Nothing to read? Eeeek!

13 Apr

One of the worst situations for a devoted book-lover is to find the TBR (to be read) shelf empty. As in bare. Good grief! It’s even worse when one is surrounded by books and cereal boxes and old newspapers, etc. But as a good friend remarked to me a few weeks ago “it’s not as if Tony the Tiger™ really gets into much in-depth stuff.” Alas, too true.

So, while waiting for books from the review sites, and also for requested books to arrive at my library, I found myself in that despicable place. First I stumbled over a 30 or so year old historical novel by a dear friend that I had somehow never read. That was great. But then—two days later, still no books.

Further rummaging disclosed the 1975 paperback publication titled “The Mysterious World of Agatha Christie” by Jeffrey Feinman. I’m pretty sure I’d read this some time ago, but it was there, and my hands were empty, so I picked it up again. The inside front page immediately captured my attention! It was a list of numbers headed: She holds ALL the records! Number 3 on the list (remember this was 1975!) was:

Her sales are near the 400 million mark, and she makes about $10,000.  a week in royalties!

And this was when a U.S. Dollar was perhaps half the British pound? (My quick research on the web states the pound was worth 2½-3½ times as much as the dollar in 1975, which was just before the devaluation of the pound from the election in 1976.) Still, certainly not what it is now! WOW!!!

Dame Agatha died in January, 1976. But whether you care for her books or not, she holds an unassailable place in the world of books. One reason why is on page 49. (I’m paraphrasing here, just a bit.) While working on her most famous story, Murder on the Orient Express in 1934, she and her husband, the noted archeologist and professor, Archie Mallowan took that train to Baghdad. “On the way back,” she says, “I was able to check on things I had thought about on the way out. I had to see where all the switches were. After he had read my book, one man actually made the journey to check up on this.”

Such attention to details put her in that number one spot. How can we do less?

Of course, depending on where your book is set, you may or may not be able to visit there. The future is a bit tricky, so here is where your imagination can be set loose. Who’s to prove you wrong?

The past is a bit trickier. To get some sort of idea of Colonial America, you can go to Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s perhaps 90% authentic. (I’ve never been there, so I’m going by heresay.) There are other such historically reconstituted places, as well, depending on the specific location you need. Chances are, there are history books with drawings or photos that can be a huge help.

But the one thing we should all take from any book by Dame Agatha – know yourself. She did one thing, and one thing only. She knew her limits, and seldom went beyond them. All her books (except the Egyptian ones) were set in the England of 1900-1940 or thereabouts, when large homes with servants were the norm. It was a more genteel way of life. Many of those houses didn’t even boast of a telephone! But it was a time and place she knew very well, and that country or rural atmosphere is redolent on every page of her books. And plays. They are, quite simply, period pieces, but the very best of their kind.

On the other hand, written during the same time frame (or very close) are the early books by Ellery Queen. In reality, Ellery was a pair of cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee.)   Set in the US, amidst a moneyed background, they embodied the new upstart jazzy America as lived in New York City. These are fast-paced, smart, and up-to-the-minute, considering when they were written – the first in 1929 and  continuing through the 70s or so.  They quickly expanded into radio, movies, TV and a mystery magazine.

I found my trip to the past to be most enjoyable. Should you ever find yourself in this predicament (and don’t want to re-read your own work) I can highly recommend a visit to your own bookshelf. Who knows what lurks there? You might be pleasantly surprised!

* —  *  —  *  —  *  —  *  —  *

Are you a writer–contemplating the beginning, or nearing the end of the writing portion–of a book, and wondering how to find an editor/proof-reader? If so, please send me an e-mail, and I’ll be happy to tell you about my editing services.

Also, I need to remind you that the SPAM filter for WordPress is VERY aggressive, and deletes almost every comment without even giving me a chance to see it first. It’s not adjustable, in any way. If you’ve written a comment that doesn’t appear anywhere, please write directly to my e-mail: which is also the place for other questions. Thanks!


2 Responses to “Nothing to read? Eeeek!”

  1. tootall1121 April 13, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    Bless the net, it used to be a writer had to travel a lot to check things out for themselves, the information needed wasn’t easily available. I wonder, would Papa Hemingway be so highly thought of today if he had the net to check his facts, and not actually traveling the world?

    • bookmechanic April 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Good thought! I don’t know, but I suspect he had more fun that way!



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