BOOK & BLOG
March 21, 2010
Books of the Week
On my trip to Europe I carried my husband’s Kindle, because I thought if ever there was an occasion I didn’t want to carry bulky books, this was it. I was absolutely right, and no matter what your issues with the Kindle, it’s really great to pop in your purse for travel. Of course, in Europe you have to carry an adapter along with the charging card, but it doesn’t need to charge that much, which is also a great thing.
It seemed like a good time to reacquaint myself with some old friends. I read three Spenser novels by the late, great, Robert B. Parker. For those of you who haven’t read Parker (which I can scarcely believe) you have a goldmine at your feet. In his long career, Parker wrote upwards of forty novels, I believe. I haven’t read his westerns, but I have read his mystery-based Spenser books and his Jesse Stone books. I was sad to hear that he died at his desk a few short weeks ago. Parker’s early Spenser novels are a necessary read to any student of the private eye genre, since Parker practically wrote the rule book single-handed. I read three of his books I hadn’t read before, and they were lesser Spenser novels, but even the lesser Spensers are worth reading. Parker’s hand with dialogue was wonderful, his capturing of the friendship between two men, the gunman Hawk and the private eye Spenser, is moving, and only the running admiring commentary by Spenser’s irritating girlfriend Susan Silverman registers as a fly in this ointment.
I’m a Stranger Here Myself is Bill Bryson’s commentary on returning the US after living in Britain for many years. Bryson is always funny, always perceptive, and he always makes me laugh. His book about walking the Appalachian Trail remains one of my favorites. True to form, Stranger made me laugh out loud even when I was jet-lagged and sitting two seats away from a crazy man on the long flight back to the U.S. Bryson will cheer you up any time you read him.
Dean Koontz does follow a general formula in many of his books the decent hero, the decent heroine, their amazing meeting, the forces of evil spread out against them. The Good Guy, I won’t try to kid you, contains all these elements. But there’s a reason Koontz is a best-selling author. He can write suspense like nobody else. I’ll never forget how hard it was to breath when I read Intensity, and though The Good Guy may not be quite as well, intense it’s pretty breathtaking.
Before I say anything else about our trip to Europe, I want to give kudos to Paula, my friend and my assistant, for working so hard to make the whole expedition happen, for doing all the research necessary to prepare us for this outing, and for hanging in there during the whole trip. I really don’t think I could have done it without her. She really deserves a public pat on the back . . . especially since she had to sit by the crazy guy on the way back. Oh well! It was only ten hours or so, Paula!
I was busiest in Rome, which was our first big stop. My Italian publisher, Fazi, made great use of my time, which I expected. The wonderful Paola, my publicist there, gave us a two-hour tour of Rome in a taxi and on foot, so Paula and I got to see the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and many plazas, all of which featured some great statuary. Paula kept a list. I just looked. We talked to many delightful people, and I really enjoyed meeting radio personality Rosaria Renna and her husband George. An unexpected treasure was our interpreter, Thomas Fazi, son of the publisher, who was not only great at his job, but unexpectedly entertaining as well.
We stayed in a hotel famous for being a writer’s hangout, Hotel Locarno. This consisted of a reception area (with the classic pigeonholes for the real keys, and a high desk), a dining room and bar, a lovely courtyard, then the actual building with the rooms. Paula and I had adjoining rooms, and the decorating style was unusual to our eyes. Also, here we first encountered an energy saving method that we found was usual in Europe. None of the power in the room would work unless your key was inserted in a slot by the door. So you couldn’t leave your lights on. We were surprised but had to acknowledge that this is a very practical way to conserve energy.
I spent most of my time in the Locarno’s dining room/bar. Before you laugh, let me tell you that this is where I had most of my interviews, and that one day I had thirteen scheduled back to back. Though many Italians speak excellent English, Thomas was a huge asset, and I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to have him there. Paola, too, was ready to greet every journalist, introduce the writer to me, and then usher them out when it was time for them to yield to another interviewer. I would have gone nuts, having to listen to me answer the same questions over and over, but Paola and Thomas were game. I think Thomas could have done the interview himself by the third or fourth go-round.
The event at Shan Go, a nightclub taken over for the evening, went quite well, I thought. Rosaria was there to introduce me, and the dj was sensitive enough to play American songs like “Born in the USA” and “Spirit in the Sky,” so the crowd got to hear Paula and me belt it out. There was something very weird and wonderful about hearing “Spirit in the Sky” in a nightclub in Italy.
The food and hospitality were first rate in Rome, which you might expect.
Next week . . . Poland.
© 2010 Charlaine Harris