Avid Reader

(Through Rose-Coloured Glasses)

April, this is the month of “Keep Toronto Reading Festival 2010”, presented by the Toronto Public Library, to promote Torontonian reading habit.

I like to read, popular fictions, mostly.

During my early years, there were 兒童樂園, 唐老鴨 (Walt Disney comics), 財叔 and other 連環圖 (老夫子came much later).

I was introduced to Jean Webster’s Daddy Long-legs by my tutor, and that opened my eyes and heart, wow, such a romantic story. I right away fell in love with this imaginary world of books; and welcomed Enid Blyton (Noody, Famous Five, Secret Seven), Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gable), Charles Dickens (Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist), Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice), Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Kidnapped) …… throughout my school years.

In high school, I also read the中國學生周報, 青年樂園 every week, and 金镛, 古龍, 梁羽生的武俠小説.

Somewhere between home and school, under the stairway of a building, there was a used book store, which I browsed frequently, buying a Perry Mason or Agatha Christie or a Charlie Brown comic book now and then, especially during the summer holidays. Lying on the crouch and read them all day long. That was the luxury of youth. Later I diversified into other spy action, adventures like Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, read a few 瓊瑤, 衞斯理的科幻, and亦舒的短篇.

During university, my ambition was to read all 80 of the Agatha Christie detective novels, Poirot, Marple and all. Whenever I saw a title I haven’t heard of, I bought the book. But to my dismay, I found out occasionally a publisher simply reprinted a book under a new title name. I could spend whole nights reading; during weekends, of course.

I got acquainted with Dr. Scarpetta, Medical Examiner (Patricia Cornwell) and Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist (Kathy Reich), even before any CSI, Bone was made and became popular TV series; and read Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”, “Rising Sun”, “Disclosure”, and later “Timeline”, “State of Fear”, “Next”. Some made into movies. Unfortunately he died early.

I was impressed by the movie “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold”, that starred Richard Burton. The unexpected ending sent me sitting straight up in the theatre. So I tried John Le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, but found it dry. It described the psychological aspect of the spy Smiley in detail, with not much action; it was not for me at that time. Next I tried Elmore Leonard, but his were mainly strange adventure stories, again not the type of mystery and action I was looking for.

As for the Whodunit mystery along the style of Agatha Christie, after finished all the Agatha, I picked up Martha Grimes and P.D. James. Theirs are written in the good old English, and to solve the murders, you have to pay close attention. Grimes specialize in using the name of an inn or tavern for each of her book title. Many of James’s mystery novels take place against the backdrop of the UK’s bureaucracies such as the criminal justice system and the health services.

As for modern day detective stories, Sue Grafton has a series with alphabetical titles, started from A, “A is for Alibi” to up to now, “U is for Undertow”, with PI Kinsey Millhone. There are only 5 more alphabets left for the series, so what titles to name after that? That’s another mystery for the author to solve. The other mystery series I read occasionally is Sara Paretsky’s sexy Chicago investigator V I Warshawski. Nowadays, authors not only develop their storyline, they also like to write about the personal life and mental conflicts of their characters.

I seldom buy any new book now. From the public library, I can borrow all sorts of books; fiction, mystery, action, romance and chick lit, and read them to my heart’s content. On my bookshelves, you won’t be able to find any new book of Robert Ludlum and his franchised writers, of John Grisham, Stephen King, Dan Brown or titles like “Confession of a Shopaholic”, “Twilight”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, “The Go-To Girl” ……. Once again I am back to this imaginary world of books; and, feeling younger already.

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