Archive for April, 2008

GROUP STUDIES

Friday, April 25th, 2008

I didn’t expect to like Swedish police detective, Kurt Wallender, but Kathy liked him and she doesn’t like bleak mysteries either, so I read Henning Mankell’s One Step Behind, and — hark! — I liked him. He’s not bleak, but he’s no bundle of peppiness, either. He’s dogged, smart, outraged, avoiding his diabetes, willing to risk new friends, and a really good group leader.

This matters because there are many too many groups in the world, maybe especially in Minnesota or in my lifetime, and many too few people who know how to lead. All of a sudden, I have not one, but two examples of very good and very different group leaders in Kurt Wallender and, an old favorite hero whose latest mystery I just finished, Jack Reacher.

Reacher, in Lee Child’s Bad Luck and Trouble, joins his former military team in a search for the killers of their former colleagues. This is a group of peers, almost interchangeable, hugely trained, and well-experienced nine years earlier. Reacher understands how and when to stand back, take charge or join in.

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Fig. #16. Looks like a peer group (of lobster buoys?) preparing a next move.

Kurt Wallander leads his police squad to a successful conclusion in a case that offers no obvious clues, had a hard-to-figure-out motivation, and gets him in hot water with his department leader, regional and national authorities, and members of the public. This is a meshed group of people who bring different experiences and qualities under Wallender’s direction to the solving of their shared cases.

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Fig. #17. A meshed group of rocks makes a strong wall.

Who knew that group anything might be interesting? Maybe these should be case studies for a management wannabe.

RETURNING CHARACTERS

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

No, “returning characters” does not refer to Charlie and me, even though Memorial Day, our “returning” weekend, is looming large.

Annette guessed that “returning characters” were migratory birds, and she forwarded a possibly great Birds of Maine book (Stan Tekiela’s Birds of Maine Field Guide) which is good because Roseledge Books only has a picture-less guide to Maine places where birds might be. But that wasn’t what I meant either.

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Fig. #15. The tide is a favorite “returning character” and so are the ribs of the (ship) “wrecks” that show at low tide.

Instead “returning characters” refers to the main characters in favorite series, two of which have just reappeared in a latest paperback edition.

I just finished and really liked Peter Spiegelman’s Red Cat, the latest John March paperback mystery. I like John March. I like his decisions, dialogue, NYC detail, and I like author Spiegelman’s continuing background of family, finance, friendships, maybe especially finance. Since Paul Erdman died, I’ve had no one so able to teach me about finance through fiction, and learning about money is part of knowing how the world works — my most major reading goal.

I’m reading Lee Child’s Bad Luck and Trouble very slowly. Jack Reacher may be my favorite returning character, and I don’t want it to end too soon. I love working through his decisions with him, and I love learning a million details about whatever is the featured place of that adventure. This time it’s a group effort set (so far) in Los Angeles.

But I just couldn’t stay interested in the Richard Jury crowd in Martha Grimes’ Dust, though I have liked them until now. And Millie and Kathy both thought Tony Hillerman’s The Shape Shifter, his latest paperback with Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, was a little less. So were the last two Stephanie Plum “numbers” by Janet Evanovich. I thought each needed one more escapade, and it’s time to settle the Joe/Ranger issue. Do authors get bored with their characters after a while? I think I remember John Sanford saying he did. Do readers? I do.

WHAT IS A MAINE BOOK?

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

A Maine book has to have within it whatever the reader knows Maine to be. I don’t know if it’s better for the book be an anticipatory read, a withdrawal read, or a reminder that “away” places of the heart exist, even in the midst of Minnesota snowstorms.

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Fig. #12. A Maine book needs the big picture.

Kathy mentioned that author Julia Spencer-Fleming lives in ME, but the stories with a female Episcopalian priest detective take place in upstate NY. (She’s also won a lot of mystery writer awards and has a blurb from Lee Child, both pluses.) Definitely worth a try.
Spencer-Fleming, Julia. All Mortal Flesh. St. Martin’s Press, 2006

I am not extending the lives-in-Maine criterion to Nicholson Baker who has a new book out about WW II drawn from stories in his rescued newspapers and, I think I read, now lives in South Berwick, ME, even if South Berwick was the home of Sarah Orne Jewett who surely set her classic novella, The Country of the Pointed Firsin Tenants Harbor.

My niece is reading a Dennis Lehane mystery that mentions Maine, which is good, but she didn’t include the title. A ME-mention is a good reason for Roseledge Books to have that particular title in books or series set elsewhere.

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Fig. #13. A Maine book needs details. Great yarn colors, too.

Connolly, John. The Unquiet. NY: Pocket Star Books, 2007
I know from the NYTimes Bestseller List that a Maine PI is the series character, and I’m guessing that the mystery is mostly set in ME, even though author John Connolly lives in Dublin, Ireland.

Tim sent me the 2007 Annual Report of the Town of St. George, Maine, the Mainest book I know, and it is the perfect reminder of names, deaths, and taxes paid and that soon I’ll be back in Tenants Harbor for the summer.

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Fig. #14. A really good Maine book needs a reminder of perfect summer days (especially during this April night’s Minnesota snowstorm), e.g. Roseledge Books from Tenants Harbor.

CATCHING UP #1

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

“Enough Iceland.”
“Why Iceland?”

“More pictures.”
“I like the pictures.”

“Did Charlie take all the pictures?” Yes.

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Fig. #11. North Atlantic anywhere in spirit; Marshall Point Lighthouse in fact.

Okay, I get the idea. I’m through with Iceland — for the moment.*

Of the Iceland books I just read, David Gibbins’ Crusader Gold is the only must purchase for Roseledge Books. It REALLY covers the North Atlantic and has a nugget in the Notes which ties it to Tenants Harbor because TH is on Penobscot Bay. I’m not going to say more than that about that. Yes, it has Notes, which makes sense when a PhD in Archaeology decides to write a novel. I love this book for it’s balance of documentation and speculation.

*This holds only until the book read and reviewed by commenter Mary Wagner is available in paperback. Any mention of the Irish priests in Iceland — before the Vikings? — is a must read.