Something to add to my last blog. The launch of Linda Stratmann’s new novel, THE POISONOUS SEED, is at Waterstone’s Islington Green on Thursday 2 June from 6.30. I can’t be there, but maybe you can? All are welcome.
While I’m here I’ll mention that Anne Fadiman’s second book of essays, AT LARGE AND AT SMALL: CONFESSIONS OF A LITERARY HEDONIST. Hugely enjoyable, just like EX LIBRIS. Loved it and I enjoyed them all the more for having met her.
Martin Edwards’ blog with the wonderful title: ‘Do You Write Under Your own Name?’ is a favourite of mine and I often pick up tips for books I might enjoy, especially in his forgotten books section. Not long ago he wrote a review of a novel by Fredric Brown which made me think that I’d like to reread a novel I hugely enjoyed when I first read it, Brown’s NIGHT OF THE JABBERWOCK. I took it away to read on holiday. I don’t think I’ve read it since I started writing myself and this added a whole new dimension. The first time I just read on, heart in mouth, absolutely mesmerised, really unable to put it down. This time I marvelled at the plot, which dovetailed like a piece of finely made furniture, appreciated the economy of the style and admired the skill with which Brown enlists our sympathy hor his quizzical, down at heel and humane narrator. It’s scary, suspenseful, and funny, too. I laughed out loud. It would have to figure on a list of my all-time favourite crime novels. Martin, if you read this, I want to know if you have read it. If not, you have a treat in store.
Another of Martin’s recent commendations was THE BURNING COURT by John Dickson Carr. Carr specialised in locked room mysteries, and there are two in here. I partly guessed the solution to one of them, but I am not terribly attracted to the puzzle novel, and what for me really distinguishes Dickson Carr’s novels is their creepiness. This one is truly sinister. I won’t spoil the ending, suffice it to say that just when I thought I knew what was going on things took a turn that I really did not expect and I ended the novel feeling, well, gobsmacked, really.
A while ago I blogged about Anne Fadiman’s little book, EX LIBRIS, and a kind reader let me know that she was giving a lecture in Sheffiel last night so I went along. She spoke about the difficult relationship between Coleridge and his son, Hartley, drawing on their correspondence. It was excellent, and when I spoke to her afterwards, she was charming. I’m going to hunt out some of the other things she has written.
“‘Alas,’ wrote Henry Beecher Ward, ‘Where is human nature so weak as in the book store?'” Where indeed? (Unless it is while browsing on Amazon, finger hovering over ‘Buy with One Click’?) This, from an essay on second-hand book shops, is just one gem from Anne Fadiman’s delightful little book, EX LIBRIS: CONFESSIONS OF A COMMON READER.
This book, given to me by my brother, is right up my street. It is a collection of the columns that Fadiman wrote for the magazine of the Library of Congression. She married another bibliophile so that books play a big part in their marriage. I especially enjoyed ‘Marrying Libraries’ because some of the debates were all too familiar. My husband and I married libraries, too, and as my husband still had his first wife’s books (she had died a few years before I met him), and she had inherited her parents’ books, we found we had an awful lot of duplicates – or even triplicates in the case of novels by E. M. Forster, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf. Which ones to keep and where to put them all?
Fadiman’s range is wide: plagiarism, unfortunate dedications, mail order catalogues, ink. And there are some wonderful anecdotes here. Haven’t we all at some time thought of something we want to make a note of, when no pen is handy? This happened to Sir Walter Scott while he was out hunting: ‘a sentence he had been trying to compose all morning leapt into his head. Before it could fade, he shot a crow, plucked a feather, sharpened the tip, dipped it in the crow’s blood, and captured the sentence.’ That is true dedication to the writing life.
PS. If you’d like to read my hitherto unpublished ghost story, ‘A Trick of the Light,’ go to www.corridorsmagazine.org where you can read it and a whole lot more for free.
PPS. While I am blowing my own trumpet, my short story, ‘Vanishing Act’ has just been published in the March/April issue of ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. It’s set in a hospice and was inspired by the wonderful care that my mother had in St Catherine’s Hospice in Scarborough. I am sure she would have approved.