Thursday, February 13, 2014

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

I am embarrassed to admit that sometimes the titles of books make me superstitious.  I am not normally superstitious and most of the time I behave like a mini-Richard Dawkins.  But for some reason, book titles get to me.

A few summers ago when I was reading one Lee Child book after another, I had to stop at the eleventh installment in the series, Bad Luck and Trouble, because I was worried about some things and it seemed reckless to read a book with a title like that at such a time.   Like it would be asking for bad luck to read it.  I did not read it for several months until the general situation improved and it was safe to read something with a provocative title.  And I read it and nothing happened.  (Because I waited? Or because the title of a book has no power whatsoever?)

I faced a similar dilemma with Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels.  I had to stop after reading eight of them as the ninth is titled What's the Worst That Could Happen?  I've been wanting to resume this series for a long time but did not own a copy of this book.  So I had two vexing decisions to make: do I buy it and then do I read it?  

My wife planned a trip to the Caribbean for us in February and as I was assembling my vacation reading, I realized I needed a small paperback to bring.  Yes, I have thousands of small paperbacks but I have been reading about Westlake again and started to think about confronting the ninth Dortmunder.  Thinking of how fun it would be to relax on the beach and enjoy a Dortmunder caper, I decided to confront my fears (that's what you're supposed to do, right?) and I ordered a copy of What's the Worst That Could Happen? 

My copy arrived on Monday and I packed it for our trip.  And on Tuesday, in anticipation of a major winter storm that is expected to paralyze the entire East Coast, the airline cancelled our flight.   Who's the dummy now?  I should be in a lounge chair on the beach at this very moment but instead I am in my pajamas at home, struggling to fit on a chaise lounge that my dog will not share me.  And I haven't touched my book. And it is still snowing.

PS:  The two books that follow in the series are Bad News and The Road To Ruin.  What am I supposed to do?

Thursday, February 06, 2014

An Innes and a Gilbert instead of Seven Starks?

When I fell in love with Donald Westlake's Richard Stark novels a few years ago, I would have given anything to be able to find used and or collectible copies of his books.  I never saw anything by Stark. (By which I mean for sale in bookstores, not online.)  Now that we are a few years into what looks like a fairly solid Westlake revival, I am starting to see more Westlakes for sale in used bookstores.

I stopped by two used bookstores tonight and in the second one I found seven Richard Stark first editions for sale (and some paperbacks reprints, too).  Three Allison & Busbys, two from Gregg Press, and two of the Grofields from Macmillan.  The Rare Coin Score was signed.  All were between $29 to $50.

I am embarrassed to admit that I passed on all of them, especially the Grofields.  (I have all of the Starks in one form or another now though most are not especially collectible, though they are cherished.  Except for my $80 Butcher's Moon paperback, that still makes me angry.) Instead I spent 50 cents on a green Penguin Michael Innes, The Daffodil Affair.  Did a bit of research on it when I got home and the consensus seems to be that it is the strangest novel Innes wrote.  Perhaps not the best place to start reading him but I do like the cover a lot.

I also bought a first American edition of Michael Gilbert's The 92nd Tiger for eight bucks.  I researched all of Gilbert's books to see which ones I wanted to read and this one was definitely not on the list.  But it has been slow-going finding copies of Gilbert's books so I grabbed it.  (Also picked up a reprint of After the Fine Weather over the weekend.) Read the first chapter and realized I kind of liked it.  Or maybe its just that I really like Michael Gilbert.  If this story of an actor being recruited by the Foreign Office to act as a security advisor to the ruler of a small, fictitious Middle Eastern country were written by anyone else, I would automatically skip it.  I hope it turns out okay.