Winter, Westlake, Wodehouse & weirdness

Good morning bookies! Stand by for a special Sunday news and comment blog.

Today is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter. From here on out the days will be getting longer. Thank goodness. Your friendly neighborhood bookseller hates cold weather. If you live in a warm climate, say, Key Largo, we could probably work out a trade, you live here, I live there.
But I’ll tell you in advance, the seafood is better there. I know because the seafood is better anywhere than in West Tennessee.

So who was the first genius to gaze at the sky, decipher the mysteries of astronomy and deduce that the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, to predict its occurrence? Was it an ancient Egyptian, a Sumerian, a Chinese? And if you find a name, is that really the person or did they steal the discovery from someone whose name is lost to history?

*** Last night I finished Dirty Money by Richard Stark. Stark, as you all surely know, is the else-name of Donald Westlake. This is the newest Parker novel. You know Parker, the criminal who usually kills a few people very book while committing mayhem. He’s not likeable, he’s not a good guy, he doesn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor and you can’t trust him. It’s the sequel to Nobody Runs Forever, picking up a week after that book ends.

So why should read about a guy who has no redeeming qualities? I have no idea, but the series has been going for 46 years now, it’s been made into numerous movies and if he wrote one of these novels every month I would buy and read them all. A full review will be in a future issue of iloveamysterynewsletter, but for now do yourself a favor and read this. But only if you’ve already read Nobody Runs Forever. Westlake is genius.

*** An ever popular topic of discussion is what you find in the pages of used and old books. There are plenty of anecdotes about finding money, food, papers, embarrassments and biologically dangerous things in books that are no doubt glad to be rid of them. The strangest thing I have found is probably a hand-written, unsigned note from one man to another describing how much fun he (the writer) is having with the other man’s wife while Man #2 is away in Korea fighting the communists. I have no idea whether it’s real or not, whether it’s true, was ever sent, nothing. But if it was real and it was sent, then how did it end up in a book? Why wasn’t it signed? Was it a rough draft? If I can find it I’ll post the text for you to decide for yourself. If you have any stories about things you’ve found in books, send them to me at come2reven@aol.com and I’ll post them.

In the meantime, here’s an article about things other people have found.

Oddities and other things found in books

*** If I were ever forced to compile a list of essential authors, that is, writers whose work I would not want to live without, one of the few on the list that would not be up for debate would be P.G. Wodehouse. No doubt he wrote something bad or, worse, ordinary, but fortunately for me I have never encountered it.

Like most people my favorites are Jeeves & Wooster. For perfect comedic fantasy, Wodehouse cannot be mastered. Some have tried, me for one, and some have borrowed from his style to create masterpieces of their own, (If Jasper Fforde isn’t a Wodehouse reader then I have enough books) but for sheer perfection of voice there is only one Wodehouse.

Dedicated viewers of PBS who also watch Fox’s TV drama ‘House’ must, like me, have trouble seeing Hugh Laurie as anyone other than Bertie Wooster. I keep waiting for Stephen Fry to show up and politely remind House that it’s time to stop playing doctor, Aunt Agatha is due for a visit any moment and he really must shave first.

So it’s with delight that I share this link to a UK article about Everyman’s re-publication of everything Wodehouse. If you’ve already bought all of the other stuff I have listed as great ideas for those who want to buy me stuff, these would be a welcome addition.

All things Wodehouse

*** We’re going to get all sorts of lists soon, good, bad, indifferent. So here’s one from the UK about the weird and unusual. Their choice for Turkey of the Year, a prize title that in itself seems better left in the 80’s, was dead-on perfect. Jamie Oliver was once a fun TV chef who has turned messianic and has become self-righteously annoying. Of course people eat foods that are bad for them, mostly because they taste good!

A UK view of the weird and unfortunate

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