When I mentioned Alistair MacLean in a post a couple of days ago it made me wonder whether I actually still owned a copy of one of his novels - after a bit of a search I found this, Puppet on a Chain, which I think came from the used book store in West Chester, PA. It was published in 1969 and continued MacLean's astonishing record of bestsellers - he is little read now and his name is virtually unknown to anyone born after, say, 1980, but during the height of his fame he virtually cornered the market in best-ever thriller titles, such as 'South by Java Head', 'When Eight Bells Toll' and 'The Way to Dusty Death'. Great stuff. I've included a photo of page one simply for the line "Please fasten your seat belts and extinguish your cigarettes". For those interested in book jacket design this one was done by Norman Weaver, a British artist and photographer, who fascinatingly was briefly employed during World War II as General Eisenhower's personal map maker. The novel was made into a movie in 1971 and was promoted with the poster below - a classic of it's type.
Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE, was once described as a cross between "Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene". His long life, 1915 to 2011, is too rich for me to attempt a summary (the awards in front and behind his name give a hint of it's range) though soldier, author and scholar cover the broad bases. It's difficult to think of a travel writer from the second half of the 20th century who was not influenced by the accessibility and warmth of his writing. His first book, The Traveller's Tree, published in 1950, is the story of his post-war travels in the Caribbean - more well known now are the three books about his journey at the age of 18 from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul in 1933/34 - A Time Of Gifts (published 1977), Between The Wood And The Water (1986), and The Broken Road (2013). If you subtract his birth date from the date of his first most widely known work you'll see there is a precedent for all who want to put their travels onto paper - start now and write, there is always someone who wants to read.
As I was unpacking some boxes today I found A Time To Keep Silence, which, the book tells me, is about his inner, spiritual journey - I have yet to read it but it will go into the lending library along with The Violins Of Saint-Jacques, his only novel. We will try to get a set of Fermor's books because I know the ones I have read are inspirational - especially for the armchair wanderer.
There were two libraries within walking distance of me when I was growing up in North London. One was in East Finchley the other in Church End – I think of both of them with great fondness but it’s the one in East Finchley I miss. It seemed old, established, and the bookshelves were dark and worn and the entire building had the smell of slightly dry paper – it was treasure to me when I was 10. In fact it was built in 1938, making it a library youngster both in England and America, but it seemed ancient to my new eyes and it was serenely quiet. Somewhere for me to wonder at the full collection of Alistair MacLean novels (try them – a Scottish master of adventures and thrillers – The Guns of Navarone and Ice Station Zebra are excellent) and get very bogged down at the age of 10 in Jane Austen. As a public library East Finchley charged for the late return of a book – I think you could take three books for two weeks – and the charge was 2 English pence for each late book, which was about 3 cents, and I clearly remember once having to search my bedroom for pennies as I had several books which were many weeks late. I spent countless hours wandering among the bookcases, utterly enthralled by the beauty of the book covers and the strange words and the new worlds that were opening up. And as Shakespeare said, there’s the rub. The new worlds – the wonderful new worlds.
A donation of books arrived today - a large and fine selection of paperbacks including novels by Agatha Christie, John Updike, James Baldwin and Patricia Highsmith; such a vast variety of authors in fact that already we guarantee everyone will find the perfect evening read.
This donation is the very kind and generous gift of David Thigpen (via our dear friend Arnie who filled his car and drove them to us - a big thank you Arnie!) and we are immensely grateful. Some of the books will go into the free-to-take section and some into the lending section. Our doors open at 10am on Saturday March 3rd and we would love to see you - and to give you an excellent cup of coffee and a seriously good cookie.
Agatha Christie wrote 66 detective novels. The first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920, and the last, Postern of Fate, in 1973. It's a remarkable achievement, each novel a gem of suspense written with a fluency that makes them the perfect rainy day read. If you haven't yet met her two most famous inventions, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, you are in for a rare treat. It would be a joy indeed to have all 66 novels in the library but for the moment we will start with these two; Murder on the Links, a mystery set on a golf course in France, and Death in the Clouds, a whodunit on an airplane, about which The London Times wrote this "It will be a very acute reader who does not receive a complete surprise at the end". Enjoy.
The cookery section was always going to be an important part of the library - finding a new recipe, whether it's for a sandwich or a kids birthday party, puts a bounce in everyone's step - and we hope to have a selection that covers the globe. This one, Fruits of the Sea by Rick Stein, was a donation that made me smile because he does simple but wonderful things with shrimp, clams and cod. And the photos of Cornwall, England are a nice backdrop. Unfortunately there will not be a kitchen in the library but we should be able to stretch to cookies at the weekends and we're happy to supply paper plates if anyone is kind enough to bring in a cake or a meatloaf or a pot pie.......I'm hungry.
I found this book in Bookhaven, the wonderful used book store in the museum district of Philadelphia. I think it cost 50 cents. It's a fascinating account of how London was rebuilt after the great fire of 1666 and the incredible influence of the architecture of Georgian London (1714 to 1830) - its influence on the architecture of America is one part of the story. It may not sound like the most of exciting subjects but Summerson has an eye for those details of city life that keep you turning the page. It was published in 1945 but reads like it was written recently. It's in the Lending Library.
The Little Free Library Blog - by James Smith