by Tim Suddeth
The days are getting shorter here in Greenville. We are finally feeling that nip in the air telling us that fall is on its way. The time for trips to the apple country, pumpkins on porches, and—my favorite sign of fall—Brach’s Halloween candy appearing in stores. Candy corn and those chocolate bats in the Halloween mix. I like my sweets.
I also like the smells of fall; apple cider, a crisp early morning, and fresh cut hay until it makes me sneeze.
Too bad we don’t have fall music. We do have the crackling of a wood fire and the boom of shotguns at a turkey shoot.
And for taste, I’m smiling already, pumpkin pie hot out of the oven. (Surely you didn’t expect me to mention that abomination concocted from the marketing departments on Fifth Avenue, pumpkin spice.)
I’ve really enjoyed my reading time this month. My wife has brought in quite a diverse group.
Lou’s On First
I’ll begin with Lou’s on First by Chris Costello. It is about Lou Costello, the portly one of the Abbott and Costello comedy team. If you’ve ever heard their “Who’s On First” skit, you know what true comedy is.
This biography was a reminder that behind the smiles and laughter stands a real person. Containing both the good and the bad. Costello had a huge heart who loved to give gifts to his friends and make any child smile. Here was a heart wanting to give anyone a hand up.
He also had a drive to be the best and to be paid as such. He always seemed to be in negotiations with the producers.
And there were a lot of tears. Lou’s life included losing his only son right before his first birthday, being married to an alcoholic, and being cheated of his fortune by those he trusted most. Sometimes those who make us laugh the most need the most encouragement.
A big hurdle that kept this from being an exceptional book was the author. As the name implies, Chris Costello was Lou’s mush cherished baby daughter. She was born soon after her brother’s death and you can tell Lou doted on her.
Whether through being protected as a child by the adults a or her own blinders toward her beloved father, there were often times when it seemed she pulled back from telling us what was happening and went to the defense of her father. It is always a danger for a writer to be too close to a subject. It is often understandable when it happens, but it hurts the story.
Steal Like an Artist
The next book bothered me when my wife brought it in. I know we are living the lives of starving artists, but when I saw the title, Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, I thought that was a little drastic.
Steal Like an Artist is about discovering and growing your creative life. Kleon gives us ten principles that can aid us in developing our creativity. He acknowledges that there are few new things in life, that it is through studying and observing the works of others that we can become inspired and develop our own.
“Nothing is original, so embrace influence, school yourself through the work of others, remix, and reimagine to discover your own path.”
From a writer’s perspective, that is why we read, in our genre and others, classics and newly released. For the artist, go to the museum and walk in nature. We have a big world, a big universe, and they are full of ideas.
Masterpieces of Mystery and Suspense
The biggest book I read, weighing in at 651 pages, was Masterpieces of Mystery and Suspense compiled by Martin H. Greenberg. It includes forty short stories from some of our favorite authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, P.D. James, etc.
I’m always amazed at the diversity we find in the mystery category. Although these stories had the usual expectations we expect in a mystery—there will be a crime, usually murder, there will be more than one suspect probably with alibis, there will be a professional or amateur investigator, we will know as much as they do—there were such different plots and characters in the stories that I was kept on the edge of my semi-comfortable desk chair.
The stack of books by my chair has continued to grow. Can’t wait to get back to it and find that one book that messes up my bedtime.