When I went to South Carolina for Christmas this year, Eric’s dad took me into a guest room and pointed to several volumes of thick, brown, hard cover books. They were his mother’s (Eric’s grandmother’s) collection of Detective Book Club mysteries. He offered to let me read them while I was visiting, and I checked out several titles listed on the spines before I came to a volume that contained The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde and Not Quite Dead Enough. That was the the one!
I started with The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde, sneaking in a few pages here or there. The thing about going to South Carolina is that there is always something to do or people around to visit with. I think of myself as an outgoing person, but when I am surrounded by people all the time, I realize that reading a few pages and slipping off into my own world is my way of relaxing and recharging. I’m more of an introvert than I realize.
In fact, towards the end of our trip, I actually snuck off while Eric was playing with his niece and nephew to read in the living room. Shortly afterwards, Eric’s dad also came in and picked up a magazine. We both read quietly and it was really pleasant. When I used to read a book at my grandmother’s house, my two younger cousins would make fun of me. Eric even teased me, telling his niece that I wanted books for Christmas, which, fine, maybe does sound dull when you’re six and on the verge of getting a bunch of Legos to play with. But it was nice to sit and read and share space with another human being who isn’t going to interrupt you because they are doing the same thing.
I didn’t quite finish the first of the three mysteries during our visit, so Eric’s dad let me take it back to Texas. Y’all, I had three other books that I’d gotten for Christmas in my suitcase– What If by the author of XKCD, Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, and Neil Patrick Harris’ Choose Your Own Autobiography–all of which I’d asked for and was deeply excited about, but you see, Perry Mason had this client, and as I said several times when people caught me reading, “I knew she was trouble the minute she showed up with a black eye wearing nothing but a nightgown and a fur coat.”
I’ve read a ton of mysteries in my time, but I haven’t dabbled much in the classics. I’d only read two Agatha Christi books, and the one in this collection called Death Comes As The End was my favorite so far. But, I’d also only experienced Perry Mason and Nero Wolf through television movies. My mother was a fan of the Perry Mason movies, so I’d seen a few, but they were 1980s Perry Mason, where Raymond Burr had plenty of gray in his beard, and I was young enough that I couldn’t quite figure out if he and Della Street were dating or if she had just been his secretary for a very long time. So reading this book, I learned that Perry Mason was not above clever tricks and slightly shady shenanigans, sometimes outsmarting the police, who were, as a result, pretty skeptical of him. He’s basically a slightly more ethical version of Saul Goodman, and he and Della were definitely smooching it up in his car. Reading that book felt a little bit like reading a juicy behind the scenes tell all because it turns out that stout, bearded old man I used to watch on TV with my mom was actually kind of a scoundrel. How exciting!
Nero Wolfe was more problematic. There was a femme fatale who was both beautiful and cunning, and Nero was pretty open about his distaste for women in the workforce. Archie Goodwin was all for it, but mostly because I believe the lady had some shapely gams or whatever. These books were published in the 1940s. Sometimes it shows!
Still, for all that I have fully embraced ebooks and audiobooks, sometimes there’s just something about the feel of a book. It’s solid hardback cover with all it’s texture and the weight of it in your hands as you move through all 700 pages. The softness of the pages, and the logo of the Detective Book Club, that reminds you that this was made for people who also loved a good mystery. I took it home and finished the Perry Mason mystery on the plane and read the other two in quick succession.
I always placed the book on a pillow so it could lie flat and that would hopefully keep the spine from getting too damaged or worn, but the back edge of the spine still came loose. Maybe it was coming unstitched? I’m not sure, but it when it got damaged, there was a loose thread that seemed connected to the problem. I was going to ship it back when I was finished, but I worried that it would get even more damaged in the mail. Does anyone know how to repair old book covers? If so, leave me suggestions in the comments.