Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Well I Never!

It's been awhile. I beg forgiveness. Gianna is working on something for the blog that involves her tendency to scatter underwear like Johnny Appleseed across hotels far and wide, and I do hope that I'm earning double Hilton Honors Points every time I pass through a hotel where Gianna has previously stopped. It seems only fair considering what I might find.

Anyway, recently I've been playing with an idea that popped up when Doubleday announced the publication of THE ANGEL'S GAME, the new book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. He's the guy who wrote SHADOW OF THE WIND, and I know there are a ton of fans for SHADOW. I've actually never read the first book, but I did read and enjoy ANGEL'S GAME. It's published in June and should be humongous. The book, like SHADOW, is set in Barcelona and is full of book lover delights like the cemetary of lost books, a catacombs of books left and taken. You bring a book to leave, you take one that calls to you. It's a great idea. Here's another great idea: Spain has a holiday, La Diada de Sant Jordi, or St. George's Day, where it is customary to give a book and a rose to a loved one, on April 23rd. We need this holiday in the US! Gianna and I have been playing with this idea of lost books and rediscovering books that aren't lauded on Good Morning America or Oprah here and now. How great would it be if every bookstore in the US set up a display for this St. George's Day, and sold their favorite books to give to loved ones? It's like Christmas, except in my case I'd get something I actually want.

All of this lost book thinking led me to all of those books out there I've never read. For example, in the last few months we've started selling to a terrific mystery book store in Houston, Murder By the Book. I actually haven't read many mysteries in my life. As a kid I read mostly American lit classics because those were the books I could get in podunk East Texas without a bookstore or Amazon. In college I focused mostly on the English masters and came late to the wonders of contemporary literary fiction, which is one of my two book passions. While I enjoy mysteries as movies (and the darker the better), I'm just now coming to the genre in book form. I've read read Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett or James Cain. I just last week read my first James Ellroy book (BLOOD'S A ROVER, which releases in fall 2009). In the last year, with Stieg Larsson's amazing thriller GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and a book about to come out called THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, I'm really starting to embrace mysteries into my literary comfort zone.

There are other authors whose company I have yet to keep. There's a new biography out called CHEEVER, about the life of John Cheever, and though I should have, I've never read any of his stories or novels. In fact, many of those masters writing between World War II and, say, 1990, are new to me. I think I was born too late to read them on release and too early for them to be taught in my college classes, so there's a gap. I've read some Updike, but not the Rabbit series, just the last few novels. I've never read CATCH 22. I've read more of the women writers from that time, and Joyce Carol Oates, Muriel Spark, and Margaret Atwood are some of my favorite writers.

This St. George's Day, I'm going to celebrate by giving a book to a loved one (me), and reading one of these books that I've missed thus far in my journey. I don't know what yet--I'm willing to take suggestions. Maybe I'll read one of Gianna's favorite books, THE THINGS THEY CARRIED. It's supposed to be terrific. Never read it.

Random sighting while traveling in Lewisville, Texas, yesterday: I passed an out of business barbecue joint called Sugar Babies, which looked like a barn and featured a morbid, cartoon pig feasting on a rack of ribs (isn't that cannibalism?) on its sign. Sugar Babies also had one of those marquee signs where you can advertise specials. The specials were still posted, and the first was "'Sonic' like ice, only 99 cents!" So, the best lure this restaurant could come up with was that they had an ice machine that spewed crunchy ice like that found at Sonic Drive-Ins? No wonder the place went under. Awesome.


  1. Oh please oh please oh please tell us more about Blood's a Rover. I've been waiting for this book for the past eight years.

  2. One more comment, maybe you guys would know. How do book reviewers get their hands on ARCs? Do they request them directly from the publisher?

  3. Blood's A Rover--what I'm told is that it begins a few days after Cold Six Thousand ends, and spans the late 60's up to Watergate. Lots of characters, big, expansive, conspiratorial and violent plot, it deals with corruption in government as a theme while telling the story of a bank heist and the FBI infiltration of the radical black power movement. Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, and Nixon are all minor characters.

    ARCs aren't available yet, but reviewers should contact the publisher directly.