No sooner do we lose Tom Wolfe than Philip Roth shuffles off this mortal coil. But I never did read Philip Roth; I was too busy raising my children and reading Barbara Tuchman. You see, I don’t read fiction other than mystery stories, which are my reading-to-fall-asleep by. Even less would I read contemporary fiction, and for me, Roth was contemporary so he’s not in the pantheon.
Velvel (his Yiddish name), pictured above, was born in London in 1914. When his parents went to record his birth, they told the registrar his name was “Wolf,” the English for Velvel. The well-meaning bureaucrat advised, “He’s going to be a nice English boy. You don’t want to call him ‘Wolf’. Why not call him Walter?” And that is how my husband got his name.
Mind, you, Wolf is a perfectly good English name. Remember the writer Wolf Mankowitz who wrote “A Kid for Two Farthings?” It was made into a film with Celia Johnson and Diana Dors.
This is one of my favorite genres. I am taking the liberty of providing a list (link above) that I compiled in 2005 of authors (left-hand column) and detectives (middle column), with brief descriptions of the detective and his or her milieu. I put an asterisk next to the authors I particularly enjoyed. I also put an asterisk next to names such as Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie (forgive!) and Ngaio Marsh because they represent early 1930s and 1940s English women mystery writers. So the asterisk system is somewhat flawed. However, if you see two asterisks, those are the authors whose books I particularly enjoyed. For instance the character Hamish McBeth (M.C. Beaton), and the Joan Hess series about Arly Hanks in the small town of Maggody, Ark. Arthur Upfield’s Australian Aborigine detective series was great also.
If I knew of movies or TV series, I indicated that in some notes. I did catch a mistake–and you will see a hand-written note: Donald Westlake, and not Carl Haissen, wrote the Archy McNally stories about an investigator living with his parents in Palm Beach, Fla.
Josephine Tey was inexplicably omitted from the list. The Daughter of Time is one of my favorite books..
I am sure I have forgotten to put asterisks on some of the books that I have loved, but I never fool myself into thinking that my taste in literature (or anything else for that matter) will correspond to anyone else’s. If I can lead you to a fun read or two, then the list is worth it. And of course, it needs updating with the contemporary detective stories of the last decade and beyond, such as the anticipated title below.
My favorite children’s poet is Brian Moses. You won’t believe his delightful poem called “Walking with My Iguana.” Apparently he saw someone walking their pet iguana on a leash, or as they say “lead,” at the English seaside and was inspired. He is also a teacher and wrote a poem called “Behind the Staffroom Door,” a tale of attrition of “ten tired teachers.” And that reminds me, he is also a percussionist. Why should the children have all the fun?
I am making progress in building my booklist and if you share my eclectic tastes, please see the GoodReads list below. It includes mainly history, historical fiction, comparative religion, and detective stories. And I am still adding. So this has everything from the prior list and more:
I’m not just reading books about Judaism but I also find early Christianity very interesting. I love historical fiction and detective stories, too. And books about the English language. I will add to the book list as fast as I can.