The Nameless Detective

download-1.jpgThere are so many detective novels and fun detective series that it’s really not useful or even possible to focus on labels such as “The Best.” If you spend any time perusing my Inventory of books read, you might notice some clues of my own preferences: I read all the Spenser books by Robert B. Parker starting with the fourth or fifth title; I read all of the Ludlum books before the author died and the same thing goes for John D. MacDonald’ s Travis McGee; I read all the Fletch books and followup novels; I read all or most of the novels by authors such as Gregory Maguire, Laurence Sanders, and especially George Simenon (actually I have read more Maigret novels than any other but Simenon wrote so many).

It goes without saying that I have read a great deal of the early masters, Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

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A Spenser Orgy

When Robert B. Parker died in 2010 I checked and saw that I had not read the last two Spenser novels so I added them to my list and read both of them last year. But as often happens, I was noting the newest Spenser published by the Parker estate but written by a carefully selected substitute and realized that the list of Spenser novels in the book was assuredly the final list. When I was in college it was suggested that I study only poets that had died, since then subsequent works would not be forthcoming to spoil my theories of the author’s writing.

So Parker is dead, I have read all the books he wrote, and I have the diffiitive list in front of me … so what do I find? More than five titles that do not appear on my Reading Inventory. Thanks to zippy computer searches, I was able to identify a few inaccuracies in my Parker list but five novels stood out as being unfamiliar (I even read the synopses at Google or Amazon). So this last weekend I made up the list, requested all five books at the library and subsequently found four of them online for my iPad reading pleasure (and, of course, free of charge). At the uber-literary chat Sunday night I told the intellectual world that I was intending to wallow in Spenser, Hawk, and Susan this week. Actually, Spenser appears to be more of a television memory than what comes from reading the books, so maybe the chat group is not that intellectual.

So this week has been full of Spenser:

  • Crimson Joy
  • Stardust
  • Pastime
  • Now and Then
  • Rough Weather.

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It’s Fiction!

I have an urgent need to get through the next three entries in this challenge as fast as possible. I do this for several reasons:  first, I just ate and would like to keep an excellent lunch down and not hurl it all over this keyboard; second, I don’t have enough words to write three separate posts; and finally, the questions are stupid and demeaning to literature and to critical thinking.

Let’s see. What book is most like my life? That’s a tough one:  I’m trying to decide between Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm and Rent Boy … actually, neither of those is good since I’m not a little girl and I’m not gay. How about Der Steppenwolf? I always liked a good magic show. I’m not sure there is a novel that is even a vague facsimile of my life. Maybe I should just think about a book which has a main character who is just like me. Let’s see: stone cold and still sensitive; tall and gallant while appearing meek and unassuming; clean underwear (that’s a requirement); defends against the bad guys but abhors violence; reads poetry and detective novels; cooks a gourmet meal before cleaning his guns; associates with criminal types but is very law-abiding … oh my goodness, I’m Spenser. Who knew I was a thug … but I lied about the guns (wouldn’t touch one).

Now is there a character in a book that I really want to marry? Hardly, but there have been a few I would take on the honeymoon. Or I could be more like Caligula.

These three questions are exactly what I hate to see asked about literature. They are designed to get you thinking about fiction as if it was life, and it isn’t. Maybe this is the time to shamelessly post yet another list from the weblog; this one concerning

Parker’s Myths of Literature

  1. The author has a contract with the reader.
  2. Authors are always open and honest about their works.
  3. Authors are the ones that know the most about what they have written.
  4. Authors that write highly poetic and evocative prose are better writers.
  5. Authors that write difficult, complex novels are only writing to impress college professors.
  6. Authors that write difficult, complex prose or highly allusive prose are not being considerate of their readers.
  7. Authors that leave out punctuation or paragraph breaks or fail to attribute every piece of dialogue are purposely making it hard for the reader.
  8. Authors with Creative Writing School credentials are the best writers.
  9. The author probably used your Aunt Martha as the model for his character in the novel.
  10. The author wants you to think about Aunt Martha and not waste time thinking about the character in the novel that reminded you of your Aunt.
  11. A novel that has at least one character that reminds you of one of your relatives or friends is a superior novel.
  12. A novel must have at least one likable character to identify with.
  13. Characters in a novel must be believable.
  14. A setting, if important to the novel, can be considered a character.
  15. The quality of the book’s cover is an accurate gauge of the quality of the book.
  16. The price of the book is an accurate gauge of the quality of the book.
  17. The bigger and fatter and heavier a book is, the better it is.
  18. Your liking a novel is what makes it good.
  19. If the publisher says a novel is an “instant classic” you can count on it being excellent.
  20. The value and popularity of a novel is defined solely within the text of the novel and is not affected by movie deals, talk show endorsements, or Three-for-Two sales at Barnes and Noble.