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False Value In the Format Wars

Most readers have a preference for particular format of book they prefer—hardcover vs paperback. And some, like myself, may get deeper into that by saying for certain genres or even series that we love we need them in a particular format. I think it might be tied to the memory associated with how we first read the book, or it may be a love for used books with awesome vintage covers.

With Loren Estleman I started reading his Amos Walker series as mass market paperbacks that I bought used and cheap, and that was so perfect for this character and style of writing. Down the line I ran into problems finding those titles in the smaller paperback size (or the covers were awful, I can’t remember) and got stuck with a trade paper back and a couple hardcovers. It’s awful.

Pulp, private detective mysteries are meant to be read as pocket-sized paperbacks that can beaten to hell. They need to be small enough to stash in the inside pocket of your trench coat when the guy you’re tailing comes out, but thick enough to stop a bullet when you get double crossed.

Oddly enough, the classics like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett I’ll take in the larger trade paperback, probably because that’s all I’ve ever seen them in, but also they’re not huge books. The thin size makes up for it—and they look great on your bookshelf.

I’ve realized today that there’s another level to this bibliopathy that extends to audiobooks. The majority of my reading has been done through audiobooks with only a dozen (if I’m lucky) of the books that I read a year being actual physical books.

I recently finished “Lies Sleeping”, the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s ‘Rivers of London’ series. I started the series when the bookstore I worked at received free promo copies for the first and second books in the series, timed with the second book’s release. This means I have two horrible US publisher covers that don’t match the artwork for the rest of the series, which thankfully switched over to the UK covers for the third book.

Actually, the fourth but somehow I have book three in the “good” cover—do you need to know any of this? Yes. Yes, you do, because the same book lovers who are obsessed with the format of their books with not hesitate to buy a new copy of a book they’ve already read of the cover is really cool.

It’s ok though, my wife wants to start reading the series so that means we can rebuy the first two books and set this egregious wrong right.

Now nearly ten years later I’m still reading this series, always in paperback and always taking far longer to read than I expect. But I’ve made a mistake, a horrible mistake that’s made me briefly question my love for the series, the universe and everything. I started listening to book eight “False Value” as an audiobook. And I just can’t do it.

After so long and so many books I have a clear picture of what Peter Grant looks like and sounds like. Listening to it now is somehow off—the voice, the tone, the pacing, the rhythm of Aaronovitch’s writing.

Part of this can be that this book is a departure (at least a couple chapters in—it’s a series about magic, you never know what’s going to happen) from the Faceless Man storyline that’s dominated the previous books. Peter is out of his element, out of much of the world we’ve grown accustomed to over time. Is the change in story jarring to me? Is it the format? Is it just me?

Fortunately, I have a physical copy of the book as well. But it’s a hardcover. So now we’re back to the Amos Walker ‘but I always read them in paperback’ conundrum. We’ll see….

I got to thinking about this, the formats of books and all, because a friend mentioned he was grateful for his insomnia since he’s been able to binge ‘Longmire’ on Netflix.

I told him if he wanted to cure his insomnia all he had to do was read “The Cold Dish”, the first book in the series. I compared reading the slim book to those shots of Walt standing alone on the Wyoming prairie being battered by a frigid, desolate wind.

But then I started thinking about format and added the audiobook to my queue to test this out. Maybe the book just isn’t for me and I’ll give it up, but maybe I’ll enjoy it more as an audiobook.

My wife and I have both listened to and loved Leigh Bardugo’s “Ninth House” about supernatural secret societies that’s told in alternating voices. She spoken with people who have read it and didn’t enjoy it, and encouraged them to listen to it instead. It certainly could be the structure of the book that lends itself to being performed rather than simply read, with the two narrators and flashbacks.

This is similar to how I couldn’t stop listening to “The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” but she’s still working her way slowly through the print copy of it, probably hating me a little bit more every time she picks it up. I found it to be a fascinatingly inventive take on the classic Agatha Christie style whodunit and an addictive audiobook to listen to. But like with “Ninth House” there are multiple voices and characters speaking to the reader—even if in “The 7½ Deaths…” it’s the same narrator speaking through different characters.

Perhaps some books are meant to be experienced and performed, to exist in another medium beyond the page to capture one’s imagination, to trigger that magical response to a story that will resonate within us and keep us as a reader or listener hooked to the unfolding words.

Jesse Ball and a Book Once Begun

I’m so behind.  My bookshelf has gotten out of hand over the last few months… several months.. ok, two years.  Maybe three.

Night Passage, the first of Robert Parker’s ‘Jesse Stone’ books is among the oldest there (and since the Tom Selleck made-for-TV movies have gotten to the point Selleck is co-writing original stories, I need to knock this one off the list), as well as Geoffrey Girard’s Project Cain/Cain’s Blood. ( I have the two-in-one paperback advanced reader from my Barnes & Noble days, try not to be jealous)  Those are the ones hanging on since 2013.  Yeah, I know, that’s ridiculous, but these things just kind of pile up, it’s nobody’s fault.  Or it’s Netflix’s.  I did have ten seasons of Supernatural to catch up on, after all.

Jesse Ball's

But, before I get rid of the offending titles of ol’ aught thirteen, I need to finish reading Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun.  While there are always those authors whose list of titles grows without finding the time to step into their world (David Mitchell is at the top of the list victims of my best literary intentions), it’s equally important to stay on top of authors one has already started reading.

With the exception of James Patterson, who releases a new book every two weeks, this should be pretty easy to do.  And yet… I’m two novels and a novella behind on Jesse Ball.

I bought and started reading Silence Once Begun immediately upon its release but was distracted by Hugh Howey and Netflix and a miserable, unending Buffalo winter.  His next novel was released this past July, but I was a little preoccupied with being fired and forgot about buying A Cure for Suicide entirely.

Jesse Ball's novella,

It wasn’t until a week or so ago that someone on Goodreads added his new novella, “The Lesson“, to their ‘Want to Read’ list that I realized how behind I had become.

I’m making progress however, I’ve finished off five books in the last month, two of which I’d been picked away at for several months.  At this rate, there’s a good chance Silence, Jesse Stone, and Cain could all be knocked off my nightstand within a week or two….

Follow me on Goodreads for more reviews and to see what else I’m reading….

 

My Monsters

2013-11-12 14.23.48-1I’ve hung them up in two apartments and I can’t imagine a place feeling like home without them.  I’m talking about my monsters.  Three framed drawings by a little kid I don’t even know, who I’m sure I’ll never meet.  They’re perfect.

A couple years ago I was clicking around online and came across an article about a little boy with leukemia.  Similar to Batkid now out in San Francisco in that he’s sick and he’s awesome.  Come on, you can’t hear about a kid like this and not have tears in your eyes. 

Go pull up video of Batkid.  That’s the little boy who, thanks to Make A Wish, is surrounded by hundreds of people cheering him on throughout the city, while he saves a woman tied up by the Riddler and gets to ride around in a freakin Lamborghini Batmobile.  Tell me there aren’t tears.

Monsters at SunsetThat’s how it was when I came across this story.  The kid I read an article on, his name’s Aidan.  He loves monsters.  Drawing them, watching monster movies, making his own costumes.  Which is good, since he spent most of his childhood up until that point in a hospital bed.  Plenty of time to draw monsters.  And I’m talking the classics: Frankenstein’s monsters, the Wolfman, Dracula and Count Orlock.  There’s a difference. 

He got my attention.  If I wasn’t sold on this kid already, seeing pictures of Halloween when he got pulled around in a wagon dressed as Jigsaw’s dummy from Saw so he could trick-or-treat, did the trick.  This kid is awesome. 

I’d just purchased the Legacy set of Frankenstein movies that had a bunch of the old Boris Karloff monster flicks.  Thanks to Netflix I watched the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man.  All those great old Universal flicks that started everything.  I also had Monster Squad, one of the greatest movies of my childhood.  At the time it was recently out on DVD and I snagged it.  It takes all those old great horror icons and rolls them together with a Goonies-esque group of kids.  Who doesn’t love this stuff?

Aidan's Monsters

the one in the middle looks just like Kevin

The reason this article on Aidan was out there though was because his aunt, in an attempt to raise some money towards his hospital bills, had taken his drawings and put them up for sale on Etsy.  Not a bad idea.  Well, unless you’re me.  Because now I have to buy one, right?  But how can I choose?  I just went to the site to browse, then I talked myself into buy one.  Then I double-checked my bank balance and decided I could get three.  It’s for a good cause, it’s ok.

I went with the classics.  Wolfman.  Frankenstein’s Monster.  And Dracula.  But not really.  There’s a difference between Dracula and Count Orlock.  You should know.  I’m not going into that.  Why did I ultimately go with Nosferatu over a Universal vampire?  Was it that then all three would be in different colored marker?  Yeah, that’s probably it.  But it may have been that I had to give it to this kid that he knew the ripped off Max Schreck/W.F. Murnau version.  That’s going to be my official position.

But I realize now that my choices were perfect.  Not only did I do something cool by purchasing these, but now I have my monsters, I have a good story to tell about how I ended up with these kid’s drawings framed on my wall.  Oddly enough, these actually represent my two friends and I. 

No, no, hear me out on this: Frankenstein’s monster is covered in scars, but the ones on his hands at first glance look like your typical hash marks for keeping score.  Much like I had to do on New Year’s Eve.  Marks on one hand for bottles of champagne I drank, marks on the other for shots.  Just in case I had to go the hospital.  The Wolfman is obviously Kevin who could probably braid his back hair and can grow a full beard before lunch.  And Nosferatu?  There’s this thing the three of us tend to do now and it came about after we lived together for a few years.  It unquestionably originated with Alan.  When someone comes into the room at night and turns the light on he will hiss and has gone so far as to throw his hands up in front of his face as if clawing at the light.  He started it.  We all do it.  Its reflex now, there’s no stopping it.  Our children will end up doing it.

So not only could I support this great little kid, who has since gone into remission, and his family by buying a few of his drawings, I’ve also, oddly enough, ended up with monster-caricatures of my best friends and I.  Money well spent.

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