As usual, my reading slowed down during the summer. In fact, it almost stopped completely. And as the year progressed, so many devilish things happened in our nation that many of the books that I planned to read seemed to foretell what we were experiencing. I started a few of them, and I was enjoying them, but the echoes I saw on our TV screen and read in our paper, ruined the experience for me. So instead of a certain biography, a certain novel written in the 1940s, and a certain book on a historical subject among others, I went to more lighthearted fare.
I read The Pupil by Caro Fraser as a book by an author I had never read before. Because the protagonist of the novel is a barrister I assumed the book was a mystery or a courtroom thriller. It was neither, but rather a novel whose main characters happen to work in law firms. It is a good read, and the start of a series of novels. I’ll probably read more of them.
Next I read The Warrior Heir by Cindy Williams Chima. This a YA fantasy novel by an author I had never read before, but I slotted it as a book first published in the 2000s. The clerk who checked me out at the bookstore where I purchased it praised the series. She volunteered how much she enjoyed reading the books. As is the case of a few YA books of this sort, the protagonist discovers that he has spectacular powers when he reaches a certain age. He battles and overcomes evil forces by the end of the book. Don’t you love happy endings? I liked it, and plan to read more in the series.
From the 1970s I chose Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark, a pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake. Westlake used the name of Richard Stark primarily when writing novels about the thief Parker. A number of movies based on the Parker novels have been made, beginning with the 1967 film Point Blank starring Lee Marvin. I don’t know why they changed Parker’s name to Walker in the movie. But that has nothing to do with Lemons Never Lie except that the main character, Alan Grofield, appears in some of the Parker novels. Like Parker, Grofield is a thief; and like Parker, the heist goes wrong. I haven’t read one of these novels in many years. It was good to read another Richard Stark book.
From my original choice of biographies I moved on to Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt. I have been planning to read this since it was published in 2013, but never seemed to get around to it. When I found it on a sales table I snatched it up to read for the challenge. Linda Ronstadt has been one of my favorite artists since I first saw her on The Woody Woodbury Show on television performing with The Stone Ponies. In the memoir she covers her life from childhood to her retirement. Unlike some other autobiographies I’ve read by performing artists, she exhibits humility and kindness. I don’t believe she said an unkind thing about any of the many people she wrote about. The closest she came was describing an artistic difference she had with a record producer. I miss hearing new music by her, but I have hundreds of recorded songs that I can go back to.
I chose to read Villages by John Updike as a book by a favorite (favored?) author. One of he reasons I love to read Updike is the ability he had to write convincing dialogue. He was also able to take ordinary people and events and make them so interesting that we want to know more. Many people, including me, swear that we hate having drama in our lives, and don’t understand people who seem to thrive on it. But we all seem to enjoy reading about it or seeing it on TV or in the movies. Also, it is the stuff that keeps gossip alive. Perhaps Updike was the fictional version of a gossip monger whom everyone decries but loves to hear. I love his books.
Finally, for this update, I went back to the 1980s and reread Berlin Game by Len Deighton. It was the first of a series with Bernard Sampson as the protagonist. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I love Deighton’s spy thrillers. They stand up there along with LeCarré’s, plus they have humor that others who write in that genre lack. This was my first rereading of the novel since the 1990s. I don’t know why I waited so long to return to it. I’ll soon be going back to the next in the series, Mexico Set.