Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Father Shared His Love of Books (Especially Mysteries)

Whodunit (credit:
I am currently in the midst of transcribing letters written to me by my father over a period of 35 years beginning when I left home for college in 1963 and ending with his death in 1998 at the age of 80. 

Part of a letter dated June 22, 1980 written to me by my father when he was 62:

This past week we went to a store called Whodunit* where they have nothing but mystery books. Used hardbacks and new paperbacks comprise the stock. Because I have read all of Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and P.D. James, I am looking for other mysteries. As you know I have rather limited tastes. Being a confirmed Romantic, I prefer English mysteries. Most American crime stories I find too violent with hard and brash characters and locales which bore me. On the other hand, I have never warmed up to Hercule and Miss Jane so Agatha has gone by the boards.

The man at the bookshop suggested June Thomson and her Inspector Rudd of Chelmsford CID. Have you ever read her? The story I am now reading is called “Death Cap” and is about poisoning by a species of mushroom of that name. The story is pretty good, but I have not warmed up to it as much as I have to other authors that I like. The advertisers are comparing her to P.D. James. If she is young, she may develop into a James. I must admit that as far as interesting writing is concerned, James is hard to beat. Of course, this is without considering Sayers, which I watch when on television but so far have not been enthused about reading. One day soon I expect to give it a go.

At the recommendation of the bookseller, I also bought three other books to try out. One is “Minute for Murder” by Nicholas Blake, who is really the English poet Cecil Day-Lewis. The second is “The Cast of the Gilded Fly” by Edmund Crispin. His hero is Gervase Fen, an eccentric English professor at Oxford, who is the sleuth. And the third book is about the theater and is called “Puzzle for Players” by Patrick Quentin, whose hero is Peter Duluth, an actor it appears, although I have not read the book yet. This is an American story but the book agent assured me it was similar in approach and mood to an English mystery. I shall read it. Perhaps you have read some or all of these but when I am through I will ask if you want them and send them to you.

NOTE: Actually all three authors were using pen names. Was that a conceit used because writing mysteries was looked down on? And Cecil Day-Lewis is the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

*Whodunit Books
1931 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 567-1478

Whodunit Books has been located in this Rittenhouse area of Philly since 1977 and specializes in mysteries and thrillers. Whodunit also carries many other general titles and many rare copies from local authors. It carries signed and collectable books, all of which are also available online. This is a store to visit if you want to chat with the owner about books in general. Whodunit also has an outdoor table for nice weather and is one of the leading book stores in Philly to get that impossible-to-find book.

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