Friday, September 22, 2017

Rainy Day Rewind

If you were kitting out a holiday cottage (vacation rental) what would you put on the bookshelf for rainy days?

by Paul D. Marks

Rainy days and reading just seem to go together, don’t they? Besides the obvious of being stuck inside I wonder why, something about atmosphere and ambience. I’m going to talk about books that I’d like to re-read. There’s an argument to be made for not re-reading but only reading new things, but you get more out of something the second time. You already know the plot so you can pick up on the nuances. Plus, I almost never like to talk about contemporary writers because I know many of them and if I were to leave someone out I wouldn’t want to engender hurt feelings, so I’ll stick with the tried and true.

Rainy weather’s always good for reading mysteries, so I’ll start with some of those. But it’s good for other things as well.

So, in no particular order, books for a rainy day to re-read:

The first thing that comes to mind for a rainy day in my kitted out cottage would be Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, of course. I’m always up for re-reading both of them, maybe The Long Goodbye and The Galton Case respectively. And the atmosphere in Chandler’s books seems to beg for a rainy day.

Another book I would love to re-read is Down There by David Goodis. I’ve probably talked about this before, but I discovered Goodis through the movies. (That’s how I came to Chandler as well.) I love the Bogie-Bacall movie Dark Passage. After having seen that movie several times I decided to look up the writer who wrote the book it’s based on. It was Goodis. So I gave Dark Passage a read and the rest, as they say, is history. I loved the dark vision of the “poet of the losers”. My fave of his is Down There, on which the Truffaut movie Shoot the Piano Player is based. But I don’t like the movie very much at all.

Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer, the guy who wrote Shane, and The Shootist, by Glendon Swarthout. Both are about people who’ve outlived their times. The world is changing, passing them by. A theme I both like reading about and writing about.

Double Jeopardy by Martin A. Goldsmith. This is the novel that Detour, the quintessential B noir movie, is based on. It’s the only book on this list that I haven’t read already. It’s my understanding that it’s somewhat different from the movie and I’m curious to see how. I love the movie, abbreviated as it is, and I really want to check out the novel.

Tapping the Source, by Kem Nunn, is a cult novel that the term “surf noir” might have been invented for. A young guy goes to Huntington Beach to find his missing sister. Simple enough. He soon becomes involved in the surfing lifestyle and the rivalries between surfers and bikers…and surfing bikers. I absolutely love this book! So much so that I checked into the film rights for it, but they were taken. So apparently I’m not the only one. And it’s my understanding that the movie Point Break is a consolation prize of sorts for those filmmakers, who also wanted to do Tapping the Source, but couldn’t.

The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati, is a novel about waiting for something that never happens – and no, it’s not about waiting for your clams in some snobby restaurant so you can put tartar sauce on them. And no, it’s not about waiting for some guy name Godot. A soldier is posted at the Tartar Steppe, hoping to be called upon to show his courage and bravery in the glory of battle. Time slips by – he grows old – and the wished for attack is always just beyond the horizon. Lots of subtext here.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (père): The ultimate revenge novel needs no description. But I believe this is what led to the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold”. I love revenge stories and this is the Big Daddy of them all. And the way Edmond Dantes gets revenge on his nemeses is clever, brilliant and very satisfying.

Ask the Dust by John Fante is a must read for any writers living in Los Angeles. If for nothing else but to marvel at how someone could still eke out a living writing short stories. It’s also a must read for anyone interested in L.A. The setting is Los Angeles in the 1930s, in the “shabby town,” in Chandler’s words, of Bunker Hill. I discovered Fante and this book before the new surge of interest in him and was so impressed that I wrote to him at his home. Unfortunately he was already so sick by then that I didn’t hear back, or maybe I wouldn’t have anyway after some of the things I’ve heard about him.

World’s Fair by E.L. Doctorow (or maybe I should leave the periods out of his initials…). Probably my favorite coming of age story about a boy growing up around the time
of the 1939 World’s Fair.

And, of course I would want to re-read my favorite book: The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. A book which is, at the risk of sounding corny, about a man seeking the meaning of life. But a book that I could relate to on many levels and which deeply affected my life in many ways.

What about you? What are you packing off for your holiday rainy days, to read anew or re-read?


And now for the usual BSP.

I’m happy to say that my short story “Bunker Hill Blues” is in the current Sept./Oct. issue of Ellery Queen. It’s the sequel to the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll winner and current Macavity Award nominee “Ghosts of Bunker Hill”. And I’m surprised and thrilled to say that I made the cover of the issue – my first time as a 'cover boy'! Hope you’ll want to check it out. Available at Ellery Queen, newstands and all the usual places.

My story “Blood Moon” appears in “Day of the Dark, Stories of the Eclipse” from Wildside Press, edited by Kaye George. Stories about the eclipse. Twenty-four stories in all. Available on Amazon.


GBPool said...

I read The Count of Monte Cristo earlier this summer...all 117 chapters, and loved it. The story holds up very well even though I read somewhere that the original version is somewhat different from the translated version we are reading now. I think I prefer this telling. I am still looking for The Razor's Edge since you have mentioned it often. I just watched the movie for the fifth or sixth time and do like it. I now want to see what the book has to say. As for rereading books, I've done that a few times. Still like Don't Stop the Carnival. With the hurricanes lately, the book came to mind. It would make a good movie.

Unknown said...

Your descriptions make me want to drop everything and go get these books. You should get a sales commission!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for the book suggestions, Paul. We're heading toward those rainy days up here in the northwest, so you can never have too many good books.

Jackie Houchin said...

Very good post Paul. I'm also a re-reader as well as a new reader. (Also an audio reader!). I'm having knee surgery in a couple weeks so I anticipate having some extra time to read. I'll consider some of your faves, although I usually like "softer" stories
A request: I will be writing a post for The Writers In Residence blog soon and want to write about re-reading as well. MAY I QUOTE you in parts of this post if I give attribution? Thanks ahead of time!

Paul D. Marks said...

Gayle, The Count is terrific, in my opinion. And I’m sure it’s different from the French. Wouldn’t it be great to read it in the original language. Amy speaks/reads Spanish and has read Don Quixote and other things in the original. I envy that. Razor’s Edge is a great book. I hope you’ll be able to read it. But I’m not familiar with Don’t Stop the Carnival. I’ll have to look it up.

Paul D. Marks said...

RM, I’ll give you my PayPal and you can send the commissions there ;-) .

Paul D. Marks said...

Everyone has their own taste, of course, Dieter, but if you check any of these out I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Jackie. Sorry to hear about your knee surgery, I hope it goes smoothly. And, as I mentioned to Dieter above, we all have our own taste, so if you do check any of these out I hope you’ll like them. If you prefer “softer” stories I’m not sure about some of these. But the non-mysteries might work in that regard.

And I’d be flattered if you want to quote me. Please let me know when it runs.

RJ Harlick said...

I'm a great re-reader too, Paul. Though I've re-read the Count of Monte Crisco a couple of times, your mention of it is enticing me to re-read it again. Loved the book.

Paul D. Marks said...

RJ, the Count is a great one to re-read. It gives one a special satisfaction, at least for me, and maybe you, too?