Tag Archives: Sara Paretsky

Series – to abandon or not to abandon

That is the question.

As has become clear over the Bloody Scotland weekend, there are series everywhere. Not only do the long – and medium – established writers have series. The debut authors are also planning several books. Even the unpublished ones pitching their first novel, spoke of series.

If you are free to read whatever you like, whenever you can, with no blog commitments, you can probably keep up with lots of series.

I no longer know what to do. I tend to wait and see what happens. Because I can’t actually make the decision. It has to be made for me. I will – temporarily – abandon a series of books I love, if there is something else, equally loveable out there. Maybe something that is noisier when looking for attention.

And that first abandoning was never intentional. It just happened. It’s not you; it’s me.

In the last maybe fifteen years I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the crime novels by Kate Ellis and Stephen Booth. I read every one up to a certain point. I read about Mma Ramotswe. I read these usually in the right order, moving backwards to catch the odd earlier book, and then waited in real time for the next one to be published. It seemed like a long wait, until it wasn’t so bad, and then until the next two books were here and I didn’t know how to fit them in.

I discovered Sara Paretsky, whose books I still read when a new one comes along, and slowly reading the older ones.

Among my new people, as you know, are James Oswald and Vaseem Khan. I don’t know how long I can keep going. I want to. But I wanted to with the others as well.

With Sophie Hannah I grew too scared to continue, so that was an easier decison to make. And thankfully we have the new Poirots.

Or there is Harry Potter, but we knew how many books to expect. Knew there would be an end. As we did with Skulduggery Pleasant, at least until Derek Landy decided to keep going a bit longer. With Lockwood you might not have known for certain, but unless something changed, the characters would eventually be unable to do what they did because of their [lack of] years.

Which books do you keep? Will I ever reread the abandoned series? Will I restart one day? Which ones will I regret once I have ditched my copies? When we moved, we parted with about half our Dorothy Sayers. That seemed OK. Many of Agatha Christie’s books I’ve never owned as I borrowed them from the library.

And then I looked at my shelves for inspiration, and considered Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Those books I read slowly over a long time, and I don’t claim to have read all. But the thought that I might get rid of the books made me want to cry. They are staying. Campion is like a crazy older brother, and Alleyn some benevolent uncle. Yes, I know I have now bypassed them in age, as far as most of the stories are concerned.

So what to do about those just starting out? Not read at all, just in case? Read one and be hooked? Have nervous breakdown?

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Gorgeous Giles

Those are not my words, btw. I am quoting from a lady fan; someone I used to encounter a lot at book events near me, ‘many’ years ago. While I did find Giles Milton quite interesting to listen to, I had no real hankering to read his books, not even the fiendishly cleverly titled Paradise Lost. And I don’t fancy the man. Maybe she didn’t either, but she definitely saw a handsome man when she looked.

Giles Milton 2

I am merely using Giles to illustrate what I am writing about here, namely the familiarity with which I look upon photos in the press. The more I’ve seen or met an author, the more he or she feels like ‘mine’ when they pop up in a newspaper or magazine. Or for that matter, on television. Not that we have as many programmes featuring authors as we should have.

Just saying.

Like family, really. And it’s nice. It shortens the distance between me and them, when I feel I ‘know’ someone.

I feel especially proprietary if the photo in question is ‘ours.’ (As you can tell, I don’t mind claiming Daughter’s pictures as almost mine.) What I’m trying to say is that it’s akin to finding your mantelpiece photo in the press.

Francesca Simon

And the description Gorgeous Giles has a familiar ring to it, although I suspect it will never be used about me. I’m more the type to have my picture taken with ten glasses of wine next to me. Just in case. (Yes, I know that is another ancient photo. Less grey in it.)

Sara Paretsky, wine and the witch

The green backdrop is another familiar aspect, and I notice it all the time, even if I wasn’t there or I don’t know the author.

Henning Mankell

(All photos by various – and gorgeous – Gileses.)

Picture this!

Or not, as the case may be.

I’m having problems with pictures. And not just one problem, but in lots of various little ways.

The most recent one was with Flickr, when the holiday [lack of] wifi logged me out and wouldn’t let me in again. So there I was, with photos to use and no means of putting them on Bookwitch. And when eventually the Resident IT Consultant ‘had a look’ we discovered Flickr has moved on a bit, and there is now a new way of doing things.

How was I to know?

Being lazy, I often go out/away with only my mobile phone. And I have just about learned how to get a picture off the phone onto the computer, even without using the longwinded, roundabout route I once worked out. But now when I try to edit or crop the mobile photos on the computer, it plays tricks on me. It chops them up and puts them on top of the original, in some kind of patchwork style horror. It also refuses to let me go back to the original, so one can have plenty of fun reimporting the same image over and over, until I give up and use the picture warts and all.

And then there is my Paretsky issue. I call it that, as many of the photos in Photos (the latter is the Apple name for where you might store your pictures) have disappeared, and it’s the time of Sara Paretsky’s most recent visit to Scotland that seems to be the dividing line.

The missing photos in Photos

(You can see where I have cropped and changed the shape of the photos. Even if they are not there…) (And here you can see how I used them two years ago.)

After her event, photos look really crazy. They are either gone, or there, but not there. If you know what I mean. The problem arose in winter when I changed computers. The versions of the two Photos is wildly different, and is presumably the reason for the craziness.

But so far no one has been able to cure it. And the more I go back to older photos (by which I mean a few years) they disappear as I look at them. Even when I see them and try to export them, my computer tells me it can’t do that because there is nothing there.

Last time I simply took a screen grab of the non-existent photo and used that instead, but I would like things to be solved.

The Resident IT Consultant has had a few goes, as have Son and Daughter. Apple no longer seem to employ Geniuses in their shops, even if they are called that, so I suspect going to the Genius bar is not an option. One that would work, I mean.

Muppets go to Kilsyth

The above photo does not exist.

The failed photo export from Photos

See!

I’m not crazy. I’m not.

Happy Birthday, Sara Paretsky!

Sara Paretsky is 70 today!

I’d like to thank Sara for years of enjoyable reading, and the way she combines the crime genre with a social conscience and feminism, while allowing her heroine concern herself with clothes and how she looks. And I can’t help it, but when V I Warshawski is out being brave and doing good stuff, I always visualise Sara herself.

And that’s no bad thing.

Sara Paretsky

Wishing you many happy returns!

Fallout

In her new novel Fallout Sara Paretsky goes home to Kansas. She lets V I do her detecting in her own old home town of Lawrence, even if she does rearrange the place a little to make it fit the plot. Sara’s father features for a second or so, and apparently she based the story on something from his work past.

Sara Paretsky, Fallout

Fallout proves the theory that writers generally do better when they write about a place they know well, so it was a good move to send V I to Kansas. I’m not sure, but I wonder if this was the most Chicago-free of all the Warshawski novels.

Anyway, they do things differently down there, and before long the whole of Lawrence knows exactly what V I has come for (to find two people who have vanished from Chicago), and they seem to keep track of her wherever she goes. They literally are.

And Fallout is precisely what the story is about, in more ways than one. As well as mentioning NCIS several times, Sara goes a bit DiNozzo with her clues, and V I makes a Faraday cage! V I’s missing pair are really only the catalyst of what’s going on in Lawrence, and the crime takes us in a rather worrying direction. It’s feels more generally political than has been the case in the past, and that’s despite the book having been written before the Presidential election.

The plot is kinder than they have been, or do I mean less violent? Not that V I is muscle before brains, but the most menacing thing is the way everyone ‘knows’ everything. It can get quite claustrophobic when you have no privacy in your detecting. Or so I imagine. I obviously wouldn’t know.

But there are also some very promising local characters, understandably different from the inhabitants of Chicago. I loved this, as long as I don’t have to go down into Doris McKinnon’s cellar.

Post kill

Please don’t send me more chocolate! It won’t make me love you or your book any more than not sending it will do, and I can’t eat it. In fact, I’m increasingly surrounded by people who will not be having any of the book chocolate I receive.

What to do with it?

It’s quite attractive when someone has had a bar of chocolate designed to match the book cover. I appreciate the idea. But I will still have to get rid of it.

And then there are the smaller, anonymous, pieces of – what looks like – chocolate. And other small sweets, which I won’t eat either. Recently there was a recipe and part of what was needed to make something, which I won’t identify here, as it was pretty specific.

Some of these books I will read and like. Some I will not. I will neither like nor dislike the book because of the freebie.

And then my mind goes off in another direction. If the blank chocolates appeared in a crime novel, alongside a book, addressed to a book reviewer… Well, there are certainly possibilities there! And, you know, if that book when sent out to reviewers were to be accompanied by chocolate… Well.

Sara Paretsky once had VI Warshawski in desperate need of something to write on, and furnished her heroine with the backs of press releases of books for review, which VI came across, for whatever reason. I quite liked that. I do all my Bookwitch planning on the backs of them.

But they are not going to kill anyone.

And ten years on…

Ten years go so quickly, don’t they? While the fresh-faced Bookwitch looks good for ten, that other, tired witch propping her up is certainly showing her age. I reckon she thought she’d still be 29, ten years in. Whereas it’s more like, well, at least 49.

Meg Rosoff and the ALMA award, with Alice Bah Kuhnke and Katti Hoflin

I’ve often wondered if I’d last this long. The next wondering has always been whether to give it up. You know, nice round figure (and I don’t only mean me) to end it all.

Philip Pullman

But when I voiced this thought to Ross Collins last month he seemed shocked (and I’m not fooling myself into thinking he’s been here for the duration), so I immediately retracted my threat.

Julie Bertagna, bookwitch and Neil Gaiman

Ross then said I must have ‘got’ a lot of authors in that time, so I sighed deeply and said yes. He seemed concerned that I wasn’t sounding happier, which kicked me out of my morose state of mind. Yes, I do ‘have’ lots of authors, and I love every single one, and treasure them, and this is a cause for celebration. Not sighing. But you know, when you’re 49 sighing comes easily.

John Barrowman

In the last few days I’ve been in email conversation with someone else, about books and publishing and all that kind of thing, and I realised I’ve picked up quite a bit over the years. Not just authors, I mean.

Gordon Brown and Nick Barley

Actual knowledge, except it’s more like English grammar; I couldn’t tell you what it is. I just feel it.

So don’t ask me anything. I don’t know.

Philippa Dickinson and Terry Pratchett

There have been many absolutely wonderful books. And some less so. There have been really fun and interesting events, many of them in unusual places I’d not otherwise have got to visit. And those authors. Oh, those authors.

Steve Cole

Thank you.

(That’s the ‘I will go on for many more years’ thank you. Not the farewell thank you. I hope.)

Sara Paretsky