17 July 2010

It's a mystery

When I was in the 4th Grade at South Plains School, J.B. Williams, became the principal and every two weeks (or maybe only once a month) he went by the public library in Floydada to check out a collection of books for his "country school" students.  I think the librarian selected them for him.  The books filled the large back seat of his car and the older boys carried then into the classrooms, sorted by grade levels.  My classroom had books for girls (Nancy Drew and stories about nurses) and books for boys (Hardy Boys and sports stories) and dog and horse books.  I usually managed to read all the girls' books, all the dog and horse books, and several of the boys' books before Mr. Williams brought the next bunch of books.
The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew, Book 1)The Nancy Drew books were the most coveted;  all the girls wanted to read Nancy Drew.  I sometimes spent recesses and lunch hours telling the slower readers the stories so that they would give their books to me, which probably undercut the purpose of Mr. Williams hauling all those books around.  I read the first 37 books of the series, mostly in the editions illustrated by Bill Gillies:  Link to see Nancy Drew dust jackets   The Nancy Drew mysteries are "formula" ficition.  Carolyn Keene was a name owned by the publisher and the books were actually written by several people.  The first books (perhaps the first 23 in the series) were written by Margaret Wirt Benson for $125 each.  Benson wrote other books, many of which I read.  Link: Mildred Wirt Benson

After I finished whichever Nancy Drew books were in the stack, I read all the dog stories by Albert Payson Terhune, the first author's name I learned because someone else wrote dog stories that I didn't like at all.  I remember looking carefully at two of the books and discovered that the author made a difference.  I also remember showing the books to Mr. Williams and telling him which ones to bring next time.  I was a bossy little girl.  Some would say I never outgrew it.  

I also loved the books by Mary O'Hara; My Friend Flicka is the most well known probably due to the TV series.  I liked the one about the white stallion Thunderhead and in fact searched that book out for my collection.  Green Grass of Wyoming and Wyoming Summer are other titles.

The nurse books were the Cherry Ames mysteries by Helen Wells and the Sue Barton series by Helen Dore Boylston.  When I declared my intention to be a nurse, my parents said I should become a doctor instead because I liked to be in charge.  See, I really was a bossy little girl.

As I grew I read and read...  Mysteries were a big part of what I read:  Victoria Holt (one of the pen names of Eleanor Hibbert)  and Mary Stewart and the canon of classic mystery writers:  Eric Ambler, John Buchan, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, Dashiell Hammett, Helen MacInnes, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, Josephine Tey, and Erle Stanley Gardner who wrote the Perry Mason series that my Gran Cummings loved and DMP continually rereads.

I know a lot of people who read mysteries--who in fact still read the mysteries I read.  My husband, and at least 2 of my sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law...   One of sisters-in-law in fact writes mysteries.  Link to Dee's website.  Houston has a whole bookstore devoted to mysteries which I visit with DMP two or three times each and every month.   {Sigh!}

I, however, don't read mysteries.  Somewhere between ages of  25 and 30 years, I pretty much quit.  I stopped reading mysteries and formula romances around the same time.  It was not a conscious decision as much as my having tired of the formulaic genres.  Around that time I wrote a romance novel which was never published and in retorspect I'm very glad it wasn't.

I read a lot of Victorian authors, I read some literary fiction, I read some theology but I don't read mysteries.

1 comment:

K Cummings Pipes said...

My background (elegant burgundy damask) was discontinued and I rather like this one. Flowers & butterflies pressed between the pages of a book are quite Victorian. But PINK! We'll have to see if I can live with it.