Friday, May 5, 2017

This...Not This

Recently, I read and reviewed a book titled Uncommon Clay. I had looked forward to it, because I had read and enjoyed books about the author's other series character. Unfortunately, everything I liked about the other character and the author's storytelling were not in this new book. It's not a unique situation, liking one book from an author, while avoiding another. Usually, for me at least, it's not a matter of an author writing a bad book as much as it's just not my cup of tea.

For example, there's Agatha Christie...


I'm an avid reader of both the Hercule Poirot mysteries and the Miss Marple mysteries. In my younger days I gravitated more toward Poirot than Marple, but as I've aged I find a much greater appreciation for Miss Marple and her ability to view the world through the lens of a village. On the other hand, Christie's tales of the mysterious Mr Quinn don't appeal to me at all. They are well written and cleverly plotted, and yet they leave me meh.

Not This

And Ellery Queen...

Not This

Early on in my mystery reading life, I discovered the Ellery Queen novels, though it took me awhile to figure out that the detective and the writer were two different people, then a little longer to discover that the writer was indeed two separate people writing under one name. I devoured the Ellery Queen/Ellery Queen novels, yet when it came to the Ellery Queen/Drury Lane mysteries I was not enthused. The same hand was at work, the same cleverness in plotting, and the same snappy turns of phrase, and yet...meh.

And Rex Stout...

To tell the truth, when I was much younger Rex Stout's tales of corpulent detective and orchid fancier Nero Wolfe did not appeal to me. I generally gave them a pass. Eventually, I came to my senses, and now my affection for him rivals that of what I feel toward Sherlock Holmes. Yet even when I came to admire Stout's writing skills, his superb characterization and clever plotting, I found myself cool toward his other series characters, female PI Dol Bonner and rustic Tecumseh Fox. Once again, the same hand and yet no enthusiasm on my part.

Not This...
...Or This

And even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is not exempt...

Definitely This
Possibly This

My enthusiasm for the Sherlock Holmes tales was an early development and started when I saw the Basil Rathbone films from Fox (Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) in the late Fifties or early Sixties. Almost immediately, I discovered the books in the library and read them all. And re-read them. And continue to re-read them. As to Conan Doyle's other non-Sherlock Holmes books...well, I am not alone in this one. It regularly arises in Sherlock Holmes societies around the world, the question of just how much attention should be paid to the writings that lie outside the Canon. There is some consensus that his spiritualist scribblings are not worth pursuing, but what about his Professor Challenger books and historical novels? The answer runs the gamut, of course, but, for me, I've read and mostly liked the Challenger books (no re-reading though), but the historical novels don't hold any attraction for me. They just don't.

Sorry, Sir Arthur...

I'm sure I'm not alone in this odd bias. For me, I think the reason is to be found in the characters themselves rather than in the authors' writing. They become friends to me, companions of a sort as I journey through a literary landscape. In a sense, they almost become real. Just as it happens in our day-to-day lives, we meet numerous people, some we like, some we don't and some who leave no impression upon us at all, and they, too, are all products of the same imitating life

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