Elizabeth: Death by the Book

I have been a fan of mysteries since Nancy Drew found that old clock and the Hardy Boys uncovered that treasure in the tower.  Nancy, Ned, Frank, and Joe led to Beverly Gray, The Dana Girls, Ginny Gordon, and my favorite – Judy Bolton.  I collected the books at garage sales, flea markets, and the like, and many of the editions were from the early 1930s (and smelled like it too), with beautiful old dust jackets and the original story-lines.   I don’t think there were any murders, but many of the stories were dark and a little edgy.

In later years the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were revised and brought up to date a bit.  Nancy’s roadster morphed in to a sports car, she traded in her suit and hat for trousers, and the racial stereotypes in the Hardy Boys books were addressed.  Sadly, vocabulary words such as “ostensible” and “presaged” were also eliminated, as was slang and about 5 chapters from each book.

When I moved on to the ‘grown-up’ section in the local library, there were the romantic mysteries of Elizabeth Cadell, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart, not to mention my favorite, M. M. Kaye with her “Death in . . .” series – Kashmir, Zanzibar, Kenya, Cyprus, the Andamans – I visited them all (except Berlin – that one still creeps me out).  Unlike the early mysteries that I cut my reading teeth on, so to speak, these definitely featured dead bodies along with a nefarious villain or two.  I haven’t re-read any of them in decades, afraid perhaps that they won’t pass the test of time.  I’d rather remember them fondly than take the chance of being disappointed.

Fortunately, there is a whole wide world of mystery stories out there – old, new, cozy, suspenseful, contemporary, historic, and everything in between. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Reader’s Remorse

Have you ever finished reading a book and wished you could go back in time and prevent yourself from ever reading it in the first place?  A friend posted that question a while back and I thought it was an interesting one.

Flaubert’s Madam Bovary is definitely one such book for me.  I read it in a “Reading the Classics” course for a creative writing program I was in and I can unequivocally state that I despised it.  Considered Flaubert’s masterpiece, the story didn’t work for me because I found the characters to be so unlikable.  Frankly, by the end of the story, I was actively rooting for them to get the unhappy endings they so richly deserved.  I’ve read other books with unlikable characters, and I certainly don’t expect to like all of the characters in any story, but I do expect to be able to connect with or, at a minimum, sympathize with at least some of the characters.  On the bright side, at least I didn’t have to slog through it in the original French. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Historical Fiction – What’s Your Preference

historical fictionWhat do you think of when you think about historical fiction?

Does it bring to mind long sweeping sagas, rich in details and descriptions like M.M. Kaye’s Far Pavilions or Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds (both popular during my long ago book seller days) or stories like Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels or Jo Beverley’s The Dragon’s Bride, that have a historical setting, but focus more on plot and character than detailed historical content?

The question came up when I read this comment from one of the judges of my recent contest entry: Continue reading