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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Shrink Rap

Is that the first Sunny Randal novel you're got wrapped under that book jacket from the Audacity of Hope?  Why yes it is.  Sunny Randal was born, at least in paperback form, much later than Spenser.  Yet she too is for hire.

I'm guessing that Robert B. Parker suffered from a dog obsession because all of his main characters are totally in love with their pooches.  Not the normal, I've got to make sure that I feed and walk the dog love.  Sunny Randall keeps a good relationship with her ex-husband because she doesn't trust anyone else with her dog.   For some reason in the two weeks since I've read the book, that's the main thing I remember about Ms. Randall.

This book is about Ms. Randall being hired to watch over an author on her book tour.  The author has a psycho ex-husband and Sunny has to get to the bottom of why the author is so terrified of him.  The back of the book promises "But when Sunny becomes his patient she discovers as much about herself as she does about the criminal mind."  Now I don't know when outright lying became a best practice when writing book jackets but I'm under the impression that either the publisher didn't bother to read it or just didn't want to say that Sunny Randall remains a second class Spenser even after she cracks the case.

I'm not really as harsh on this book as that sounds.  I burned through it in four or five hours, and hey it cost a buck, you can't even get a good candy bar for that price anymore!  This one is headed right back to a donation box so if you want a few hours entertainment look for it in the Hannaford bargain bin.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bad Business

When you're a foodie, admitting you occasionally like a Big Mac chased down with some Coke makes puts a huge dent into your credibility.  We lovers of literature have our own subdivisions.  If you say you love Joyce or Salinger you get a nod, if you say that you groove to Kerouac or H.S. Thompson you get another.  Stating that Anna Karenina is your thing or that you dream of reading Hugo in the original French gets you some admiration.  If someone asks you in a physical bookstore or as part of an academic discussion who your favorite is and you say Steve King or John Grisham or God help you Danielle Steele, you instantly get a smile and a nod.  Then the person you were speaking to sees how fast they can make an excuse and exit the conversation.  Just as no foodie believes that a McDonald's meal can provide the taste or nutrition to keep a body upright, the belief is that mass market paperback authors can't begin to provide the ideas necessary to have an intelligent uplifting conversation.

I had never heard of Robert B. Parker before the Hannaford Supermarket clerk dumped a pile of his books into the dollar bin at the front of the store.  The store takes donations of books and then puts them out front with a suggested donation of a dollar to a different charity each month.  Honestly that bin of books has earned them more of my money than any of their fine cheeses or their good frozen appetizer selection because I make excuses to shop two or three times a week more than is necessary.  I always wonder what I'm going to find in the bargain bin and some days I walk out with some huge prizes for a buck.

About a month ago I finished my shopping and went to the bargain bin and there was a copy of the 12 step and 12 traditions AA book, a book I'd been wanting but I have had no desire to go to an AA meeting to get one.  I had neglected to get change and the smallest bill I had was a ten.  So of course I had to buy nine more books to fill my quota!  I looked and looked and couldn't find anything even worth storing for $9 and then the lady came from the back with some new unsorted boxes of books.  Jackpot I thought but the books were all detective novels, a genre I don't read at all, and there were several books from this Parker fellow.  I figured if he was truly terrible that he wouldn't have more than one book and after reading the back and seeing they were all set in Boston sealed the deal, I picked up the 12 with the most tawdry covers and back cover descriptions and put my $10 in the box.  I figured if nothing else I would have a Lonely Planet guide to Boston on the cheap.

Once I got them home and started reading I realized that I had stumbled on to the Pringles of literature.

This book was a book about a detective named Spenser that has a lawyer friend named Rita and a bad ass of a friend names Hawk.  It took me a trip   through Wikipedia to realize that this was the same guy in all those Spenser for Hire shows that my parents watched while I was growing up.  It was a pop culture connecting of the dots that made me go "ah ha".  The book went super fast, it was about four hours cover to cover and I don't remember putting it down for any extended time.  Most books wear on me after a couple of hours and I either need to put them down to gather my thoughts or need to put them down just because my brain is burning and I'm not paying attention.  This book was easy on the mind, just like a Sandler movie or sit-com.

Most of my book collection is secretly picked out so that I can be caught reading it at a small independent coffee shop.  Someone that knows me would walk up and say hi, I thought that was you over there.  I would then say yes that was me in the corner reading Dostoevsky, don't you think his storytelling is so poignant?  With Robert C. Parker I'm sure I'll be caught in the corner of a downtown Burger King while the kids run around screaming on the play place.  We will all be having a fantastic time.