So this week I’m still reading Brave New Worlds, but I’m also re-reading The Father Hunt, by Rex Stout. And since most of the stories in Brave New Worlds have been firmly on the “meh” side (it was heavily front-loaded with the better ones), I decided I would do something highly unusual and feature a print book Teaser Tuesday this week.
“I’ll ask you a question, Mr. Goodwin. I liked Carlotta Vaughn, and she impressed me as a very competent young woman. I didn’t see a lot of her-we had lunch together a few times-but I saw enough of her to be impressed. I was trying to get my business started and it was hard going, and I tried to persuade her to go in with me, as a partner, but she wouldn’t. I liked her very much. You say she’s dead. Would she approve of what you’re doing?”
I lied. I could have dodged and wriggled, a lot of guff, that I hadn’t known Carlotta Vaughn and therefore could only guess, and if and but and even so, but I preferred a straight lie. “Yes,” I said, “she certainly would.”
As my wife has noted, I don’t normally re-read books (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings excepted), yet here I am re-reading an entire series, and a mystery series no less, where I (sometimes) remember who the murderer is; why, she wondered, am I reading these books for what is probably the third time? It’s not really for the mysteries so much as it is for the interplay among all the characters. The way they’re written, the reader almost feels like one of Wolfe’s operatives, out collecting clues and rounding up witnesses with Archie Goodwin, or sitting in one of the chairs in the office while Wolfe identifies the murderer. (I’m not the only one who thinks that.) Will I go back and read these books a fourth time? Probably not, but who knows? Maybe in fifteen or twenty years I’ll go get Fer-de-Lance off the shelf and start over again.
Meanwhile, the current round of editing continues on Father’s Books! I figure there will be at least one more pass after this, as I keep making major alterations to the events in the last third or so of the book. As long as I think it’s getting better, I’ll keep hacking away, although eventually I’m going to have to call it finished. But not yet.
Here, the sides of the ravine were decorated with junk: Rusty shopping carts and smashed wooden crates, a mattress or two, tires, plastic bags ripped open by animals or elements. It was within easy tossing range from the street, so people freely dumped bulky items that they would otherwise have had to pay the city to remove. Nobody ever cleaned it out, so it just accumulated, year after year, into a dangerously unstable trash glacier, flowing slowly down to collect at the bottom. Some of the more memorable items―a broken pink claw-foot bathtub; a disembodied picture tube on which someone had scratched a couple of stick figures, anorexic and immobile pornography actors―jogged his recollections of long-ago excursions to this end of the ravine. Hello, old friends. We meet again.
This is, in fact, based on a ravine near my grandmother’s house where I used to sometimes explore and play as a kid. There was a spot at the end where people dumped trash, but not in the quantity described above. (This is fiction, not memoir, so I get to exaggerate.) And although I’m pretty sure there was at least one old TV set there, it didn’t have any, shall we say, artwork scratched into it.