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Reading – Part Three: The Second Professor

So we’ve established that I listen to audiobooks, right? Okay, have we established that I listen to mystery audiobooks? Have we further established that I have an easier time listening to mystery stories than I do reading them? It’s true, and I have no explanation for it beyond “It’s a thing that happens” which isn’t helpful for anyone. However, it is true that for a long time, I listened to tons and tons of mystery audiobooks. As a matter of fact, I listened to a lot of mystery short stories, but that’s not important right now.

In fact, the amount I listen to audiobooks is only sort of germane to this conversation and I’m really just using it to link to the last post where I talked about reading and I suppose to the first post as well. Got that? Good, because you will be tested on this later. Not normal tested. Not paper and pencil tested. I’m going to test you GLaDOS style! How learning about books I’ve read will help you survive those turrets (oh so many turrets) is still sort of… well, let’s just say I didn’t think too far beyond getting the turrets. Yeah, you’re probably going to die, but at least you’ll die listening to Cave Johnson rant about combustible lemons.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. Mystery novels. So I like watching and listening to dramatizations of Agatha Christie’s work, but I hate reading it. No, she was never a professor, calm down. This story isn’t about Agatha Christie! Calm down, I’m going to get to who this is about. Christie’s writing style has always grated on my nerves. Partly it’s the Tab A into Slot B style she developed later in her career, partly it’s the convoluted murders, but mostly it’s the head descriptions. You can only take so many heart shaped faced and egg shaped heads before you start throwing the tablet shaped book at the slate shaped wall. Seriously, there is something just amazingly tedious about how she describes people.

I know, you want to know how this becomes relevant. Well, maybe it doesn’t. Did you ever think about that? The sad thing is, most of you probably said “Yeah, after years of reading your shit, we have.” and for that, you are all cordially invited to go to hell.

I do like watching adaptations of Christie’s work, and that is how I ended up watching Poirot on A&E. For those of you not from America, A&E is a station that used to show interesting things like British TV shows, documentaries, and the occasional original program before they devolved into another reality TV slot. They it was who got me hooked on Nero Wolfe, and were I still talking about audiobooks, we would probably be talking about Rex Stout’s work. However, we’re talking about actual reading and as such Rex needs to stay to one side for the moment.

While watching Poirot, I saw a commercial for an original movie that A&E was promoting for Robert B. Parker’s novel Small Vices. I’d never read any Spenser stories, but I knew it was a TV show in the 80s, and I was into mystery so I gave it a watch. My mind did not equal blown. It was an interesting story, and it was sort of funny watching them try to pretend that Toronto Canada was Boston, when it was so obviously Toronto. I mean, they have a scene shot in the ROM, in a room I’ve been in, in a place where I’ve stood. However, I just thought the movie was okay. Nothing mind blowing, but I might read one of his books.

Dad bought Small Vices, but he didn’t really get into it. I didn’t read it, for whatever reason. Instead, I listened to Sudden Mischief which Dad bought on sale because he knew I had an easier time with audio. Now, that book was really interesting, and it was the next book in the series after Small Vices, so that helped. I still wasn’t blown away though. Probably, because I was older and I knew books like this existed by now.

However, I found myself grabbing Small Vices and reading that, and after that going for the newest book which was Hugger Mugger, although I got that in audio first. In fact, at this point the story gets muddled. Again, I was grabbing the books in whatever format I could find them. Some in audio, some in physical books form, and I still haven’t read the whole series. I’ve never fell in deep with the Spenser series, but I’ve always found myself reading or listening to them. I’m perfectly happy with them, but I’ve never needed the next one right now. I’ve also never felt compelled to search out any of Parker’s other series.

However, through cross contamination, I got into Chandler via Parker. Parker ripped off Chandler to a degree that would boarder on criminal if he weren’t so naked about it. He lifted the voice, the manners, even some of the character names directly from Chandler. Hell, the last line in Farwell My Lovely turns up in two Spenser novels that I can think of. Not that it matters, not really, what starts as an homage to one author quickly spreads and expands to cover so many that it becomes dizzying after a while.

Parker was an incredibly skillful writer, one that mixed complexity into a simple detective story. The name of his detective is in itself a reference to Edmund Spenser the poet behind The Faerie Queene, which… I’ve tried to read… I really have. That, however, is some dense shit and feels like homework in about five words. However, things like that are just an undercurrent for what is really a hardboiled detective novel. But the undercurrent is what changes Parker from another shmoe to something worth talking about.

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment