and Barbara Pym’s bruising satire.

But I love the mystery craft and that’s what I am trying to learn. It is somewhat discouraging to a new mystery writer to see that good detective stories are coming out as abundantly as the babies in Charlotte’s egg sac, but it is a rich feast. At 74, I’ve learned I must narrow my search. I look for locations and themes, first of all. I admire British English. I like being in England. I enjoy procedurals. Those criteria alone could keep me going forever with several series. I prefer settings in places other than London (except for those set in the past). Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford has been a favorite for a long time, and I read all of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books.

Now there’s a whole new generation, including Peter James, who focuses on present-day Brighton. Tim Vicary’s “Sarah Newby” series takes place in York and its courtrooms. Steve Robinson’s genealogist sleuth links England’s past to America’s present.

Kindle’s low prices have encouraged me to explore how other people live in America. Tom Hilpert’s hero is a Lutheran Pastor living on Lake Superior who has taught me, not religion, but more about boats than I would have guessed could be fascinating. Lawrence Gold has a true-to-life series set in a California hospital, with “procedures” in progress rather than “procedurals.” The most recent is RAGE. Chuck Freadhoff writes convincingly about crime on both sides of the U.S./Mexican border. He called A PLAGUE OF IRON (reference to guns) “grandparent noir.” This book is a rare exception to my rule to avoid reading any novel of suspense involving a missing or abused child. It’s worth reading right now as debates about guns and immigration rage on.

 

NOTE: I will be archiving book reviews on my website  page  MOXIE’S BOOKSHELF.

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