In my last entry, I filled you in as to how Rob and I looked up to and almost idolized our cousin Chris. If Chris was “into something”, well, we wanted to be into it as well. That last entry dealt with music, this one will deal with books.
As a kid, I enjoyed reading, but my scope was pretty limited to the books that I read or had read to me at school. It was Chris, and also his mom, our Aunt Ruthie, who opened up a whole new world for me.
It was “The Hardy” boys series of books that really hooked me on reading. It was Chris and his mom who introduced me to these books and once introduced, I was in all the way. I loved to read the “lastest” mystery and discover how the resilient “Hardy Boys” would unravel it. I found all their adventures terribly exciting and I couldn’t wait until the next one was released. It was this series of books that developed my love for the “feel” of a book. Everything from the tantalizing artwork on the cover (always depicting my heroes in some dire straits), to the turning of the thick paper pages. These factors created in me a desire to hold a book. I’m still that way; the aroma, feel and thickness of a book is what I crave. I’m not much for reading books online.
I digress. It was also Chris and his mom who introduced me to the timeless “Red Badge of Courage”, by Stephen Crane. I was enthralled with this book and I believe it contributed greatly to the fascination I developed for the American Civil War. A fascination that has remained with me throughout my entire life, and it all started with a book. Rob also developed the same fascination for the Civil War, but I’m not sure he traced his back to a book, or to the wonderful television series that aired for far too short a period of time, “The Americans”.
I read the Red Badge twice, in back to back readings, after I was given my first copy as a gift from Aunt Ruthie. The book had a profound effect on me and it goes down as one of my all-time favorites.
It was also Chris who convinced me to read the long historical work: “The Oregon Trail.” Again, I was fascinated and amazed at this very detailed, and first-hand account, of the westward migration in the United States. The author, Francis Parkman, recounts the glory, pain and amazing adventure involved in his 2000 mile journey in 1846. I couldn’t put it down, but if Chris had not read it first, I probably never would have. What a shame that would have been.
Then there was Sherlock Holmes, the legendary genius Private Investigator created by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle. Again, it was Chris who first became enamored with the many exploits of the famous detective, and as always, I wanted to follow suit. How happy I am that I did. I wanted to read every story I could get my hands on. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 Short Stories about the cases of Sherlock Holmes and they were brilliant and wonderfully written. The first case I read was the iconic “Hound of the Baskervilles”. I found it absolutely intriguing and could not put it down. Once read, I was hooked. I’m going to assume everyone has read this novel. If you have not, please do and meet the real Sherlock Holmes, not some Hollywood adaptation of the original character. While some of the movies and television adaptations have not been bad, they do not come close to doing the Doyle creation justice. If you want to “see” Holmes and his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson, I would suggest you somehow get your hands on a series of films produced between 1939 and 1946. These films were adaptations of Doyle’s works. The character of Holmes was played by the English actor, Basil Rathbone. Watson was played by Nigel Bruce. In my humble opinion, these two come very close to capturing the original characters created by Doyle in print.
Anyway, one Christmas, Aunt Ruthie ( of course) gave me a book that was a compilation of most of the Sherlock Holmes adventures. The book was extremely thick with very small print and I loved it! I wish I know what happened to it over the years because it would sure look good on my shelf! I savored each word of every story and felt myself “ present” as Holmes was performing his incredible deductions. It is hard for me to say that I have one favorite Holmes adventure, but if asked to choose, I would have to say it is The Adventure of the Speckled Band, one of the few “locked room “ mysteries in the collection. I hope you have read it. If not, do yourself a favor.
I became a pretty big fan of all mystery novels with Authors such as Christie, Van Dine, Stout, McDonald and many others taking me to unknown places and baffling circumstances, but it was Doyle and Homes who set the table…. and it was Chris who made the introduction. For that, I will forever grateful.
“Elementary, Watson….. Elementary.”