A New Bosch Book

The Parsons branch of the Columbus Public Library system prominently displays “new arrivals” on a rack facing the door, presumably thinking that people coming in might pick up a volume on impulse.  Yesterday, when Kish and I stopped by for some browsing, I was delighted to see a new Harry Bosch book had come out, called The Crossing by Michael Connelly.  I greedily snatched it off the shelf before somebody else beat me to it.

IMG_0763Years ago, the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor recommended the Bosch books to me.  They’re a series — I’m not sure how many there are now — that follow the career and exploits of Hieronymus (“Harry”) Bosch, a long-time police detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.  I started with the first in the series and was immediately hooked, and ever since I’ve happily followed the jazz-loving, uncompromising Harry through multiple partners, tragic deaths, love affairs, family dramas, political intrigue in the LAPD, and countless other back stories as he searches for clues and carefully solves grisly murders.  It’s been a terrific series.

I like the plotting in the books, I like the characters, and I like the way the books always provide some interesting insight to how police detectives work and police departments operate.  But more than anything else I really like the prose.  Connelly writes in short, declarative sentences — a very Hemingwayesque style — and I always enjoy the way he describes what Bosch is doing.  Too often, modern fiction is so focused on trying to plumb new depths in depressing modern relationships that the authors fail to give any kind of physical description of the setting, the characters, and their actions.  Connelly, on the other hand, always provides a rich account of what the characters are doing and how things look.  It’s wonderful to read his depiction, for example, of how Harry Bosch opens an envelope, organizes the papers inside, and then lays out the photos of a crime scene.

So excuse me, for now.  It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day, I’ve changed into my shorts, and I’m going to go outside and dive into the world of Harry Bosch.  I feel like a kid with a full Easter basket.

Stephen King

Recently Richard got me Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep as a present.  It’s the sequel to The Shining, which I had never read.  I’d seen the Stanley Kubrick/Jack Nicholson movie, but had heard the book is different (and it definitely is) so I decided to read the book first.

The Shining was an enjoyable, page-turning airplane read that I finished on the return leg of our recent trip to Phoenix, and I was looking forward to starting the sequel that seemingly just came out.  As we were walking through the airport on our way to our car, however, we passed the bookstore and I noticed that Stephen King had another new book out, called Revival.  My God, I thought:  how many books has Stephen King written?

The answer is . . . a lot.  According to King’s website, if you just count novels, there are more than 50.  50!  Indeed, in between Doctor Sleep and Revival there was at least one other book, Mr. Mercedes — and perhaps two, because I can’t tell whether Doctor Sleep was published before or after Joyland.  And that is just novels; there are countless essays, short stories, and other pieces in a listing of written works that seems impossibly long.

By anyone’s definition, Stephen King has been astonishingly prolific.  Those of us who aren’t creative can only marvel at where he could come up with so many ideas for books — but what really impresses me is King’s obvious dedication to his work and his craft.  You can only publish that many books, short stories, and writings if you are willing to sit down at your writing desk, day after day, and work.  And Stephen King is still doing it, at age 67.

Critics will probably never look upon Stephen King with the same affection they have for, say, Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace.  I don’t pretend to know precisely what separates fiction from “fine literature,” but I do know this:  Stephen King has stayed atop the bestseller lists for decades now, producing book after book that people want to read, and he has done it by working hard, grinding away at new stories when he presumably could kick back, live off his royalties and speaking fees, and become a man of leisure.

If you want a living testament to the merits of a strong work ethic, consider Stephen King.  We should all be able to find some inspiration in his example.

Virgins of Paradise

I just finished reading a wonderful book called Virgins of Paradise. It is a fictional account of the Rasheed family headed by Amira the matriarch of the family and it takes place in Egypt starting in 1945 up through present day (the book was written in 1993). Amira’s son Ibrahim marries an English woman and they proceed to have two daughters Yasmina who wants to become a doctor and Camelia who wants to become a dancer. Ibrahim says to Amira “mother my daughters both belong to a new generation of women, I don’t understand them, but they are finding their voice.”

The book follows the two girls struggles to make their dreams come true in a culture dominated by men in a country with many restrictions on women’s freedoms. During their time Egyptian law executed a woman who killed a man, but rarely arrested the man because he was considered to be defending his honor, severely punished a wife for leaving her husband, but granted a husband the right to leave his wife and even divorce her by saying I divorce you three times in front of witnesses and permitted a man to beat his wife or to use any means necessary to keep her submissive.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to gain some perspective into the trials and tribulations that women face in another part of our world ! I give this book an A+.