By Tim Smith.
I recently took stock of the bookshelves in my house and discovered more unread books than I realized I had. The reason for this wasn’t impulse buying on my part. My parents were avid readers and when my mother passed a few years ago, I fell heir to her extensive collection. Luckily, we both like the same stuff. I’m well stocked with everything from Erle Stanley Gardner to Robert B. Parker, along with classics by Hemingway and Steinbeck. Who needs the public library when I have all of these books at home?
I’m still on my quest to read everything by James W. Hall that I haven’t gotten around to yet. There are currently three of his books in my stack. “Gone Wild,” one of his earlier adventures about the trafficking of exotic animals, is tough going for me. His depiction of animal mistreatment is uncomfortable to read, so I don’t know if I’ll get through this one. “Rough Draft” and “The Big Finish” seem to be a little more in my line.
Carl Hiaasen is another fave, and I discovered three of his books that I hadn’t read. I’m changing that, starting with “Nature Girl.” Hiaasen is kind of an acquired taste, because you can’t always tell if he’s trying to be serious or flip. One of his contemporaries in the Florida fiction scene, Tim Dorsey, makes it clear that he’s intentionally pulling your leg. I’m currently reading one of his books, “Hurricane Punch.” Dorsey is just as funny in person as he is in print. Hiaasen, not so much.
Another author whose books I collected by accident is Nelson DeMille. I enjoy his style of storytelling, and I’m currently reading the thriller “The Gate House.” DeMille’s work poses an interesting dilemma, because when there has been a movie adaptation, his books haven’t always transitioned well. In particular, I remember “The General’s Daughter.” Loved the book, didn’t like the movie. It may have been because John Travolta was miscast as an Army investigator from the deep south, with a drawl that was more Bronx than Bayou.
Robert B. Parker and his Spencer private eye mysteries are what I call comfort reading, and I have a number of those to choose from. One of Parker’s books that I recently read was his completion of Raymond Chandler’s unfinished final novel, “Poodle Springs,” featuring Phillip Marlowe. Chandler’s estate chose Parker to complete it, and allowed him to write another Marlowe mystery, “Perchance to Dream.” That was a good read, too.
A book I did finish over the summer provided some insights into a creative mind. “The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions” by Mario Puzo is a collection of essays and stories he wrote for magazines in the ‘60s. He devoted one chapter to his epic novel and the equally epic film adaptation. I was surprised to learn that in spite of “The Godfather” being Puzo’s most successful book, it wasn’t his favorite and he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. He revealed that he only wrote it because his previous books, while critically acclaimed, hadn’t been commercially successful. His agent suggested that since Mafia stories sold well, perhaps he should write one of those.
I also finished reading a memoir, “Going My Own Way,” by Gary Crosby. This book was controversial when it was released in the 1980’s because it cast an unflattering light on Gary’s father, singer Bing Crosby. It revealed that his easygoing public persona was just an act, and at home he was an abusive tyrant. I found Crosby’s story of overcoming alcoholism and drug addiction very interesting. He was driven to substance abuse from the pressures his father placed on him, and it dogged him for most of his adult life. More surprising, though, was his revelation that due to Bing’s cold nature, all of the Crosby children had trouble expressing affection with their own families.
I think the books currently occupying my reading table will keep me busy for the next few months. If not, I have only to check my home library for something else.