Reading during the day is a guilty pleasure. I usually read last thing at night in bed, but I have just finished an excellent novel which, forgoing my customary practice of doing the sudoku and codeword puzzle in the daily paper before breakfast, I continued reading for several mornings running. As I put the book aside to get on with the day’s routine, I couldn’t help wishing that I could take a day off from my busy 100-mile-an-hour schedule to just sit and continue reading. I retired officially years ago. All I do now is supposed to be for my own pleasure! Surely I’m entitled to indulge in what is after all an essential activity for a writer? Maybe, but it doesn’t stop the overwhelming feeling of pure self-indulgence.
I think my guilt stems from my days as a teacher. During the holidays, I would stop reading at nine o’clock each morning. To spend time more reading when I should be doing something “useful” was tantamount to a mortal sin – or at least, a fall from grace.
Like all the Dick Francis novels, the backdrop for Gamble is the world of horse riding although the plot and the crime itself revolves around shenanigans in the field of financial advice.
Felix has inherited his father’s skill in developing well-drawn characters, creating a plot with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing to the end, creating heart-in-your-mouth tension, and providing a satisfying conclusion that makes you wonder why you hadn’t spotted it coming much, much sooner because all the clues were there yet deftly hidden.
One of the reasons that made the whole experience of reading the book so pleasurable was because the previous four or five novels I’d read were pretty dire – and that’s not including the ones where I read no further that chapter one before deleting them. I love my kindle but the lure of free and heavily discounted books on sites such as BookBub, has meant that for each of the gems I’ve discovered, there have been considerably more substandard books.
I decided it was time to support my library and pick up something by an author I could rely on. (I rarely buy fiction as physical books – the bookshelves in every room of our large house groan under the pressure and only novels signed by the author get added to the pile.) Until relatively recently, Swindon had 14 local libraries throughout the town, now we are left with only 3. Volunteers have taken over a couple of those threatened by closure including (joy of joys) the one in my local centre. Enterprising volunteers are also running a café in one corner to help bring in more people. Now when I drop in, the place seems full of young mums and army of toddlers. Let’s hope they learn the love of books early!
I’m as guilty as anyone for the mass library closures across the country. Once upon a time, it was a weekly trip to the library, but I now have more titles on my kindle than I’ll ever have time to read.
Libraries are important. We must all make sure this valuable asset does not disappear for ever.
In March, I shall be off to Portsmouth for the Mystery Fest. I’m really looking forward to it and especially to hearing from the Guest of Honour – Simon Brett. I loved his Charles Paris novels and read them avidly in the seventies and eighties. I was so disappointed when he appeared to abandon Charles in favour of writing the Fethering Mysteries. Imagine my delight when I discovered his latest novel published in 2018 is another Charles Paris – A Deadly Habit. It’s the book I’m reading now. Again, I’ve been unable to confine my reading to the half hour before sleep, but I do have an added incentive not to be tempted to read more than a chapter during the day. Like all the Charles Paris novels it is very short – 50,000 words or so. I want to stretch out the pleasure for as long as I can!
Charles Paris is an actor and all the books have a theatre setting. Charles is a loveable rogue. A hopeless alcoholic, who despite trying to get back with his wife Francis, never misses a chance when a pretty (make that, available) woman appears on the scene. How he manages to survive – his agent Maurice, rarely seems to bother to get him work – is a bit of a mystery. But fun abounds in this great series. If you’re looking for an amusing, well-crafted novel, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
What are you reading? Let me know your recommendations.