Bridge over Troubled Water

Looks like we made it, Constant Reader; through another week of trials and tribulations and who knows what all, quite frankly. I woke up at six, but stayed in bed until just before eight, and feel obscenely well-rested, not tired at all; maybe a bit of a sleep hangover, but other than that, in tip-top shape for this lovely weekend. There’s condensation all over the windows around my workspace this morning; I suspect it rained over night and the air out there is probably warm and thick with water. It’s also not cold inside, which is a tip-off that it’s probably a lovely day outside. Paul is going to go into the office at some point today; I intend to go run some errands later as well as get some serious writing done. Conference championship football games are on television all day, but I really don’t care who wins any of them, if I’m going to be completely honest. The kitchen seems scattered and messy today, so does the living room, and of course, Paul is leaving for his winter visit to his family on this coming Wednesday, so I will have almost a full week of alone time.

I am, for December 1, disgustingly behind on everything; from Bury Me in Satin, stalled at Chapter Six, to finishing touches on both the Scotty book and the short story collection. I also need to proof read Jackson Square Jazz at some point so that can finally be available as an ebook; it never seems to end, does it? But I did somehow manage to tear through my to-do list this past week (other than anything writing/editing related that was on it) and I think now, finally, the day job is finally going to settle into a kind of routine schedule. I also picked up Bibliomysteries Volume I, edited by Otto Penzler, at the library yesterday, so I have a wealth of short stories to read. (I also still have all the volumes of anthologies and single author collections I was reading earlier in the year on the mantel in the living room; I should probably get back to those at some point as well.) I am probably going to keep The Short Story Project rolling into the new year; I do love short stories, and I keep finding more unread collections on my bookshelves.

I got some books in the mail yesterday; the two most recent Donna Andrews Meg Langslows, Toucan Keep a Secret and Lark! The Herald Angels Sing (which I wish I could read over the Christmas holidays; I love reading Donna’s Christmas books during the season but I doubt I’ll have time to read Toucan first; and yes, I have to read them in order DON’T JUDGE ME); two novels by Joan Didion, Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted; two books by Robert Tallant, one fiction (The Voodoo Queen, an undoubtedly error-riddled and racist biographical novel about Marie Laveau) and one nonfiction (Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders); the next volume of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, A Clash of Kings; and Hester Young’s follow-up to The Gates of Evangeline, The Shimmering Road. 

So, yes, my plate is rather full this weekend–but I shall also have plenty to do while Paul is gone. I am also thinking about buying the third and final season of Versailles on iTunes to watch. I will probably make an enormous list of all the things I want to get done while Paul is in Illinois and wind up doing none of them.

Heavy heaving sigh.

I also need to figure out his Christmas presents while he’s gone, so I can get them and have them all wrapped before he gets home.

And so now, ’tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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Midnight at the Oasis

Oh, Wednesday. You’ve dawned cold and gray again, just like your sister Tuesday did yesterday, and this morning I sit, huddled and cold, in my windows at my desk, shivering and wondering if I will ever feel warm again.

Yes, I do tend to overreact in the cold, thank you for asking/noticing.

I have not written a word on the book since before I left for Kentucky; nor, apparently, have I since. This is distressing; the idea was to follow Nanowrimo and have a strong first draft finished by December 1, so I could spend December working on other things and cleaning this manuscript up before starting a new project I must begin on January 1.

Well, didn’t finish writing this this morning, did I? Sigh. I woke up really tired and didn’t want to get out of bed; the cold gray morning didn’t help much, and before I knew it–it was time to get ready for work and now I’m home and here we are.

I did read another short story, though: “Citadel” by Stephen Hunter, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

The Lysander took off in the pitch-dark of 0400 British Standard War Time, Pilot Officer Murphy using the prevailing south-southwest wind to gain atmospheric traction, even though the craft had a reputation for short takeoffs. He nudged it airborne, felt it surpass its amazingly low stall speed, held the stick gently back until he reached 150 meters, then commenced a wide left-hand bank to aim himself and his passenger toward Occupied France.

Murphy was a pro and had done many missions for his outfit, No. 138 (Special Duties Squadron), inserting and removing agents in coordination with the Resistance. But that didn’t mean he was blasé, or without fear. No matter how many times you flew into Nazi territory, it was a first time. There was no predicting what might happen, and he could just as easily wind up in a POW camp or against the executioner’s wall as back in his quarters at RAF Newmarket.

I’ve not read Stephen Hunter before, but this story! It was more of a novella than a short story–close to a hundred pages–but it didn’t seem long to read; because it moves along at an incredibly rapid pace. The premise is that Bletchley–notably genius Alan Turing–needs a book to break a book code and the only extent copy, besides the one in the hands of the British traitor, is in an archive in one of the Paris museums. So, an agent has to drop into France, make his way to Paris undetected by the Nazis, get into the archive, and photograph the necessary pages of the old book, and then somehow get back out of occupied France and back to England. Danger is everywhere–and I do mean everywhere–and the tension continues to ramp up with each page, each new obstacle, each new twist to the story.

And Hunter saves the biggest twist for the end.

God, I love World War II espionage stories!

And now, I should get back into the spice mines and write some more.

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Let’s Get Rocked

How about dem Saints? Damn, they look like the Alabama of the NFL.

A long day in the car stretches before me. Just thinking about it makes me tired, oh so tired.

So don’t think about it, bitch.

In exciting news, I can now announce that my story, “Neighborhood Alert,” has sold to Mystery Tribune.

“Neighborhood Alert” was one of the stories I wrote in the flurry that was the first quarter (or first half?) of the year. I’d had the idea for a long time; the inspiration came to me one day when we were living back on Camp Street. I never used the front door of the apartment–or rarely, at any rate–because we had off-street parking and I usually came in through the apartment’s back door. But one morning when I was coming home from training a client I noticed there was a white piece of paper stuck in the mail slot in the front door. When I retrieved it, it was one of those sex offender notices–we are required by law to let you know a sex offender has moved into your neighborhood–and while I certainly understand why this is done…at the same time, there’s an element of continuing to punish the criminal after they’ve served their time about it that makes me a little squeamish.  But if I had a child I’d want to know, and if I were a woman I’d want to know. So, therein lies the intellectual and moral dilemma.

And, in the back of my head, I always wanted to write a story which opens with a character getting one of those notices on his/her front door. And vóila, at some point early in the year I wrote that story and started shopping it around.

And now, it has sold. How lovely is that?

I will talk about the story more when it is closer to seeing the light of day.

I’ve successfully managed to download A Game of Thrones to my phone, so hopefully I’ll have that for listening as I drive north, and I’ll decide if audiobooks are indeed something I can make a part of my reading life going forward. I’ve added the Duolingo app to my iPad so I can continue with my Italian lessons–some of the words are starting to stick with me, but being able to hear and identify the words isn’t going quite as well.

I also read “The Nature of My Inheritance” by Bradford Morrow, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

In the wake of my father’s death, my inheritance of over half a hundred Bibles offered me no solace whatsoever, but instead served to remind me what a godless son I was and had always been. Like the contrarian children of police officers who are sometimes driven to a life of crime, and professors’ kids who become carefree dropouts, my  father’s devotion to his ministry might well have been the impetus behind my early secret embrace of atheism. In church, listening to his Sunday sermons, as I sat in a pew with my mother near the back of the sanctuary, I nodded approvingly along with the rest of the congregation when he hit upon this particularly poignant scriptural point or that. But in all honesty, my mind was a thousand light years away, wallowing, at least usually, in smutty thoughts. His last day in the pulpit, his last day on earth, was no different. I cannot recall with precision what lewd scenario I was playing out in my head, but no doubt my juvenile pornography, the witless daydream of a virgin, did not make a pretty counterpoint with my father’s homily.

One of the fun things about reading anthologies is discovering new writers, or rather, new-to-me writers. I’d not read Morrow before, but I’ve added him to my list of writers whose canon should be explored. This story is interesting and goes places I certainly never imagined; and the voice of the young man who is telling the story–a slightly amoral young man whose father’s devotion hid a lot of secrets, which his son will slowly uncover, is exceptional. The story could have just as easily been called something like “Lessons My Father Taught Me” or something like that; but this title is just fine–it doesn’t give anything away, and it’s truly a wonderful, fun story. I was very pleased with it.

Once I get caffeinated and clean the kitchen, I’m hitting the road.

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I Can’t Make You Love Me

GEAUX SAINTS!

So, it’s another chilly Sunday here in the Lost Apartment. It’s sixty degrees now outside, but it dipped into the forties overnight, so it’s going to take awhile for the Lost Apartment to recover–if it ever does. Today I need to pack up for the trip tomorrow morning. I’m not taking the MacBook Air with me, so I am not entirely sure how I’ll be able to crosspost the blog–should I write any entries–to Facebook and other social media because cutting and pasting on the iPad confuses me.

Don’t judge me.

The LSU game last night was a romp; never in doubt from the first snap, and ending with a 42-10 score. It was 28-3 at half-time and was never in doubt. As such, there was very little-to-no tension on my part, so I was able to sit in my easy chair like a millennial, scrolling through apps on my phone while also taking some time to read. I stopped by the Latter Library yesterday to pick up another book I’d reserved (Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken–more about that later) and also renewed Bibliomysteries Volume 2 for another week. I am taking both books with me to Kentucky, and am also taking A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin; I think it’s time I got started writing A Song of Ice and Fire, now that the end of the television series is in sight with this past week’s announcement that the final season will begin airing in April.

I took yesterday as my day off for the weekend; I didn’t clean anything, nor did I organize or file or edit or write. I was basically just a lazy slug, sitting in my easy chair and flipping between football games while reading. I’m still rereading ‘salem’s Lot but have now reached the end game, the final section of the book called “The Empty Village,” and the tracking down of the vampires concluding with Ben and Mark running away to Mexico while Ben writes his book isn’t as interesting to me as the opening of the book; as I said when I discussed the reread initially, I am more interested in how King depicts the town more than anything else, which was the impetus for the reread. And how much do I love this sentence, which opens section 2, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”:

The town knew darkness.

It’s very Shirley Jackson-esque, and the passage that follows is perhaps my favorite part of the entire book.

I also think I am going to give The Shining  a reread; The Shining is, for most fans, critics and readers, King’s best work. I couldn’t get into it when I first bought the paperback, with the boy’s head with a blank face drawn on a shiny silver cover. I picked it up again a few years later and tore through it in one sitting; but as creepy and horrifying as it was, and how nasty the Overlook Hotel was…it was one of the few I never reread completely. I’ve picked it up and started it again, flipped through it and read sections, but I’ve never read it from beginning to end. I think the complexity of Jack Torrance as a character cut a little too close to home for me, but now that I have over fifty books out there with my name (or a pseudonym) on the spine…I don’t have to be too stressed about the failed author character being too close to home for me anymore.

At least one can hope so.

Tomorrow is the dreaded twelve hour car ride through Mississippi, Alabama, a bit of Georgia, and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I need to go get the mail before I leave town and possibly stop by the bank, so I am going to be getting a later start than I would have perhaps wished, but a twelve-hour drive is a twelve-hour drive no matter when you get started, and I am most likely going to shower and go straight to bed when I arrive in Kentucky. I am still trying to figure out what digital book to download and listen to in the car–who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?–but none of A Song of Fire and Ice are available as audiobooks from the library, and the library’s app isn’t as intuitive as I would like (translated: I’m too old to figure out the easiest way to use it). I wanted to start Charles Todd’s brilliant series set during the end of the first world war, but the first book isn’t available from my library (BASTARDS!!!!) and so I have to choose something else. I’ll spend some time on there today–maybe on the library’s website, which is easier for a Luddite like me–and perhaps the second Louise Penny Inspector Gamache novel might do the trick.

Or maybe The Shining. Ooooooh.

Most of today is also going to be spent on odds and ends. I may get some writing work done, or I may not. I think after the Saints game we are going to watch either Love, Simon or Call Me By Your Name; both are available for free streaming on one or another services I pay for now. I also am assuming I’ll finish watching Knightfall while I am in Kentucky, as my parents both go to bed early every night.

And yesterday I also managed to read “The Gospel of Sheba” by Lyndsay Faye, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Letter sent from Mrs. Colette Lomax to Mr. A. Davenport Lomax, September 3rd, 1902.

My only darling,

You cannot comprehend the level of incompetence to which I was subjected today.

You know full well I never demand a private dressing room when stationary, as the very notion implies a callous disrespect for the sensitivities of other artists. However, it cannot pass my notice when I am engaged in a second class chamber en route from Reims to Strasbourg. The porter assured me that private cars were simply not available on so small a railway line as our company was forced to book–and yet, I feel justified in suspecting the managers have hoaxed their “rising star” once again. The reek of soup from the dining car’s proximity alone would depress my spirits, even were my ankles not confined one atop the other in a padlock-like fashion.

I do so loathe krautsuppe. Hell, I assure you, my love, simmers with the aroma of softening cabbage.

Lyndsay Faye has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (for The Gods of Gotham, which I adored, and for Jane Steele, which is still in my ever-growing and enormous TBR pile), and she is also a delight to know in addition to her enormous gift for writing. Lyndsay is an enormous Sherlock Holmes fan (Sherlockian?), and even her first novel, Dust and Shadow, was a Holmes tale; she recently published an entire collection of Holmes short stories. “The Gospel of Sheba” is sort of a Holmes story; both he and Watson do appear in the story, but it’s primarily told from the point of view of a sub-librarian, Mr. Lomax; he is married to a professional singer who at the time of the story is currently on a tour–her presence in the story is either through her husband’s point of view or epistolary; we get to see occasional letters from her. Her husband’s point of view is seen through diary entries where he talks about the mystery of the Gospel of Sheba, a grimoire a member of a private men’s club with an interest in the supernatural has discovered and that makes anyone who reads it ill. One of the things I love the most about Faye is she writes in the formal style of the nineteenth century, but it always reads as organic and never forced. There’s never a sense from the reader of Oh I see what you’re doing here or from her as the author of see how clever I am? She’s somehow modernized that formal style, breathed fresh life into it, and uses it to help set the mood and the time and the setting. You can almost hear the hiss of gas in the lamps, and see the flickering gaslight. This is a terrific story, and reminds me of why I loved The Gods of Gotham so much, and also reminded me I need to dive back into her backlist.

And on that note, ’tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Jungle Boogie

Yesterday, much to my delight and astonishment, Raven Award winning mystery reviewer and critic Oline Cogdill included Florida Happens on her annual “best-of” list for 2018. Check it out here, along with some other amazing books.

Being on a list–even merely as the editor of an anthology–with writers like Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott Alison Gaylin, Lou Berney, Jeff Abbott, Alafair Burke, Michael Connelly, and Lori Roy, among so many others, is/was a bit overwhelming. Florida Happens was such a dream project; perhaps one of the easiest open call anthologies I’ve ever worked on (with the caveat that selecting the stories was probably the hardest job; we had such a bounty of riches submitted I could have easily done three fantastic volumes), and all the contributors were dreams to work with, in addition to their exceptional talent and their amazing stories.

It’s also kind of interesting that in a year I sort of dedicated myself to reading and writing more short stories, that the first anthology I’ve done in two years should get such an honor, and it is an honor.  I am still shaking my head in disbelief, but this is a credit to the fantastic stories my contributors wrote. Brava, one and all. (They also were ALL dreams to work with; completely professional and utterly reliable.)

So, here’s another short story I read recently, “From the Queen” by Carolyn Hart, from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Annie Darling shivered as she sloshed through puddles. Usually she stopped to admire boats in the marina, everything from majestic ocean-going yachts to jaunty Sunfish. On this February day, she kept her head ducked under her umbrella and didn’t spare a glance at gray water flecked with white caps and a horizon obscured by slanting rain. She reached the covered boardwalk in front of the shops, grateful for a respite. She paused at the door of Death on Demand, shook her umbrella, and inserted the key.

The chill of the morning lessened as she stepped inside her beloved bookstore. In her view, Death on Demand was the literary center of the small South Carolina sea island of Broward’s Rock. She tipped the umbrella into a ceramic stand, wiped her boots on the welcome mat, and drew in the scent of books, old and new. She clicked on the lights, taking pleasure from the new book table with its glorious array of the best mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels of the month.

I was more than a little surprised–yet pleased–to see Carolyn Hart’s name in the TOC of this volume. She is certainly, if not the queen, a member of the royal court of the cozy mystery. I don’t recall reading Hart before–I do remember meeting her at my one appearance at Malice Domestic; I think we may have even been on a panel together–but she absolutely charmed me with her generosity of spirit and kindness. I’ve always meant to read her work–again, a most prodigious back-list–and have several of her works on my shelves and TBR piles…yet “From the Queen” is my first (I believe) experience reading any of her work.

More’s the pity, too, as this story is carefully and meticulously crafted, completely believable, and her characters drawn so fully, deftly, and completely that I felt I knew them as well as most of my real-life friends and acquaintances. At the center of Hart’s story is an exceptionally rare book–a first edition of Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie that is not only signed but inscribed to the Queen of England (Mary of Teck, grandmother to the current Queen and wife to George V), which only makes it even more valuable. It is come into the hands of a friend of Annie’s, someone who is financially struggling and has no idea of its worth (bless her heart, she thinks it might be worth a hundred dollars) and is quite overwhelmed when Annie delicately tells her that it is not only worth much more than that, but so valuable as to be life-changing. The book is stolen, and it’s up to Annie to figure out who the thief is and get the book back for her poor friend. Wonderful, just wonderful.

And like Elizabeth George did in her story in this volume, Hart liberally sprinkles call-outs to many terrific writers and their books throughout the story, showing off not only her impressive knowledge of the genre but how much she loves it.

That only added to the story’s value for me, but I loved it regardless. Perhaps it’s time to move Ms. Hart higher up in the TBR pile, for certain.

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Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)

The cold has returned, after an absolutely stunningly beautiful weekend in New Orleans; more’s the pity, really. I sit here within my cold windows, with the gray light of early morning out there, shivering a bit; I probably could put on my fingerless gloves and a skull cap, but instead I simply sit here and shiver and shake.

Work schedule for the week is still messed up, or rather, not the norm; I have to go in early every day which means my evenings are free. Last night, I wrestled with the problem of my Mac having slowed down dramatically since the last iOS upgrade (to Mojave, by the way) but then I downloaded one of those “clean up your Mac” apps, and this morning it seems to be operating at a much better level; faster, at any rate–or at least I am not staring at the spinning wheel of annoyance the way I was when I got home last night–and proceeded to spend the entire evening getting that taken care of until frustration set in and I retired to the living room.

We’re currently binge-watching Schitt’s Creek, which is absolutely hilarious. It’s available on Netflix now; it’s a Eugene Levy creation, starring Mr. Levy and Catherine O’Hara–who makes everything she’s in better. Why she hasn’t won all the Emmys is a mystery to me.

I also signed a contract for the sale of my story “A Whisper from the Graveyard” to an anthology this morning, and emailed the signature page back into them. It’s for a gay male anthology called Pink Triangle Rhapsody, and my story is noir with a twist of the supernatural; or rather, as they say, “pulp”. It was a fun challenge to write, and is perfect for including in my future collection Monsters of New Orleans, which is clearly off to a very good start.

Yay, me!

I also read “The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy” by Elizabeth George, from  Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

For an entire generation, the story that follows could not be told. She who affected the vanishing of Langley, Washington’s most famous citizen was still among the living and had the knowledge of what she had done been revealed before this moment, there is little doubt that legions of the broken-hearted, the disenchanted, the disappointed, and the downright enraged would have ended up marching along the quiet street where she lived, bent upon violence. This, of course, would have followed whatever the afore-mentioned legions had done to a disused potting shed in the arboreal confines of Langley Cemetery, where the shape of a body on a moth-eaten blanket and a rotting first edition of an antique novel marked the spot of a deeply mourned departure. But now, at last, everything can be revealed. For all involved have finally passed, and no danger remains to anyone. Langley, Washington, has long since returned to the sleepy albeit lovely little village that has sat above the gleaming waters of Saratoga Passage for more than one hundred years. And what occurred there to its citizenry and to its gentle, well-meaning, but dar too malleable librarian has been consigned to history.

Elizabeth George.

It surprises me that I’ve not read any of Ms. George’s works, and I am not quite sure why that is the actual case. I certainly know of her, I know she is critically acclaimed and has been short-listed for, and won, numerous awards. And yet…Elizabeth George is a big hole in my mystery/crime education which must needs be remedied at some point. But there are so many authors, so many books, so little time; I certainly can relate to that old Twilight Zone episode where Burgess Meredith survives the nuclear holocaust and is delighted by the end of the world because now he has the time, finally, to read everything he wants to. And unlike his character, I don’t need my glasses to actually read, praise Jesus.

The premise of George’s story here is quite charming, if twisted; her main character, Janet Shore, loves to read but has the ability, by chanting and focusing, to actually put herself into books. She soon learns, much to her delight, that she also has the ability to put other people into them as well–she learns she can do this due to an argument over who killed Tom Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird with a stubborn friend whom she sends into the book to witness what actually happens for herself. Soon she is sending other friends into books, but after heartbreak in college she shuts herself off from other people–but finally returns home to her island off the Pacific Coast as librarian only to soon find herself back into the old position of putting people into their books. The story is quite original–at least to me–and I loved how George wove books into her narrative; along with slyly taking potshots at authors and books Janet Shore, with her deep and abiding passion for books, considers to be trash–Twilight, for one, and Fifty Shades for another.

Basically, what George has done with this tale is take the old cliched story of losing one’s self in books quite literally; books were Janet’s salvation as a child, as they were mine…and as I read this story, I wondered if I would take advantage of such a power were I to have it; I don’t think I actually should. But the finish of the tale is also enormously satisfying, and I was quite pleased with it.

And yes, I’ve added George to my “must read” authors list.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Bennie and the Jets

What a lovely weekend this past one was, seriously; the Abomination in College Station aside, and even that was more of a seriously? than anything else.

I got back to New Orleans around seven pm on Friday night; there’s a time zone change going and coming, but it always seems like because of that I make better time coming home than going. It’s a mental thing, obviously; same amount of time, same amount of miles (slightly less than 1500 round trip), and yet…it seems to go so much faster. I always think–and I know this makes literally no sense–that since I am driving south and going from a higher elevation to a lower one, that it’s all downhill.

said it didn’t make sense.

I also somehow managed to wrestle with some ideas and projects-in-progress while I was gone; whether those solutions to the problems will work (or if the problem is a real problem in the first place) remains to be seen.

But Saturday morning I had coffee with my friend Pat, preparatory to my Costco run; it was actually a most productive meeting. She helped me with some great info for a short story I am writing, and she also gave me some tips on how to do my New Orleans research (and also thought Monsters of New Orleans was a great idea). The Costco trip wasn’t as bad as one might have thought the Saturday after Thanksgiving; I assume everyone burned out on shopping on Black Friday. But Costco is never an ordeal, even when it’s crowded; which really says a lot about their management philosophy and how well they treat their employees. Everyone is always so nice and friendly and polite; compare that to the staff at, let’s just say Wal-mart, and you see what I mean.

This actually set the mood for a rather lovely weekend. I relaxed and recovered from the trip, while getting caught up on things around the house–grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc. It was quite lovely. I actually finished reading End of Watch during the Abomination in College Station, and one benefit of spending time at my mother’s house? I really think my house needs a deep thorough cleaning and reorganization; i.e. my kitchen could be more efficiently set up. I also need to clean out kitchen and bathroom drawers, and as for my TBR pile–well, if I have had it for more than two years and haven’t read it, time to donate it. And if, later, I decide I want to read it…well, I guess I can buy it again if I want to read it that badly. (I’m talking big, but I know once I start going through the books I am my book-hoarding tendencies are going to re-emerge.)

I know myself all too well.

I also read  “The Book of the Lion” by Thomas Perry,  from Bibliomysteries Volume Two, edited by Otto Penzler:

Dominic Hallkyn played back the voicemail on his telephone while he took off his sport coat and hung it up to dry in the laundry room. The smell of rain on tweed was one that he knew some people might say was his smell, the smell of an English professor. The coats–tweed or finer-spun wool in the winter and seersucker or summer-weight fabrics in the late spring or early fall–were his work uniform, no different from a mechanic’s coveralls. He wore them to repel the skepticism of the young.

The first couple of calls were routine: a girl in his undergraduate medieval lit course has been sick, so could she please hand in her paper tomorrow? Of course. He had plenty of others to deaden his soul until that one arrived. Meg Stanley, the Department Chair, wanted him to serve on a Ph.D. oral exam committee. Unfortunately, he would. Reading the frantically scribbled preliminary exam and then asking probing questions in the oral would be torment to him and the student, both of them joined in a ritual of distaste and humiliation, all of it designed to punish them both for their love of literature, but it was part of his job.

Thomas Perry is another luminary of the crime fiction world whose work I’ve neither tasted nor sampled until now. One of the lovely things about anthologies, such as this, is that you can get a taste of an author’s work, a feel for their writing style, without the commitment to reading an actual full-length novel, and you can then decide whether you wish to add the author to your must-read list. “The Book of the Lion,” a tale of academic/rare book intrigue, certainly got Perry added to my list of authors to explore. In this story, our stuffy professor Hallkyn receives a mysterious phone call from a man who claims to have discovered a rare copy of an even rarer work; Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Book of the Lion,” a romantic history of Richard Couer-de-Lion that has been lost to the ages. The value of such a book, of course, would be in the eight figures at the very least; it’s worth to literary scholarship perhaps even higher. It’s a sort of historical treasure hunt story–this reminds me of William Martin’s Harvard Yard, which involved the search for Love’s Labour’s Found, a long-lost Shakespearean play–and also had several delightful twists.

So, yes, Mr. Perry has been added to my list.

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