The picture at the top of this post is of Bernadette Bean, a noted blogger and booster of all things Australian, who has passed away. For many years, she ran her blog, Reactions to Reading, and if you go there, you realize instantly how deeply she loved the literary world and how much she knew. She also co-hosted Fair Dinkum Crime with Kerrie. I cannot imagine the work it took to manage two thriving blogs, even with help!!
I never met Bernadette, but she generously visited my humble baby blog and offered encouragement and insight whenever she showed up. To get that sort of attention from someone who knows her stuff lifts you right up. We actually didn’t have the same tastes much at all: her feet were firmly planted in the modern literary firmament, but she had some interesting things to say about classic mysteries and films, too.
She was known by a great many mystery writers and fans around the world, promoting others’ work at all times. One author and veteran blogger, Margot Kinberg, has written a heartfelt post in her honor that you really ought to read. It includes a wonderful anecdote about when Margot visited Australia and the two writers got to meet.
I am deeply appreciative that this pastime has connected me to so many amazing people who live in Europe, Asia, India, and the South Seas. I loved hearing from Bernadette, who always responded with interest and with a saucy sense of humor. I will miss her visits and her thoughtful replies.
I thought it might be nice to share with you some of the comments she made here.
(on Alfred Hitchcock)
I will always be grateful to my mum for passing on her love of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart…I can’t separate them really as my favourite Hitchcock heroes but it’s been ages since I dug this one out of the collection so I know what I’m doing tonight now.
(on P.D. James)
“the whole effect was of a lot of neurotics running around the place without much there there” is the best description of what I struggle with in P.D. James novels that I never wrote myself. Thanks for giving my scrambled thoughts such clarity.
(on Crooked House)
The notion of inherited insanity has definitely prevailed at many times in history, perhaps more in the UK than the US or here???…I’ve read lots of books which have variations on the theme. Even in the 60’s Ruth Rendell was writing strongly on this subject. In A NEW LEASE OF DEATH (1967) a father refuses his daughter permission to marry the man she loves because that man’s father has been convicted of murder. His actual words when asked why he won’t approve of the marriage, despite thinking the woman perfect in every other way, are “Heredity…I shall watch my grandchildren from their cradle. Waiting to see them drawn towards objects with sharp edges.”. I shudder at his thinking but I imagine it was (perhaps still is?) a commonly held view.
As for killer children…I think it’s still a difficult subject to depict well…as you say there is such temptation to go overboard with melodrama or gothic-style themes. Here I think Christie made it as ordinary as possible which is far more likely than inner monsters. A local author called Jane Jago wrote a modern take on this theme in a book called THE WRONG HAND which took as its starting point a case loosely based on a UK one in which 2 boys killed a toddler for no apparent reason. The book actually reminded me of the Christie in the way it ‘normalised’ the killing…trying to show that it’s not some kind of Exorcist-type invasion of a child’s soul that causes such things.
(on managing one’s TBR pile)
I don’t think there is a single book blog I visit regularly but hasn’t written a version of this at sometime or another – so if it is a sickness it is a common one which may give you some “I am not alone “comfort. As others have said, 114 is not really that big a problem relative to some I have read about. The last time I discussed my own TBR on my blog, someone commented they have 3000+ unread books and I got the impression that person is even older than I am. This might give you some “I’m sick but not that sick” comfort.
Or you might just choose to stop considering your TBR as a problem that needs to be solved. I do some coaching for personal budgeting, and one of the things I have learned in my years of doing this is just about everyone has something they will always spend money on, and I am generally much more successful getting them to accept this rather than to try to get them to stop spending on that “thing” altogether. Because they generally can’t, and pretending they can or will is dangerous. If they pretend they won’t plan for that spending in their budget or if they stop pretending, they allowed for the expense (to a limited degree usually) and still have enough left over for bills and mortgage and whatever else they need. I’ve kind of decided that my TBR – which seems to hover around 130 no matter what I do – is an equivalent kind of issue. It’s not so big that people have to start calling the authorities for fear I might bury myself under a pile of unread books, and it’s not costing me more than I can afford either. So while it may not be ideal it is, on the scale of Bernadette’s issues that need to be resolved, not a big problem.
And you never know . . . if the zombie apocalypse comes, you might just be very grateful to have a good pile of reading on hand.
(on Elizabeth George and all those very long mystery books)
I too have to admire your persistence in sticking with Tommy and friends for so long. I gave up after Careless in Red…the one after ‘the unfortunate tragedy’ to which you allude above and Linley tropes across the moors for weeks while a group of random locals have a lot of sex and commit the odd murder. I was bored to tears and have never been tempted to dip back into the series, though I loved it once.
I don’t believe there is a perfect length for a mystery novel…I have read good mysteries of great length though I do admire those who can be brief AND good…but I think the average increase in length for all books these days is more a factor of less editing/editors in publishing these days. Long running, successful authors like George and Grafton seem to bypass the editorial process entirely these days.
(on modern authors getting credit as “the new Agatha Christie”)
I love this post. So much that I don’t know where to start with this comment. Perhaps at the end. I never read books that follow on from some other (usually dead) author’s work. I know it can’t be the same. I was sorely tempted when Eoin Colfer was selected to write a Douglas Adams book (I still shake my fist at the fates who took Adams from me too early) but resisted. However I have been even more tempted by some glowing reviews of the Sophie Hannah books. Not tempted enough to actually buy/borrow one but I was wavering. I shall waver no longer and am very grateful to you for that. You took one for the team so to speak.
As for the endless comparisons to Dame Christie…I know this won’t make you feel better but it’s here to stay. The folks who do branding and book blurbs and all the rest cannot stop this kind of nonsense…I have found it best to ignore their lies all together. Just about every book hailing from anywhere in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland or Denmark since 2008 (When Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the dragon tattoo took the world by storm) is compared to Larsson or TGWTDT. It doesn’t matter if they bare any other similarity and 99.9% of them do not. But, I am reliably informed by someone in the business, it’s the simplest sales technique there is and, let’s face it, the people who write that kind of nonsense blurb don’t care if you like the book or not, they care that you buy it. They are not speaking to you (or me) – people who buy/read many books a year – they are speaking to the people who buy an occasional book (at an airport, as a present etc) because there are many more of them and they are much less picky.
But thanks also for the fine review of The Woman in Cabin Ten – I had that one on my wishlist but your comments – and your comparison to the odious girl on the train – have convinced me to remove it. So that’s two purchases your pain has saved me. Thanks!
Thank you, Bernadette.