Monday, October 8, 2007

Favorite Mysteries of a Birthday Boy

by Julia Buckley
Today is my husband's birthday; in his honor I thought I'd invite him to a book chat on Poe's Deadly Daughters, since he is a bit of a mystery fan, as well. It also gives me a chance to lure him away from the football games for a heart to heart talk. :)

Hi, Jeff.

Hi, Julia.

First of all, Happy Birthday. How old are you?


I can’t tell from your hands. (Is anyone old enough to get that joke?)

I’m forty-seven years young.

Let’s talk about mysteries. Do you have a favorite?

I do. My favorite author is Robert B. Parker. The first Parker book I read will always be a favorite, and that’s Sudden Mischief, but there are about ten of his that I really like a lot. Another favorite Spenser book is The Judas Goat. There’s a scene in that book that I think really summarizes the Spenser character. He returns to his hotel after doing some investigating. He can tell that someone has entered his room, so he pushes the door open, but waits outside the room with his gun drawn. He knows there’s somebody in there and the person in there knows he’s out there. It becomes a contest to see who can wait out the other guy. Parker masterfully describes the tension. It goes on for I think a couple hours. Eventually, Spenser outwaits the guy, even though he’s hungry and his muscles are cramping up on him and sweat is dripping into his eyes. That scene, to me, sums up why he always comes out on top.

How did you come to discover the Spenser books?

I had jury duty, and I didn’t know how I would pass the time sitting in the Daley Center all day, and my lovely wife gave me Sudden Mischief because she thought I would enjoy it.

I ended up not getting called all day, so I spent the whole day reading the book. I finished it, I loved it, and then went on a Spenser reading rampage, during which I read the whole series.

Speaking of rampage, didn’t you once like the Mack Bolan Executioner Series, which is a very hard-boiled type of mystery?

Funny story, that. I saw them at a book fair, thought I would like them, bought about ten of them for a quarter a piece, read about two or three and discovered they were all basically the same book, so the rest remain unread in the basement. Wish I would have discovered them when I was about 13.

I happen to know you are also a Raymond Chandler fan. Do you prefer the hard boiled genre?



I like the author’s word choices, the dialogue driven stories – the way they talk back to one another, the moody atmosphere.

What other authors do you like?

Elmore Leonard. I went through another phase during which I read him exclusively. I found out about Leonard because I read that he was Robert B. Parker’s favorite mystery writer. He really seems to have an insight into the criminal mind.

So would you say you’re sort of an obsessive reader?

Yeah, I get into grooves; if I like something, I want to read everything written by that person. I’m the same way with music. When I discover a band, I must own everything they’ve produced. I’ll listen to them exclusively for a few months, and then forget about them for years.

I read a lot of non-fiction too. Self-help books, fitness related stuff.

Do you have some other favorite mysteries?

Thanks to your advice, I’ve read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries, and some Sherlock Holmes.

And of course you edit my manuscripts for me. Does it become burdensome to have a wife who is always handing you manuscripts?

I wouldn’t use the word burdensome, but we’re not always on the same schedule, as you know, and often when you hand me something you want me to do it immediately, and I’m the kind of person who tends to want to do things later. As you know.

Sometimes I have to re-edit them, due to a perceived lack of smiley faces in the margins.

There were three good laughs on that page alone.

What are you reading now?

I just ordered a copy of The Ruins; I’m a big Stephen King fan, and he wrote that it was the best horror novel of 2006. I haven’t been doing much reading lately, but I’ll have time to now that the Cubs’ season has abruptly ended.

Yeah, sorry about that.

Happy reading, and Happy Birthday!

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