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Letting the books fall off the shelf

TOM ZEBARTH

This article will be theme-less, since I’ve been reading from a variety of shelves in the last month. Periodically I get the urge to depart from my usual mystery-thriller-adventure genre and read whatever comes to hand. So it’s been the last month, and some of the stuff was pretty interesting.I picked up a new Repairman Jack novel – “Crisscross” by F. Paul Wilson – and, as usual, had a lot of fun with it. For those of you who haven’t checked out Jack yet, he is a New York vigilante who stays beneath the radar of polite society. He has no Social Security number, last name, bank account or other distinguishing characteristics.

Righting wrongs is how he makes his living. Say you’re a nun who had an affair, and a sleaze got some nasty pictures of the dirty deed and is blackmailing you. You can’t go to the bishop, risking your career and calling, but Jack will help you. He will be discrete, perform deeds not exactly legal and probably cause some pain to the sleazeball. If he is totally successful, the bad guy will not see Jack coming or know where Jack went after ruining his nefarious plans. What makes the Repairman Jack series a little different from the usual vigilante stories is a thread of a supernatural plot that has been ongoing since the first book in the series, “The Tomb.” It seems that Earth is a battleground between good and evil forces, but it’s much more convoluted than that brief synopsis suggests. And Jack is quite unwittingly playing a major role in preventing the destruction of all we hold dear. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s all fun, although I’m a little concerned about this baby Jack’s soon to become the father of. His baby couldn’t be part of this supernatural plot, could it? Danger, danger, Jack!Then I read “Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier,” written in 1907 by, check this out: W.B. (Bat) Masterson. Not great literature, but the actual words of one of the most famous frontier lawmen of the American West describing the times and people – including his encounters with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill, among others – make fighting through the archaic writing style characteristic of the turn-of-the-century popular press worth it.

Then I read “Who Wrote the Gospels?” by Randel McCraw Helms. Ever wonder who Matthew, Mark, Luke and John really were? I didn’t either, but I got into a discussion with a librarian. (Rule No. 31: Never discuss religion or politics with a librarian. They will find you a book on the subject and expect you to read it. And probably write a book review.) Quite frankly, I didn’t expect to be entertained by a report detailing exhaustive research by a biblical scholar into religious scribbling dating back to the first century, but I was. It appears that all of these gospels were at least four layers removed from personal knowledge of the Christ, which would certainly make one wonder how much of the story they got right. And it’s kind of cool that Luke turns out to be a woman, isn’t it?And finally, I’ve been rereading the Rudyard Kipling “Just So Stories” to see if they are suitable for the little guys I read to at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Breckenridge. When I read Kipling I’m reminded of Dr. Seuss, although Kipling wrote about 100 years before Seuss “invented” the word play in children’s stories that endears him to modern parents. Check this out from Kiplings’ “How the Whale Got His Throat”:

“In the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate Fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.” And, yes, that is how he spelled “mackerel” and “pickerel” in the story. He’s working hard for that word play and rhyme. Sure does remind me of Seuss.But my point to you is that Rudyard Kipling is a good source if you’re looking for something different to read to your little guys. Some of the material is not as kind and gentle as modern kid lit, so a little parental pre-read and consideration is essential. “The Jungle Book” and “Just So Stories” have been read to several generations by now, and I’ll bet your little guys will enjoy many of these stories as well.I’m getting ready to start “The Enemy” by Lee Child – which will be the eighth in his Jack Reacher series. This is more like the guy books I usually review, so I’ll devote the next article to this series.So many books, so little time.


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