Monday, 23 January 2012

Morning post on a rainy day...

It feels like I haven't written a post in a while, and I'm all off-schedule with my early posting last week, so I'll write today, Monday, rather than Wednesday and hopefully by next week I'll be back to my normal routine.

It's a rainy, "spring-like" day, although it's barely the end of January.  It's been a very strange winter so far. It was lovely and sunny yesterday, though, and we had a nice walk in St. Jacob's in the afternoon.  The bookstore there is closing, sadly.  I often bought books there;  in fact, I recall a post on a Sunday evening a few months ago when I wrote about the two books and the fabulous mug I bought in St. Jacob's earlier that day.  I'm always sad to hear that bookstores are closing.  I didn't really ask for details, so perhaps they are just relocating... I will hope for the best!

I didn't end up finishing The Lovers by John Connolly last week, nor did I read P.D. James' Children of Men.  I was at work on Monday and the Connolly novel was just not working for me.  I had listened to Beth Orton's CD "Central Reservation" earlier that day, which always puts me in mind of Peter Robinson, so I found one of his paperbacks on the shelf and checked it out.  It was Bad Boy, his most recent in the "DCI Alan Banks" series.  Of course I've read it before, but not for a few months, and I just needed something I knew I would enjoy, so as not to waste anymore reading time.  The novels in this series feature Alan Banks, a Detective Chief Inspector working for the Eastvale Police Department.  He's had his fair share of work-related and personal problems, and he can be a bit of a rebel when he has the mind to behave in less-than-conventional ways, but he always seems to come out alright in the end.  These novels appeal so much to this reader because the situations are believable and the characters are three-dimensional and complex, not merely a means to keep the story going.   In this story, Banks is away on holiday in California when a mother turns her daughter in for possession of a loaded gun, the recovery of which goes horribly wrong, setting in motion a series of events in which Banks' daughter, Tracy, is involved, at first willingly, then by force.  I'll admit that this is not one of my favourites of his, but it was close at hand when I needed it, and it was a good chance to re-immerse myself in the world of Banks and the Eastvale Police Department.  I like that Robinson has personalized all of the characters by giving them each unique hobbies and interests.  For example, Banks loves music, mostly folk bands from the 1960s, and opera.  This is how I discovered Beth Orton, which is why listening to her music reminded me of his books.  In fact, I went to see him read a few years ago and when it came time for him to sign books, I had him sign her CD, not having any nice, new hardcover books for him to sign, just cheap, secondhand paperback copies of his novels.  DI Annie Cabbot is vegetarian and loves yoga and meditation.  She also draws in her spare time.  DS Winsome Jackman loves the "Dr. Who" series.  These are just a few examples of how he makes his characters "real" for the reader.  I've read all of the novels in the series at least once, but most more than once.  At first I read them in no particular order, starting with In a Dry Season, the tenth in the series.  Once I owned them all, I started at the beginning and read them all again in order.  In that way, I could follow the relationships between characters as they developed, fell apart, or otherwise changed, and I understood the context when a minor character reappeared in a later novel.  I asked Robinson, when I saw him read, whether he would recommend starting at the beginning of his series.  He said "no", that writers develop over time and so, if it's your first time reading an author who has written a number of books, it might be best to start with something later, then go back and read the earlier stuff.  I could see that once I reread his novels in order;  I'm not sure I would have been so keen to read his other books if I had started with Gallows View, which was shorter and much less developed in terms of characters and story that In a Dry Season.  In his later novels, Robinson often refers to earlier "cases" that were the subjects of earlier novels.  I think that you can certainly start anywhere in the series and understand what's going on, then go back and read earlier novels out of interest.  The exception to this is Friend of the Devil, the seventeenth novel.  It relates directly to characters and situations presented in Aftermath, number twelve in the series, so I recommend reading that one before Friend of the Devil.  Otherwise, just jump in and enjoy!

I'll close now, as my cat Silver is trying to climb on my lap.

Bye for now!
Julie

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