Wednesday, November 09, 2011

My secret passion

I studied English & American Literature at one of the top 5 public universities in the United States. I read all of the great authors of the English language: Shakespeare, Dickens, Chaucer, Hemingway, Bronte, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, etc. I also read some great authors who were not English or American, too: Chinua Achebe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Miguel de Cervantes, Alan Paton, Liang Peng, and Amos Tutuola. Very high brow, very esoteric, but that's not where my passion lies. No, my real passion is secret and hidden in shame: British crime mysteries.

Yes, it's true - I love British mysteries. Everything from Agatha Christie to R.D. Wingfield to M.C. Beaton to Elizabeth George. It all started when I was at my grandma's house in England as a child. We were staying for most of the summer and I was SO bored. She had no television and there were no other kids around for me to play with because English children go to school over the summer instead of lazing around forgetting everything they've learned in the previous year, so I was desperate for something to do.

My grandma was a teacher and firmly believed that reading was the cornerstone to every well-rounded life, so she showed me where she kept her books and told me to choose something to read. I found an anthology of crime novels - both fictional and true life - and set down to give it a try. I blazed through those five novels in a little over a week and was totally hooked. I spent hours at the local library that summer reading through every Tommy and Tuppence, every Miss Marple, and two or three Poirot mysteries (Christie was one of the novelists featured in the original anthology I'd read) as well. (Never really got into Poirot for some reason.) And a passion was born.

When I got home to California, my dad wanted to make sure that I gave American mysteries a chance, too, so he gave me a Raymond Chandler boxed set for my birthday that year, which I loved, too. I also discovered Mystery! on PBS which was great because now I could see the characters I'd read about. It became my obsession to read every mystery I could get my hands on and that obsession continues today.

Nowadays, it's e-books. I've been reading through the Agatha Raisin series of novels by M.C. Beaton on my iPad, iPhones, and laptop through the wonder of the Kindle apps and I still find myself carried away by the challenge of finding out "whodunnit". I know there's nothing really wrong with my love of mysteries but it always seems to surprise friends who know me well when they find out that I read "brain candy" novels instead of serious works of literature; I'm OK with that. No one needs to know my dirty little secret, right? Let's just keep it between us.

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