I hesitate to say purchasing a Kindle Fire was a mistake, but it’s been rather like giving an opium addict a nice house in a field of opium poppies. It seems like I’m hopping in to the Kindle book store in search of yet more delights every ten minutes or so. I’ve now got so much to read that I’ll need an extra lifetime, and even that won’t be enough. Yet I still acquire more books.
It’s been good, this taking myself out of the world in order to do nothing but read. It’s reduced the stress of certain other things that must be dealt with. Not to be melodramatic, but I’ve been rather teetering on the precipice of a depression. Two things have kept me from toppling over: the kindness of my readers and friends, and books. It’s hard to be depressed when you have understanding people who say and do the right things, combined with the delicious escapism of books.
I owe you and the writers some rather large debts of gratitude.
So now the time has come to report from the trenches of book addiction. I’ve read an alarming amount of Agatha Christie. And I very nearly made a mistake. I was all set to tell you that she had nothing but cardboard characters and plywood scenery. Even her major characters, the beloved Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, reminded me of the character sheets one used to roll for Vampire: the Masquerade or D&utee;D. You began with a basic type, slapped on some vivid merits and flaws, and voila, a character. The other characters, the murderers and the murdered, the hapless red herrings and the plucky assistants, struck me as the kind of folks we used to call non-player characters, those characters tossed at us by not terribly adept DMs or Storytellers in order to move the game along. They were never what you might call fully-fleshed.
I haven’t been reading Christie for the rich language and deep characters and vivid scenery, in other words. I’ve been reading for the puzzles, the sheer joy of brain teasers, trying to get inside the author’s head and figure out who she’d styled the guilty party. I’m not very good at it, which makes it more fun. It’s sheer escapism that puts no demands on my mind, and since mysteries aren’t what I write, it’s not at all work. It’s been nice to read things that expect so little of me. It’s been a kindness, reading stories where I only mildly y about the characters, if at all.
And then, in the midst of all this cardboard, she turned round and shattered my illusions. It was a book called The Hollow that did it. The woman had serious chops, when she chose to write deep characters. In very few pages, she had me intimately involved in a great many varied lives, had me loving, admiring, fearing them. She kept me in a lather of anxiety, hoping it would turn out well for them, terrified it would not.
So that book rather broke the trend, and it’s why I won’t say a damned word about Agatha Christie’s inability to write deep characters, because she bloody well could when she chose to.
I have to confess something to those of you who mentioned Dorothy Sayers: I’m a bit angry with her. I read Whose Body? and disliked it. She had this one person I could identify with, the science-minded man, the one who had interesting theories and knew the mind was matter, not some silly ethereal soul, the one whom I found intensely interesting, and she went and made him the murderer. It offended my sensibilities as a lover of science and as an atheist. I didn’t like Lord Peter Wimsey to begin with. But I’ll stick it out, and give a few other of her books a try, because I can’t read Agatha Christie forever. Agatha Christie, you see, only wrote a finite number of books, and I’m going through them at an alarming rate.
I’ll be turning my attentions soon to an author called Toni Dwiggins. She’s written two mystery novels about forensic geologists, and the sample I read didn’t make me cringe away in horror, and one book is free, so I see no reason not to give it a try. If you’ve read her, feel free to let me know your thoughts. I will, of course, report back when I’m done.
I’d be taking reader suggestions and reading some Susan Cummins Miller, but her books aren’t on Kindle until March. Even then, it’ll only be the first two books. You’ll hear me scream once I’ve finished them. Then I’ll probably break down and buy paper, because when I like a thing, I must have it immediately, and I’ve been told she’s a good writer.
I went to the used bookstore tonight for a fresh infusion of Christie and found a copy of Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology that made my mouth water, but that I didn’t get because I thought I’d seen it cheaper elsewhere. I was wrong. So it’s back to the bookstore tomorrow, hoping someone else hasn’t snapped it up. In the process of searching for the Kindle edition, though, I also came across Fundamentals of Fluvial Geomorphology by Ro Charlton, and decided I must have it as well. I downloaded a sample and began drooling whilst reading the list of illustrations and figures. For a while, during this dry spell and in the midst of all this fluff reading, I’d become afraid I’d lost my taste for serious geological reading. It appears not.
I’ve downloaded Lyell’s Principles of Geology. Also, a book put together by Louis Agassiz’s wife Elizabeth, which includes his correspondence and papers along with sketches of his life. I’ve been making a lot of finds like this, rare and unusual books that I’d pass over regretfully if I had to purchase them, but which have been made available for free by splendid volunteers and thus become irresistible. Poor Amazon’s recommendations algorithm is probably having conniptions trying to figure me out. I’ve taken it all the way from turn-of-the-century detective stories through old Asian literature and fairy tales, on through architecture, traipsed through the SF section, tripped through Travel, and thoroughly ransacked Science.
And all of this is serving its purpose. The Muse has twitched the whip a few times. A few scenes have sleeted through my mind. I think I may return soon to writing with something a little whimsical and fun, which may or may not include an Evil Geologist with an Evil Geologist Lair™. It seems to have a little something to do with murder victims that are cities, and the resurrection of a partnership. And Silver Fox wanted a story about an Evil Geologist, so it doesn’t matter this story is inspired merely by a crap ton of Agatha Christie combined with the desire to avoid serious work a while longer.
The Muse stirs. That’s all that matters.
And perhaps, soon, I’ll even manage a substantial blog post for you, my long-suffering and fiercely loyal readers.