‘This is splendidly written fare from the reliable Poulson, written with keen psychological insight.’ [Invisible]


Should I go on a Book Diet?

imagesBy that I don’t mean should I read fewer books, but should I stop buying them for a while. Should I have a book-free month in the way that some people have an alcohol-free month?

I have an awful lot of books I haven’t read and I am adding to them all the time. There is no doubt that I buy more than I used to. I’m buying ebooks, but it’s as well as, not instead of, print books. A few weeks ago I had a few minutes to spare in town and popped into a charity shop. I came out with a copy of Reginald Hill’s The Woodcutter (recommended by Martin Edwards, ). I also bought a hardback copy of The Saturday Book 3 – one of a run of Saturday Books – from 1943 because, flicking through it, I came across an article by J. Maclaren-Ross (a fascinating figure who inspired the character of X. Trapnel in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time). One was £1.50, the other £2.00.  As I wedged them into my already groaning book-shelves, I wondered if it was time to call to halt, go cold turkey on my book-buying habit, and concentrate on working my way through the ones I have got.

I have been toying the idea ever since. But, you know what, I’m not going to. I like buying books. When it’s something written by one of my friends, I don’t want to get it out of the library, I want to buy it and improve their sales figures. When I go into a book shop, I feel it is almost a moral imperative not to go out without buying a book. It’s so important to support them. And then, too, writers can set the purchase of books against tax. That must mean that I’m supposed to be buying books. It’s part of my job. At least that’s what I tell my husband . . .

And what can beat the thrill of the serendipitous purchase? I don’t have so much excitement in my life that I am prepared to forgo this innocent pleasure. Looking at The Saturday Book 3 again, I notice something wonderful that I hadn’t seen before: three short stories by Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley and A. A. Milne, stalwarts of the Golden Age. Next time I am passing that charity shop I’ll go in and see what’s in the other volumes.

Short Stories II

A few blogs ago I mentioned that I’d written a short story about a surgeon who had murdered his mistress. Well it’s been accepted by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I love this magazine (of course!). They have just published another short story of mine, ‘A Tour of the Tower’ in their March/April issue. I only wish there was somewhere similar to place short stories in the UK. it’s a form that I very much enjoy. A short story provides a welcome change of pace from a novel and its rewards are more immediate. It can be a thrill to find oneself rubbing shoulders with writers who are far more distinguished than oneself. My very first short story was published in a CWA anthology along with writers whose work I’d long admired: Michael Gilbert, Reginald Hill, John Harvey. I could hardly believe it.
If I had to pick a favourite crime short story it would have to be ‘A Jury of her Peers’ by Susan Glaspell, first written in 1917, though stories by G.K, Chesterton and Conan Doyle would run it close. Although it is set in a vividly realised time and place, It hasn’t dated and I can give it no higher accolade than to say I wish I could write something as good one day. I often reread it as a masterclass in psychological insight and narrative control.