Rabbit Holes and Reading Lists
I’ve been a little behind filling out my reading checklists, mostly because I’ve been having a hard time reading or listening to books and really concentrating on what’s happening.Two of the books I’ve read this month, “The Thin Man” and “Eight Perfect Murders” I’ve had to go back and listen to chapters over and over.
Finishing a book is a little difficult when you have to reread a chapter six times before it sinks in.
And it wasn’t the books themselves either—true, I didn’t care much for “The Thin Man”, I mentioned that the other day. But “Eight Perfect Murders” was fantastic and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a well plotted, well paced mystery.
Not only did it revolve around a great list of thrillers (and their film or stage adaptations) that would keep any reader busy for a while, but in general it would make anyone who loves books want to dive right into a used bookstore and stay there for a few days.
Getting over (or trying to) my mental reading block I’ve at least filled out my May checklist. I also have plenty of backups of course, because only amateurs bring just enough books.Of course, I’ve already gone down a detective fiction rabbit hole as I tend to do lately, and my list might be a little shot. That’s ok though, a few of the titles I have on here might not be available through my library for several weeks, so I have enough time to read a bunch of Richard Stark’s ‘Parker’ series and maybe even read Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” back-to-back with Robert Kroese’s “The Big Sheep”. I assume that’s how Chandler intended it to be read, right? Follow me on Goodreads to see what else I’m reading or interested in, or to give me some suggestions from what you’re reading…
Reading Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man”
I recently finished Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man”… but really didn’t love it. When I saw this one available through the library on my Libby app, I was excited for some classic detective noir, but that wasn’t what this ended up being. It’s been a while since I’ve read Hammett, and maybe my enjoyment of his “Maltese Falcon” is clouded by my love of the movie.
It may have been just a case of high expectations, but generally think I know what I’m getting into when it comes to classic detective fiction or a typical hard boiled story.
Still, I expected more out of Nora, since I knew a little about the eventual Nick & Nora movie franchise that started from this novel. I went into it thinking she’d be more of an equal player, moving Nick along by investigating herself, but she was barely more than decoration and someone for Nick to talk at.
But I’m also disappointed with the plot; it feels overly complicated—red herrings are necessary but everyone is someone else and everyone who’s working together is really working together with someone else. After a while the tangled web became unnecessarily convoluted.
Maybe it’s a product of its time as far as writing male and female characters, and maybe it’s an attempt by Dashiell Hammett at writing something a little lighter instead of hard boiled crime fiction that didn’t translate so well for me.
All that said, while it may have been a disappointing departure from what I expected from the author and genre, I’ll still read more Hammett.Maybe I’ll like the movies better…
Reading “God Save the Child”
My only complaint when I started reading Robert Parker’s ‘Spenser’ series came in the first book, “The Godwulf Manuscript” when Spenser, crossing a college quad, described in great detail the clothing of several students he passed. For nearly two pages Parker shared the early seventies fashion to be found on a college campus, displayed by characters without names or purpose or bearing in any way on the story at all, and when I started the second book in the series, “God Save the Child”, it seemed I was in for more of the same.
Maybe it was that this was the second book and with that came a growing appreciation or familiarity with Parker’s writing style, but I started to understand why this was the case and why it had to be. Spenser narrates these stories and he’s as clever and sharp-witted as any private detective from the days of Chandler and Hammett, and big enough to get away with having a smart mouth if the guys he’s mouthing off to can keep up and realize he’s insulting them.
But where Parker goes into exhaustingly more detail then the classics of detective fiction is less about sloppy or tedious writing. In order to put us in his detective’s shoes, he has to also put us in his detective’s head.
It took Spenser just about explaining this to his love interest in “God Save the Child” for me to understand as well, so I clearly don’t make a very good detective. Spenser, on the other hand, is good at what he does specifically because he notices and remembers everything. He sees a person’s shoes and remembers their pants, the color of socks and shirt and jacket, the cut and color of hair and whether the glasses were prescription or just for show, and whether they matched the rest of the outfit as well; and he does this for every person he passes, everyone he comes across from the moment he meets a client because any one of these people may be a part of his case, and he may need that information later.
Spenser isn’t a hero or a supercop or some action star. He’s just the guy working a small-time case trying to figure out where someone or something went and whether it needed to be returned once he found it. In the course of this he’ll tell you what he made for breakfast and describe his workout routine, and you might even be able to cook a pork tenderloin en croûte if you pay attention.
Robert Parker understands that this is tedious work, undertaken by the kind of man willing to notice details and keep each and every one of them tucked away for the moment he will need to put those pieces together the right way. From an author’s perspective, to realistically write such a tedious undertaking itself needs to become tedious.
This writing and narrative style that at first turned me off of Robert Parker is precisely what takes the reader more completely into the world and mind of a private detective than any author has before. He does this not by hinting at the details the reader should remember or teasing the threads that will be important later, but by immersing the audience in the overwhelming detail of the world and letting them sift through to identify the important parts alongside the narrator. It’s this style that makes the Spenser series so intriguing, and interesting to continue reading.
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