Mystery Monday 8/15/22

Last post I mentioned my third reading axis, the murder mystery, detective, crime, thriller axis. The interest, inherited from my dad, goes back almost as far as the science fiction axis. It started, very early, with Sherlock Holmes, which led to the Agatha Christie version, Hercule Poirot.

Dad introduced me to Parker and Spenser. That led to Chandler, Hammett, Stout, Paretsky, Grafton, and so many others. Some seeds planted in childhood flourish to become large trees, others never even sprout (I tried and rather quickly abandoned stamp, coin, and rock collecting.)

For Mystery Monday, here’s a brief update from the third axis.

And I do anticipate this will be brief because there isn’t all that much to talk about. (To some extent, I’m trying to kick myself back into the habit of posting. A habit of shorter posts would be nice, but we’ll see how that goes.)

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The main news is that I’ve essentially finished the extant Jack Reacher canon (including either all or most of the short stories). [See Jack Reacher for details.] I’m a big fan of the series and will stay with it even now that younger brother “Andrew Child” is taking over the writing.

“Lee Child”, the author of the first 24 books (and a number of short stories), is the penname of British author James Dover Grant. His brother, Andrew Grant, is already a published author with nine novels of his own. He’ll be writing the Jack Reacher novels as “Andrew Child”. To transition the series, the brothers co-wrote the 25th and 26th books, The Sentinel (2020) and Better off Dead (2021), together. I expect they will also co-author next one, No Plan B (2022), but then Lee might move on.

Generally speaking, if the author of an established series dies, I refuse to read new books written by other people. For one thing, that’s an endless rabbit hole. I learned that with the John Gardner “James Bond” books. I liked the Ian Flemming originals a lot (an interest in spies goes back to high school and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) not to mention Bond, James Bond, himself). Ultimately the Gardner continuation seemed like a soulless echo of the original tune. (I see from Wiki that someone named Raymond Benson took over in 1996 but I’d jumped ship by then.)

I think, too, that because I see myself as an artist (disclaiming either talent or skill), I have some sense of solidarity with original work. And a sense of the sovereignty of an artist’s creation. I have endless respect for how Sue Grafton, in her will, was explicit that her character, Kinsey Millhone, dies with her.

On the flip side, an endless stream of new “Sherlock Holmes” and “Spenser” novels, none of which I’d read even for free. Won’t even give them my time.

But Lee Child hasn’t died, he’s handing over, plus he’s keeping it in the family. And I just plain like the character. For one thing, he’s so hard to classify. Not a cop; not a private eye; not a spy; not some ordinary person who’s constantly solving mysterious murders. He’s a wandering samurai, the Lone Ranger (albeit without horse, silver bullets, or sidekick).

And he kicks ass. Child explicitly created a character the bad guys rightly fear. No holding back and getting hit first, let alone beaten, before being allowed to righteously respond with socially approved force. Reacher is a force, and elemental one, and if he sees a fight is inevitable, he’ll throw the first punch. Hard.

We don’t much tell stories with characters like that anymore. It’s not politically correct (and I take a very dim view of politically correct in art).


Anyway, I’ve read all 26 novels and nearly all (if not all) the short stories. Everything thing the library has (so it was all for free; libraries are awesome).

This all began with the first Tom Cruise movie adaptation (based on book #8, One Shot). The movie was good enough I wanted to read the book. The rest, as they say, is history. The second Tom Cruise adaptation (based on book #18, Never Go Back) wasn’t very good. Cruise really just isn’t Reacher. It’s interesting to speculate why he even did those movies (given he made two). On the other hand, the Amazon Prime series was quite good. They got Reacher right.

But now I’m on the dole waiting for new books or a new season of the TV show. Kinda brings back memories. There is so much content these days that it’s easy to forget waiting for new episodes or books.

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Speaking of finishing things, I finally read the last few books in the Rabbi David Small series, by Harry Kemelman.

[See Monday the Blogger Posted for details and a list of all 12 books.]

When I last posted, I was only up to book #5, Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red (1973). I bogged down a bit after that, in part because Kemelman uses these books to educate about Jewish law, custom, and culture, so they not only have a whiff of lecture (lots of info dumps), Kemelman often repeats himself on important points.

I really bogged down after trying to read book #8, Conversations with Rabbi Small (1981). As the title might suggest, this one is almost pure info dump. I ended up skimming a lot of it. (And either there was no murder in this one or it was so forgettable I’ve forgotten it.) Rabbi Small is on vacation and ends up counseling a young couple about to be married, one of whom is Jewish, one of whom isn’t. It’s the pretext for a book explaining Jewish life.

But having read the first seven (which used up all seven day names), there wasn’t a whole lot new, and while I do have considerable interest in the Jewish approach to life, that interest is not boundless. I’d like a little murder with my lecture, please.

I was stuck waiting for some books I had on hold to become available, so I figured I’d make an effort to finally finish the series. The last four are on par with the first seven. (One could easily avoid the eighth.) The last two, The Day the Rabbi Resigned and That Day the Rabbi Left Town, involve the rabbi retiring and taking up teaching.

It wraps up the series, and Kemelman has passed on, so that’s it for the rabbi.

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Last month I mentioned I’d seen the movie Life of Crime (2013), with Jennifer Anniston and John Hawkes (among others). It’s a cute crime caper movie based on an Elmore Leonard book, The Switch (1978).

At the time I had the book on hold at the library. Since June 15th, when it supposedly was a two week wait. It finally became available July 26th, after a 40 day wait. I guess 20-day weeks were involved somehow.

The book, of course, is better than the movie, but one reason I wanted to read it (besides liking Elmore Leonard’s work) is to see how closely the adaptation stuck to the text. What made Get Shorty (1995) such a shiny gem was how (at Travolta’s insistence) they stuck with not only Leonard’s plot but Leonard’s dialog from the book.

As adaptations go, Life of Crime isn’t bad. Worth seeing (as always: if you like that sort of thing). Anniston and Hawkes are quite good in it.

It goes without saying that Elmore Leonard’s books are worth reading (IYLTSOT).

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Last year I wrote about the Lovejoy murder mystery series. Tying up today’s post a little bit as it began, they’re written by “Jonathan Gash” — a penname for British author John Grant.

[See First Person Murder for details and a list of books.]

Which at some point gave me a wild moment of frisson. Did the guy who wrote the Lovejoy books also write the Jack Reacher books?

No, but my brain can be forgiven. Two British authors, both operating under pennames, and both actually named J. Grant. And both writing a series I consider a favorite.

I’ve said it before, I’ll saying again: synchronicity is a guiding star.

Anyway, my library only has the first nine and last two of the 24 books in the Lovejoy series. I read the first nine in 2021 (and published a post). I had the last two in a queue hoping I’d find #10–#22 and read them first.

That never happened, so I decided I’d read those last two. Only to find out the last one is expired at the library. (Apparently, eBooks can have their license expire. Does that mean libraries only lease them? They own the paper books.)

But I did read, and much enjoyed, #23, The Ten Word Game. I sure wish I could lay my eyes on those others. Ah, well, so it goes, I guess.

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Stay reaching, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

3 responses to “Mystery Monday 8/15/22

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Okay, maybe not all that brief…

  • Anonymole

    I don’t know how you have this either remembered or recorded somewhere. I can’t remember a damn thing from any previous decade regarding what I read or when. Yeah I read stuff, but I sure didn’t keep track. Authors? HellifIknow. Books showed up or fetched en masse from the library, read, returned. I got my entertainment. Next.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ha! A lot of it is blog posts, comments I’ve made, app timelines, Wiki, etc. Often writing about something recent triggers vague associations and then I go track down that story I read once about that guy doing that thing… My memory for plots and titles is actually pretty bad. I retain the takeaway but apparently don’t bother storing the details.

      Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes referred to the mind as an attic, Cumberbatch’s called it a hard drive. Either way, the point was that space is limited. I think we all tend to retain what interests us and flush the rest.

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