Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sue Grafton's ABC mysteries series

Awhile back - years ago! - I decided I would read Sue Grafton's ABC series in it's entirety.  Even though, at that time, she wasn't yet complete.  Today, 2010, she's still not complete, but she's near done!  I think she's on "U" and it's time for me to start reading...

I actually started last year.  And I have to admit, I didn't seek out the books to start reading them - in other words, altho they've been on my "to-read-list" for quite sometime, they hadn't yet become a priority.  Truth is, my to-read-pile was (is) quite excessive and I continually challenge myself to read those books I've already acquired before I go buying more.  Well, that's my intention.  But, I can't seem to help it: I get a craving to wander thru a bookstore "just to look" and end up adding to the ever-growing to-read collection.

The ABC series moved up the motivational ladder by accident - and thanks to F. Scott Fitzgerald  You see, I had decided to read "a classic" and 2009, I picked "The Great Gatsby."  I don't know why but I expected it to be inexpensive @ the bookstore.  I decided I wasn't paying full price.  Instead, I would go to the library (another goal of mine...  ~sigh~).  Then, I had an Eureka! moment:  check the Goodwill store!  Unbelievably, they had a copy - so for $2.00 I was able to check off a resolution.  Well, once I actually read it I could.  But I also discovered something AMAZING!  Rows upon rows upon rows of donated books!  Some were barely touched, others dogeared and devoured.  I was absorbed as I scanned EVERY SINGLE TITLE...  and found "'A' is for Alibi," "'B' is for Burglar" and "'C' is for Corpse," among a few others... (Perri O'Shaunessy, James Patterson, John Sandford...  I had hit the motherload!!!).  I truly have to curb my urge to stop every other day to see what might be newly in stock.  Since that miraculous day, I've found some more of the alphabet series - starting "'D' is for Deadbeat" after I finish "To Kill a Mockingbird" (my classic for 2010) and "48 Days to the Work you Love" (a must for me in my current state of flux with work... ~sigh~). 

I so enjoy reading for pleasure but have a plethra of non-fiction reading material - and always try to motivate myself to read a few "educational" books in-between:  spiritual, business, finance...  It's tough for me.  I'm not one to do what I should do.  More what I want to do or have to do.  So, while my intentions are good at the time I'm buying the material, or when I'm setting the goals, the actual motivation part falls flat at the crucical point.  I'm following Dr. Phil's "don't do it again in 2010" mantra, tho, and have left - begrudgedly - "'D' is for Deadbeat" in the to-read-pile, altho I did pick it up earlier this week and carry it around with me for 2 days!  ~sigh~  So, with Dr. Phil's mantra running thru my head, I've added (and may possibly require them to be MUST reads before I get to anything enjoyable - here it is again: ~sigh~ because of something else I'm doing: self-imposed restrictions):  "QBQ: The Question Behind the Question" by John G. Miller, "How to Read Literature like a Professor" by Thomas C. Foster and "Naturally Thin" by Bethenny Frankel, to my 2010 reading list...

With that declared, it's possible I may not get to "D" anytime soon - and if I stick to a 3-ABCs a year, I've calcutated it out that it will take me 8+ years to finish the entire series!  Something to look forward to, thru the years, I suppose...

Without further digression, because I so do seem to get sidetracked!, I venture on to A, B & C:  easy reads with a fairly likable character.  I've become enthralled with the private investigation profession (enough to pick up a copy of "Private Investigation for Dummies" or is it "the Idiot's Guide to Private Investigation"?  Not sure which but there's a copy of it waiting in the "to read pile" ~sigh~).  Originally published in 1982 (A is for Alibi), I feel like I'm reading a Perry Mason novel from the 1950s!  It is laughable how much life has changed in less than 30 years:  not realizing HOW old the book was initially, I pondered WHY doesn't she use her cellphone instead of stopping @ a payphone.  And "pulling out her typewriter"?  What?  No computer?  Either the PI business doesn't pay well or Kinsey is an old-fashioned diehard!  Perhaps the most giggly to me was the need to get a map out of the glove box to search out an address.  Me, giggling, even tho I only got my GPS a year ago!  My, how progress spoils us - and quickly at that! 

As for the stories - well, they're not necessarily enlightening and full of notable quotables.  Sometimes Grafton has poetic prose, but I found this annoying rather than enrapturing.  We're talking about a gritty, street wise, twice-divorced, not-looking-for-love, somewhat aloof but quite savvy female detective so these random - very random - descriptive lush wording is lost on me here.  Almost out of nowhere they come and make you do a double take.  Kinsey is not a bored housewife who decides to snoop on her neighbors.  She's a former cop, tough, direct, upfront and ballsy.  All that's needed is the facts, nothing but the facts, and to be given straight.  Save the poetic prose for another character, please.

Despite this, I do have some dogear marks in every book - altho C has only one.  Makes me wonder if I got a little too used to Grafton by that point - I did practically read 3 back-to-back.  After flipping thru, I see that its a mix of a clever line and ideas I want to capture.  I did already mention that the investigative practice really struck me... and I'm fascinated by Grafton's imagination and well-organized business sense.  Maybe, sometimes it's too business-y.  Almost lecture-ish.  And there were times when I thought her course lack of action was totally a useless waste of paper & ink: paragraphs of nothing new to the case, just tedious tasks and unimaginative descriptions of daily routines...  drawing closer to the end - pages to the back cover becoming less thick, leaving me to ponder "I don't know what's going on but she's running out of (pages) to get me there."  She always delivers, tho.  In the end.  We get there but more than once I was scratching my head trying to figure out how! 

A is for Alibi:
I have a system for consigning data to 3x5 index cards.  Most of my notes have to do with the witnesses: who they are, how they're related to the investigation, dates of interviews, follow-up.  Some cards are background information I need to check out and some are notes about legal technicalities.  The cards are an efficient way of storing facts for my written reports.  I tack them up on a large bulletin board above my desk and stare at them, telling myself the story as I perceive it.  Amazing contridictions will come to light, sudden gaps, questions I've overlooked.

I went into the office early to type up my notes for Nikki's file, indicating briefly what I had been hired to do and the fact that a check for five thousand dollars had been paid on account.

A visit to the county clerk's office, the credit bureau and the newspaper morgue gave me sufficient facts to dash off a quick sketch of Laurence Fife's former law partner.

If you wait long enough, anyone's opinion about you will be reported back.

I started out nuts so I'm getting sane.

People get careless when they're feeling safe.

Whenever there is sex, we work to create a relationship that is worthy of it.

B is for Burglar (this one was particularly interesting to me because I realized there was more than one burglary going on...  identity theft and impersonation along with an obvious crime involving arson & murder...):
I'd never seen anyone so self-absorbed but it wasn't unattractive stuff.

Insecure people have a special sensitivity for anything that finally confirms their own low opinion of themselves.

The life of a private eye is short on gun battles, long on basic research, but there are times when a ballpoint pen just doesn't get it.

C is for Corpse (once again, double entendre, if I spelled that right - there is an obvious corpse, which is Kinsey's client, but then there is an unidentified corpse in the morgue AND an unsolved murder from years before - so interesting how Grafton does this... makes me curious enough to re-read 'Alibi' to see if there is dual/triple reference there... hmmm...):

Besides, 'stupid' is after the fact.  I always feel smart when I think things up.

No comments: