At the bottom I’ll list what I (might be) reading next.
Dick Francis, Straight and To the Hilt. Thanks to Rohan. These, my first two Francis books, had a lot in common: protagonist who is expert in his own field (jockey, painter) gets thrown into looking after a business thanks to family loyalty. The business is in trouble; he collects a motley crew of helpers (Francis writes great secondary characters), solves the mystery and saves the day. I love these heroes: men of integrity, who do the right thing because of those they care about; smart men who are often underestimated. Men who win the loyalty and support of others who recognize their integrity. (Also, they like smart, competent women). Why doesn’t the real world look more like this?
Joseph Hansen, Fadeout. Thanks to Sunita. I liked Hansen’s spare, elegant prose. I liked his decent, caring detective, Dave Brandstetter (honorable men is the theme of this post, perhaps). This was written in the late 60s, and while Dave is comfortable with his homosexuality, some of the language and attitudes are definitely reflective of the time (e.g. Dave describes his partner as “nelly”). I read the paperback from University of Wisconsin Press, and Hansen’s introduction, talking about his early struggles to find a publisher for anything but porn about gay people like himself, was really interesting.
Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish. I’m not watching Longmire on TV, but thanks to Jackie Barbosa‘s raves, I picked this up with an Audible credit (yes, I believed an author’s praise of a book on social media!). Aging Sheriff Walt Longmire is, yes, another honorable man; though he kind of tries to lazy his way out of it, he can’t help caring about victims. I liked the well-drawn characters of Walt and Vic, the transplant from Philadelphia. I liked the small-town Western setting. This was great on audio because Walt’s first-person narration is a strength of the book, and the Dennis Weaver-y drawl of narrator George Guidall fits it perfectly. But (and this is not a spoiler) I’m really tired of mysteries involving the sexual victimization of young women.
Elizabeth Peters, The Murders of Richard III. I love Amelia Peabody but have never tried her other mystery series. This works as both a parody and an homage to the classic cozy country-house-party mystery. The guests are members of a Ricardian society (which I enjoyed because I love Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time). Mostly snappy, fluffy fun, but I hated the portrayal of the greedy, malicious fat boy, Percy. It seemed like an overly nasty caricature even by the less sensitive standards of the mid-70s and lessened my enjoyment. This was audio, too–I liked Grace Conlin’s voice but her British accent was erratic.
Barbara Pym, An Academic Question. I read a lot of Pym‘s novels in high school and college. This seems kind of odd, as they are slim, ironic volumes featuring clergymen, middle-aged spinsters, minor academics and a lot of disappointment in life. I think in my youth I expected to end up as one of those spinsters with an unrequited passion for the curate. Fortunately, fate had other things in store. I think I may have read this before; it’s not one of her best, being edited together from drafts after her death. It did interest me because the main character, Caro, is roughly my mother’s age (she’s a young mother in the late 60s), and she seems caught in a generational shift–she drifted into early marriage and motherhood rather than actively choosing them; she has a degree but no career ambitions; she doesn’t seem to want to be like the older supportive faculty wives or like her husband’s divorced colleague, Iris. In case my mom reads this, I’ll say she is a much better person than Caro, who is kind of sulky and annoying, and that she did find satisfying roles for herself, including beginning a whole new career in her 40s. But in some ways I see in her life the same kind of shift in female roles happening.
Carola Dunn, Miss Jacobson’s Journey. A Regency spy/road romance with Jewish protagonists. Pretty sure I’d heard about it before, but stumbled on it searching library e-books. I wish I knew more (anything) about Jews in England in this period, because I keep wondering stuff like would a rich merchant really want to marry his daughter to a rabbinical student, and would they know Yiddish? Some things seem implausible but I have no idea. It’s a fun story with engaging characters. The romance is pretty low key (I’m about 3/4 in).
Here’s what I’ve got from the library (there’s a good chance I’ll return some unread for lack of time):
Death Claims, the next Dave Brandstetter mystery.
Tom Reiss, The Black Count. Non-fiction about the man The Count of Monte Christo was based on. I think Jennifer Lohmann was talking about this (more recs from authors!) and I saw my library had it in e-book. (I really want to read Lohmann’s first book, too, because it’s set in Chicago. . . .)
Hot Spell anthology. I got this because I decided to embark on Meljean Brook’s Guardian series, and though I don’t feel the need to read prequel novellas, my library had it and none of the novels. Then I realized that it has an Emma Holly Demon novella as well. I love Holly’s crazy over-the-top demon erotica/erotic romances. Even though there are weird penis appendages. I say this because I know people have sometimes felt that I have criticized id vortex stories like I’m above them and have no id and that is not true. Holly’s stories have characterization and plot, yes, but I read them mostly for the sex–I like to know other people’s imaginings are as weird as mine. I prefer to get my shameless id fix in stories that are clearly not set in the real world, I guess. Or maybe I don’t always recognize that that’s what I’m getting. Anyhow, there’s my confession, insofar as I have guilty pleasures, this is one. I did glance at the Lora Leigh story in here, but despite the barbed penis, decided not to venture, because I saw the hero called the heroine “Brat.” My id does not go there.
Not from library but exerting pressure atop the TBR:
Bee Ridgway, The River of No Return. This is time travel and I bought it when it first came out, having “met” Bee online because she teaches English at the college where I majored in it (long before her time, though).
Kathleen Gilles Seidel, Again. Janine Ballard sent me this and Gaffney’s Wild at Heart when she loaned me the Wyckerley trilogy. I’ve been meaning to get to it for ages, partly because I think I’ll love it and also because I feel bad about how long I’ve had Janine’s books.
My book eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach, or reading time.