Reading Old Friends

These are tough times. You turn on the news, and the news makes your stomach turn. Your daily newspaper gets thinner every day. I’m a recovering journalist, so I NEED my daily newspaper. Friends are being down-sized. The stores you love are going under. Your 401-K is shrinking like a pair of K-Mart panties. What’s a girl to do? Curl up with an old friend. In the past two weeks, I’ve turned to new books by some favorite authors. I wrote mysteries for ten years, and let me tell you, mystery writing is an art as well as a craft. One of the premiere craftsmen of the genre is Michael Connelly. Mr. Mary Kay and I seldom read the same books, but we always read the newest Michael Connelly, and we always buy it in hardback. That’s a pretty high compliment. Connelly’s newest, THE BRASS VERDICT is another stunner. For the first time he brings together two of his most popular fictional sleuths, Harry Bosch (from books like BLOOD WORK and TRUNK MUSIC) and Mickey Haller–THE LINCOLN LAWYER. The results are satisfying on every level. Go. Buy. I’ve also got the advance reader’s copy (ARC as we call ’em in the book biz) of Elmore Leonard’s new book, ROAD DOGS. It won’t be available to the general public until May, but I can tell you, this is vintage Elmore Leonard. If you don’t know Dutch (that’s his nickname) you should run, not walk, to a bookstore to stock up on his backlist. Tons of his books have been made into movies, the most recent including GET SHORTY and BE COOL. If that’s not enough of a pedigree, he also wrote HOMBRE, you know, the book before the Paul Newman western? Leonard writes crime capers full of dark humor and knowing bravado. My favorites are the books set in Florida. He’s also the originator of the best writing advice I’ve ever heard. When asked the secret to his best-selling success, Dutch said simply, “I leave out the stuff readers skip over.” Duh. You want more recommendations? Margaret Maron, who has won every award in the mystery-writing world. Some of ’em, she’s won more than once. Full disclosure, Margaret is a dear, wonderful friend. If you haven’t read her, start with THE BOOTLEGGER’S DAUGHTER, the first in her multi-award winning Judge Deborah Knott mystery series. Set in Margaret’s native North Carolina, these mysteries combine small-town Southern sleuthing with keen plotting and an endearing cast of characters. And should you not like mysteries–but, why wouldn’t you?–try another of my favorite recent novels, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. It’s set in the immediate post-WWII years in London and the Channel Islands. Who knew Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis during the war? It’s a novel, it’s history, it’s got a charming love story…I loved it so much I’ve bought three copies for friends and family members, including my 80-year-old Aunt Alice. Take it to bed with you and forget, for a few evenings, about the scary stuff going on around us, and remember, at least the Nazis aren’t dropping bombs on us.

It’s a dirty job…

But somebody had to keep my friend Beth company while she’s staying at The Cloister last week.

I motored over there Wednesday and spent the rest of the week ensconced in total luxury. Our room was the size of my living room at our modest little Tybee beach house. The grounds were lush and green and perfectly manicured, and the terrace outside our room looked out on the Black Banks River. All was serene. A hurricane may have been threatening Florida just a few miles south of there, but at the Cloister, they have staff to deal with annoyances like that. We had three lovely dinners at three different restaurants, all great in their own way. I think my favorite for the week was a place called Delaney’s.

I wrote three chapters. Maybe I could have written more, maybe not. But it was a nice break. I treated myself to a massage Thursday afternoon. And we dropped by G.J. Ford’s Books, where owner Mary Jean caught me up on the latest island gossip, and I bought a new book., HAM BISCUITS, HOSTESS GOWNS, AND OTHER SOUTHERN SPECIALTIES, by Julia Reed. I’d already read and enjoyed the author’s THE HOUSE ON FIRST STREET: MY NEW ORLEANS STORY, so I know I’ll love this one too. I fell a little short on my four-day writing goal, but on the other hand, I think this may have been my ultimate freeloading move.

Beth is staying on at the Cloister, but it was time for me to head on home Friday morning. I drove for six hours in the Fay-whipped winds and rains. Got home and discovered that Wyatt ate one of the down sofa pillows in the sunroom and Weezie ate the edges on the rattan coffee table that was going to go in the living room of the Tybee house. Bad dogs.