No, I'm not talking about my writing and publishing career, although sometimes I do wonder. No, I'm looking at the small -- very small, although they felt like cement blocks when I was racing through the airport and customs -- stash of books I brought back from Ireland.
I admit I'd hoped to spend more time in bookstores. Not that I'm complaining because it was quite simply the best vacation I've ever had, but I'd hoped to discover a few more literary gems scattered along the way.
STONE COLD DEAD IN THE MARKET by Christopher Landon. Great Pan, 1955.
I'd never heard of Christopher Landon, so I did a little internet search and came up with this:
"Christopher Landon served with the 51st Field Ambulance in North Africa during WWII. After the war he wrote several novels, including A Flag in the City, Stone Cold Dead in the Market, and Hornet's nest. His most famous novel, however, was Ice Cold in Alex, which was made into an internationally famous movie, starring John Mills."
Weeellll, possibly not internationally famous...
From the back cover:
Hubert Greezley -- stockbroker -- has met a death bizarre and horrible.
Lemme guess. Poison?
Post-mortem confirms MURDER -- by strychnine!
They all saw it happen. They all hated him -- and several of them had a motive for the killing.
I hate to say this, but the most bizarre and horrible thing so far is Hubert's name. Murder by poison just doesn't seem that shocking. Or am I just horribly hardened by the crime fiction I've had to endure?
But no one had touched him.
Well, it was in his drink for cryin' out loud! Or his supper! How many killers rub poison into their victims. Come on!
TREWIN had motive to kill his Uncle Hubert, motive so strong that he would stop at nothing...not even murder.
Okay, so it wasn't Trewin.
But TREWIN had a cast-iron alibi.
Why are you yelling at poor Trewin? Are you being saracastic?
This cold-blooded crime defies solution.
Jeez. Don't give up so easily. It's only the back cover.
First line: "When you left the street and passed through the outer lobby, the first thing confronting you was a pair of swing doors."
Ah, second person POV. Don't YOU love it?
THE UNHEEDING STARS by Marjorie Vernon. Hardback, Ward Lock, 1967.
I hadn't heard of Marjorie Vernon either, but the cover -- a nervous-looking woman wearing a headscarf, and standing in a foreign-city-looking dark alley with one of those enigmatic stalwart guys in a trench coat -- reminded me of the novels my mom used to buy by the barrel when I was a tyke.
A quick Internet search didn't turn anything up, but the inside cover lists 29 titles followed by the word "etc." Which seems a bit rude, if you ask me. Granted the titles are things like Tender Tigress, The Impossible Love, etc.
So romance, in other words. Not an alien concept, despite what Mr. Thrilling says.
The back of the cover lists more unheard of Ward Lock novels like...Lantana, Dark Moon of Summer, Night of the Helm Wind. I'm thinking romantic-suspense of the old school, which is hopefully what The Unheeding Stars will turn out to be.
Nicola went to Corsica to visit Jean-Paul, the man she hoped to marry -- only to find he was not there to meet her. Instead she found his brother, the dark domineering Raoul, later described to her as a "ruthless and dangerous man."
By whom? The people at Mills & Boon, because that's what this sounds like.
What was the mystery behind Jean-Paul's disappearance?
Someone has been conducting experiments in the swamp with alligators, I'm telling you!
Why didn't he even write to her?
Have you ever seen an alligator's paw? How would he hold a pen?
Very soon Nicola began to suspect thre was something sinister about it all, especially when she saw Raoul going out stealthily in the midnight hours, and when he lied to her about a wound he received.
What did I tell you? It's a funny-shaped bite mark, isn't it?
It made matters even more difficult for Nicola that Raoul was magnetically attractive. He was her enemy -- she feared he was even his brother's enemy, yet she still felt herself irresistibly drawn to him. However her loyalty was to Jean-Paul. She felt sure he was in need of help, and she must help him.
But how --?
Small, still-warm animals, Nicola. Believe me, kiddo, your attraction to Raoul will simplify things in the end.
First line: "The little bus clattered to a jerky halt on cobblestones, and the fact that its few passengers all gathered together and prepared to descend indicated to Nicola that this was the terminus."
She doesn't miss much, does she?
Well, let's leave Nicola and those funny-shaped footprints in the night....
THERE'S ALWAYS A PAYOFF by Robert P. Hansen. An American Blood Hound mystery from T.V. Boardman & Company, 1960.
A few other titles listed as collectible at Amazon, etc., but no real info on my initial search.
"Ed Shields, commercial diver in a small California fishing town was facing the unpleasant decision of either seeking asylum in the county jail -- with a murder charge that just might stick -- or luring a cold-blooded murderer into the open -- with himself as bait."
Hmmm. Has anyone spoken to Jean-Paul recently?
First line: "The rain was a very light drizzle."
Sounds pretty interesting, actually.
NOREEN AND THE HENRY AFFAIR by Helen Dawson. Children's Book Club, 1964.
This is part of a series about a plucky young female sleuth. This was the fifth book in the series.
Solving the Murder n New Moon Valley. Once again Noreen and her Aunt Joan are their cool, calm and collected selves...
Well, yeah, they're BRITISH.
...with their characteristically complementary virtues as dashing niece and cautious aunt.
I didn't realize dashing niece and cautious aunt were, like, job descriptions.
Noreen takes on the job of nursemaid to an Alsatian dog.
She discovers that the animal has been heavily drugged, and subsequently uncovers a number of apparently unrelated incidents, including the hitherto unsolved murder of a gold prospector in the New Moon Valley -- a dark deed that happened years before.
Wow. A teen sleuth who solves a murder? That's different.
First line: "The wind had been blowing since early morning in whipping gusts across the plains from the north."