Saturday, September 17, 2011

Trying It Again

I abandoned My Hollywood by Mona Simpson because despite the good idea of writing about the immigrant women who supply stability for the lives of Hollywood types by raising their children, doing their laundry, etc., Simpson only wrote the idea, not a novel. And I don't think I will go back to it in the years to come, to try it again. I've lived here in the Santa Clarita Valley for 8 years, I've seen parts of Hollywood many times, and I don't think even total detachment from it, as there would be once I'm a resident of Henderson, Nevada, would compel me to go for it again.

But there are some exceptions with other books I've left without finishing, such as Dog On It by Spencer Quinn, a mystery novel that takes place from the viewpoint of Chet, a dog, and family to Bernie, a private investigator. I mentioned it briefly in an entry I wrote on May 6, 2009 (, and it didn't do anything for me then. So why would I go back to it now? What does it have that My Hollywood doesn't and likely never will?

It has novelty. Last month, I got a book catalog from Daedalus Books, detailing the new titles they had on sale. One of them was Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann. It involves sheep that have been well-taken care of by their shepherd. He has read them a wide range of books every evening, thereby giving them much understanding about human nature, which helps after he is murdered and they set out to find out who did it. Yes, the sheep.

It stems from novelty in mystery novels for me. I tried Baltimore Blues, the first novel in the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman, and not only did I really like Tess, I liked Lippman's descriptions of Baltimore, the way of the world there, as only she, a former reporter there, could possibly know. Every time she described some quirk of Baltimore, you could tell that she loves her city. After I read it back in March, I checked out of the library Charm City, the second book in the series, but never read it, because other books were crowding in, demanding their time with me. And I acquiesced to those other books.

Maybe that was the mistake. I liked that first book, and I should have gotten right into that second book, keeping up the momentum. It wasn't until August that I remembered how much I had enjoyed Baltimore Blues, and decided to order Charm City. And then, I started it at the beginning of this month. I still liked the city descriptions, but I didn't feel the same interest in Tess this time, nor of Lippman's Baltimore. This didn't feel like my territory, a world I could happily live in for a time.

In the same Daedalus Books catalog, I found The Book Stops Here: A Mobile Library Mystery by Ian Sansom. A mystery series revolving around a bookmobile? I love books, and I love libraries. I didn't want that book yet, though, because it's the third one in the Mobile Library Mystery series. So I ordered the first one from And then I remembered that I have State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy, the first novel in the White House Chef Mystery series. I love the history of the White House and of its occupants. It sounds like it would be a series for me.

But I haven't read any of these books yet. Other books, such as The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez currently, have beckoned. It's not a delay of any kind, just that I go with what I spark to at the moment. I still have sparks for these books, and I will read them soon enough, because I'd like to have a mystery series I can get into, but one that suits me and my interests, including books, the library, the White House. Three Bags Full probably won't lead to a series, but sheep working to solve the murder of their shepherd? I can't let that pass me by!

And I've thought again about the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series by Alice Kimberly, about Rhode Island bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure, and the shop's ghost, a private investigator murdered 50 years prior on the same spot that Timothy Brennan, the author of the Detective Jack Shield series (A series inspired by the exploits of that very PI), drops dead on during a talk he's giving about his books.

I like bookstores too, but I think I never continued with that series because of the haughty family of Penelope's deceased husband. I like the ghost aspect, and have always wanted to write something involving a ghost, but that never suited me. They were a jarring interruption in a wonderful world of books.

Also, for a while now, I've loved watching Antiques Roadshow, and remember fondly the antiques store we went to in San Juan Capistrano that had envelopes with "Burt Lancaster" mimeographed in blue ( They were the real things, made for his production company. Now I regret not buying them, but I was utterly fascinated at the apparent history of the items in that store, the glass cases with antique dishes inside them, the old pop culture figurines, the lunch boxes, one of which I think had Howdy Doody on it, and the wisps of people you could find still attached to those items. You could imagine who might have owned it, for what reasons it's here, and who it might be for now. Maybe an antiques mystery series? I've found one called the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries by Jane K. Cleland, and I think I'll try the first book, Consigned to Death. It's not so much the mysteries I'm looking for (I usually half-heartedly guess at who the culprit is), but just these worlds with the same characters. I get that also with the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson, which takes place at Walt Disney World after dark, or at least the first one did, and I ordered the second, third and fourth books in the series because of my undying love for Walt Disney World and the Disney name and all that it entails, and am anticipating the fifth book, which will be published next year.

My reason for trying Dog On It again is because I'm a dog lover. I grew up with a black toy poodle named Beaumont. He was a baby when I was three years old. Now we have Tigger, our part miniature pinscher, part Italian greyhound, and Kitty, our part miniature pinscher, part terrier. Kitty came from someone in Alaska who took in rescue dogs, and this household was also populated by cats, so Kitty adopted some of their traits, including walking fearlessly across the back of the couch and sitting right on the arm of the couch. A few days after she arrived in June 2006, she took over the rocking chair that we've had since I was a baby. She made it her own, and it's where she lays for part of the afternoon, and in the late night when I'm still up and everyone has gone to bed.

A dog helping to solve mysteries? I'll try it again. I would like to feel a connection to some series of books, one that hopefully goes ever on. All of these are possible starts.