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Confessions of a Promiscuous Reader
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I confess. I'm a promiscuous reader. It would be more polite to say I had eclectic taste in books but the plain fact is I simply can't remain faithful to any genre.

Maybe it's because my first true love in literature betrayed me. From the time I discovered Andre Norton and Tom Swift Jr. as a fourth grader, up until my early college years, I was besotted with science fiction. I read every sf book I could get my hands on. Everything I could find in the library, or the bookstore, or order from a catalog. Books from the thirties to the sixties. It made no difference. As long as there were aliens, spaceships, any sort of gosh wow science.

Then, during the sixties, science fiction betrayed me. The genre decided it was too good for kids with stars in their eyes. It started flirting with sophisticated academic types. Before long books like Voyage of the Space Beagle were replaced by retellings of Orpheus' trip to the underworld. For me science fiction went from "sense of wonder" to "I wonder what that was supposed to mean?"

Since then I've flitted from one kind of fiction to the next, from classics, to modern literature, to horror and mysteries. All genres have their charms, but I've never been able to stay true to one. Which is probably a detriment for someone who is co-writing mysteries. Oh I read plenty of mysteries -- old ones at any rate. John D. MacDonald and Georges Simenon are among my favorite authors. But I haven't immersed myself completely in the genre as I did with sf so long ago.

Last fall I had a lengthy fling with crime and mystery novels, particularly classic noir. By the time the new year started I'd decided to read some philosophy and the Bible. Try reading, Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief by James Hadley Chase and tell me if it doesn't make you want to read the Bible all the way through.

More recently I ventured to get familiar with nineteenth century French literature (in translation). Now I've worn myself out with twenty-six authors from D'Aurevilley to Zola.

What did I learn? I gather that French authors of the era believed women were either ethereal angels or sanguinary demons, that Roman Catholicism was the salvation of mankind or its curse, and that the only protagonist worth putting pen to paper for was a young idler with a private income.

Also, French literature feels different than English literature even when it has been translated into English. Reading those books was almost like stepping into a subtly alien world. Almost like science fiction.

The final book on my list was Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, about a pair of lovers who feel inconvenienced by the woman's husband and decide to take steps, but of course things don't go as planned. A perfect crime noir plot, funnily enough. It might've been written by James M. Cain.

I suddenly feel drawn to some good old fifties crime novels.

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