Past, present, and perhaps, future reading

What I Read This Past Week

When I left you last week, I planned to read Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery by Michael Gilbert, which is part of the British Library Crime Classics series. I started it last Sunday and finished it on Wednesday.

At first, I thought Gilbert got too bogged down in legalese, but about 20 pages in, it picked up rather quickly…once a body of man was discovered stuffed in a deed box! From there, for the most part, it was rather enjoyable as a chief inspector and a member of the law firm try to discover who killed the man. I’ll admit I lost track at the end because of long work days, so I rated it four out of five stars on Goodreads, but it probably was closer to a 4.5 or even a five.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“A friend in the enemy’s camp,” said the Assistant Commissioner. “It’s quite a good idea. Only for heaven’s sake don’t be like that mug in the detective story who confides all his best ideas to a friendly sort of character who turns out to be the murderer in Chapter Sixteen.”

Appropriately, the book had 16 chapters.

“Then, at the end of about seventy-five thousand words I shall collect you all into this room, and inaugurate a sort of verbal game of grandmother’s steps, creeping up behind each of the suspects in turn and saying Boo! to them in order to make them jump. At the end of which, when everybody is exhausted, including the reader, I shall produce a revolver, confess that I committed the crime, and shoot myself in front of you all.”

I’m not sure if there were 75,000 words, but it was a short novel so maybe…

Then there was this theme of describing how a crime is solved, which I thought was tied together nicely with another reference to it.

The other method is more laborious but just as certain. You weave a net. And you drag it across the pool, backwards and forwards. You won’t get everything at first, but if your mesh is fine enough and you drag deeply enough, everything must come up in the end.”

So the little wheels clicked and the spindles bobbed and curtsied, and the mesh was woven.

What I Plan To Read This Weekend

As for this weekend, my plan is to read yet another mystery, this time on this side of the Atlantic, with Trial by Fury, a John J. Malone mystery, by Craig Rice, pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig. My friend John, a former neighbor, recommended the book.

Rice, who was described as “the Dorothy Parker of detective,” was the first mystery writer to be featured on the cover of Time, yet probably like John and me, you probably never heard of her. John recommended this book, the fifth in her Craig Malone mystery series based on a recommendation from the blog The Passing Tramp. While I normally try to read series in order, John assured me it was good as a standalone, plus the series of 14 books is about $120 on Amazon so I think I’m okay with buying just one and reading it out of series order.

What sold John on the series in part is the high-society couple Jake and Helene Justus who help Malone, a Chicago attorney, in the mysteries. John said the couple is comparable to Nick and Norah Charles in The Thin Man series by Dashiell Hammett. Although I never have read the series (GASP), I do remember seeing one or two of the movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy when I was younger (no, not in the theater!). So I thought I’d give this one a try based on John’s recommendation. John rarely has steered me wrong in his recommendations. Last year, for example, he recommended The Uninvited by Dorothy Macaradle, which I enjoyed.

What I Might Read Soon

Also this past week, I picked up the series, The Murderbot Diaries series, by Martha Wells after seeing the entire series (so far) at the library where I work. I haven’t read science fiction in a few years, because while I want to like science fiction, I usually don’t. Blame years of growing up reading Isaac Asimov with most modern science fiction paling in comparison. However, I’m willing to give Wells a chance since I’ve heard a lot of praise for the series. My fingers are crossed.

Update 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2: I abandoned Trial by Fury because too many typos in the Kindle edition. I returned for a refund and instead read All Systems Red, which was excellent. I’m now on to the second one, Artificial Condition.

Sabbath #11

For the last 11 Sundays, I have been taking a break from my phone: calls, texts, and news for my own personal Sabbath. I have had varying degrees of success, but for most of the Sundays, I have kept to my initial intention to unplug for the day.

It all began with putting my cellphone in a desk drawer and has evolved into shutting off all notifications on the phone, only listening to music or audiobooks on it. I switched from a Kindle Fire, on which I still was tempted to look at notifications even though I had them shut off, to an older Kindle with no bells and whistles.

  • His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Every Living Thing by James Herriot
  • Gold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey
  • The Rat That Began To Gnaw The Rope by C.W. Grafton (yes, father of Sue Grafton, but an accomplished writer on his own).

I also have watched three Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies, Creed 2, Rocketman (a rewatch), and The Princess Bride (also a rewatch, multiple times). I have listened to a best of 2020 playlist that I created on a free trial of Tidal, Sleepy Hollow on XPN from Philadelphia, and Guido’s Lounge Cafe on Mixcloud.

Today, the plan is to read Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery by Michael Gilbert, a part of the British Library Crime Classics series. This follows my reading last week of the C.W. Grafton book that is part of the Library of Congress Crime Classics series.

This past week, I also decided to continue my subscription to Audible, even though I am an intermittent audiobook listener. However, I enjoy the free offerings they have too for members. For example, my wife and I both enjoyed listening to a Dr. Katz series, which started as a cartoon. I also have been listening to the Sherlock Holmes short stories and have a few other books already on audio for whenever I get to them. So I might listen to something later, but probably something short.

I’m not sure what I’ll watch yet, but I did purchase a streaming copy of Bowfinger and while this isn’t where I intended to leave off, I will, with one of my favorite scenes from the movie:

Mid-July Check-in

Since I haven’t been here or on Instagram in awhile, some of you have been checking in on me to see if my wife and I are okay, and while I’ve responded to some of you via e-mail, I haven’t responded to all of you. So here’s the breakdown:

  • We’re still here in northcentral Pennsylvania.
  • I’m still working at the library (curbside pickups and pickups and computer use in the building, all by appointment). My wife is still working as a 911 dispatcher for our county. Our respective families are well. Kim’s sister, mother, our brother-in-law and nephew had presumptive cases of covid-19 back in the beginning of April, but they’re all doing well.
  • We’re still reading.

Hey, let’s talk about that:

  • I’m still reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – which, when finished, will mean I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon by Doyle and also is in the second and final volume of the collection I’ve been reading from since last year. I recently finished Gold of Our Fathers, the fourth in the Darko Dawson mystery series, by Kwei Quartey, and am planning to read Death by His Grace, the fifth in the same series, by Quartey.
  • UPDATE: As of early Saturday afternoon, I have abandoned this book after only a chapter. This one began with the focus on a couple, presumably one of them the victim or the accused of a murder to come, and not on Dawson as the first four in the series. I skimmed ahead, only to see Dawson is introduced after several chapters, and quickly decided I didn’t like the change of focus so “cut bait,” so to speak.
  • Kim’s finishing The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which she never read (!), and tentatively plans to read Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor next.

We’re watching a bit of this and a bit of that…

Together:

  • Parks and Recreation reruns
  • Drunk History reruns once a week, usually on Wednesdays
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns
  • Bob’s Burgers once a week for burger night on Fridays
  • Boyz n the Hood, which she’d never seen.
  • What We Do in the Shadows, the TV series.

Separately:

  • Kim: Recently finished Transparent on Amazon Prime and is making her way through Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix
  • Her must watch of the last few months: Pose, now on Netflix.
  • My must watch of the last few months: Ip Man 4, also now on Netflix.

We’re also listening a bit of this and a bit of that:

  • Me on constant replay: Fear of Music by The Talking Heads.
  • My pick of the year so far: Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan.
  • Kim’s recent plays: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and Eight Diagrams by Wu-Tang Clan.

That’s about it, or at least all I want to talk about for now. I’ll leave you with a photo from my walk this morning, the start of a three-day weekend for me as I’m off through Monday (new hours at the library, closed on Mondays for a deep cleaning of the building).

UPDATE: Saturday night I received an email from the Free Library of Philadelphia that a book I had on hold was now available. So now today, Sunday, I plan on reading The Rat Began To Gnaw The Rope by C.W. Grafton, a hard-boiled noir mystery, from The Library of Congress Crime Collection. And yes, he was related to the late Sue Grafton. He was her father.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, phone-free Sunday!

Two Sundays ago, I tried something new: putting my phone in the desk drawer all day, with all notifications shut off except if a person calls twice within 15 minutes. Then I tried it last Sunday too. I had moderate success, only beginning to cave toward the end of the day to check my phone. So now I am going to do it again tomorrow to end the month on a lovely note and try to make it a tradition.

I should explain…or maybe I shouldn’t, but I will anyway…that for me a phone-free day does not mean a “media-free” day in terms of other devices or being unplugged. For example, tomorrow I plan on reading or continuing to listen to the Sherlock Holmes short stories to which I’ve been reading/listening on my Kindle. I might watch some movies or TV shows on one of the streaming services we have on our TV. I might listen to music on my laptop. I might mow the rest of the lawn that I didn’t finish earlier today with our electric mower (I’m kidding, we have a gasoline-powered mower, but I was trying to go with the unplugged theme).

My phone-free day definitely does mean a media-free day, no quotes, though in terms of news. For some reason, I’ve never been tempted to check news on any of the streaming channels on our TV or on my Kindle or on our electric mower that I don’t have. I only am tempted to look on my phone.

Also I might do all of those things mentioned above. I might do none of them. I don’t know yet. I just know that I won’t be on my phone so don’t call or text me, please. I’ll be “indisposed.”