Thursday, February 20, 2014

Series: I - The Early Years

While enjoying some of the wonderful book blogs out there, I've noticed that people tend to favor ether series or stand alone novels, seldom both. I'm partial to series, myself. How about you? I think it's the continuity I like: familiar old friends returning for a visit.

Murder mysteries, though not everyone's cup of tea, are my drug of choice, and I'm always on the hunt for a new series.

Some make me laugh out loud; some are cringe inducing. Some I have loved and read over and over again, while some just offered, something to read, and some ... well, you can't expect to love everything you read, now, can you?

One of the earliest series I can remember catching my imagination was that of Ellery Queen. After seeing the short lived TV series starring Jim Hutton when I was about 10, I was smitten. Ellery gave the reader every bit of evidence he himself had, so that we might try and solve the case too. (Unlike Agatha Christie)

I admit to an initial misconception that they were not actually fictional stories, but biographical. After all, they were stories written about Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen, were they not? (Frederic Dannay &  Manfred Lee) I did eventuality straighten that one out, but I never let go of my first mystery love.

Over the years I have read and then reread them all. My ancient, crumbling copies anchor a growing, changing library.

At about that same time, I discovered the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. Various authors wrote the books under the name of Carolyn Keene. Pictured is Millie Benson who wrote 23 of the 30 original books.

While Ellery Queen was not always readily available at my local library, Nancy Drew was. Both our school library and the public library displayed her prominently. Also, since any gift giving occasion in our house was a book giving occasion, it didn't take long to build a collection.

I occasionally regret giving that collection to my little sister. (Who am I kidding, I continually regret it!)

Nancy was smart, strong, independent, happy, and that definitely makes her a wonderful role model. My daughter read Nancy Drew, and my granddaughter will be reading them soon.

Families all over the world have traditions they pass on from one generation to the next. In our family, the most precious seem to involve books.

About the time I started Middle School I also began working my way through the Agatha Christie catalog, both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Although I truly love her writing, I carry with me one giant pet peeve about Ms Christie.

She routinely relies on red herrings and withholding details to further her mysteries.

As a girl weaned on Ellery Queen, I found it all but intolerable.

Why, then, do I keep returning to her work?

Her characters. 

Both Miss Marple And Hercule Poirot are quirky and entertaining enough to offset my irritation, along with their many acquaintances.

Another early love was Ellis Peters' (Edith Pargeter) Brother Cadfael.

Half way through reading the books I stumbled upon the BBC broadcast of the series, staring Derek Jacobi in the title role.

I was thoroughly entranced by the gentle monk with the mysterious past, and captivated by his skills with herbs and early forensics.

This series is also an ongoing love and a periodic reread.

Girl Sleuth 
- Brenda Hillman
A brenda is missing—where is she?
Summon the seeds & weeds, the desert whooshes. Phone the finch
with the crowded beak;   a little pretenda
                is learning to read
in the afternoon near the cactus caves. Near oleander & pulpy
caves with the click-click of the wren & the shkrrrr of the thrasher,
               a skinny pretenda is learning
to read till the missing brenda
               is found. Drip of syllables like olives near the saguaro.
Nancy Drew will find the secret in raincoats & wednesdays
              & sticks. Nancy whose spine is yellow
              or blue will find the brenda in 1962,

Nancy                   who has no mother,
              who takes suggestions from her father & ignores them.
Gleam goes the wren ignoring the thorn. They cannot tell the difference.
Click of the smart dog’s nails on linoleum.
                                 Nancy bends over the clues,
of brenda’s locket & dress. Word by word
               between syllables a clue. Where has the summer gone, the autumn—
are they missing too? Maybe Nancy
                will parse the secret & read the book report on Nancy Drew:
“neat pretty sly cute.” Syllable by syllable
                & still no brenda!   Nancy
puts her hand to her forehead; is the missing
girl in the iron bird? is the clue to the girl in the locket?
from: Practical Waters, Copyright 2009.

Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: well, he was also an early and ongoing part of my reading life.

I've read all the Holmes stories over and over, but for reasons that will become apparent at a later date, I will leave him out today.


No comments:

Post a Comment