Tag Archive for: James Garner

Has this ever happened to you?

The press is on fire about a new book. Your friends are falling all over themselves telling you that it’s a “must read.” So you dutifully pick up a copy and no matter how hard you try, you just don’t get it. You can barely get past the first ten pages, let alone finish the masterpiece. Then the second book in the series comes out, and the praise grows even louder. Year after year, the prolific author grinds out another story and somehow you can’t figure out what the buzz is all about.

I’ve got a pile of those mysteries on my nightstand. The ones that have captured the public’s affection – and left me scratching my head wondering how the author captured lightning in a bottle – and frustrated trying to figure out how I could do it too?

Now here’s the twist on that syndrome.

Sometimes, ten years after the initial tidal wave of public adoration has settled down, I’ll pick up a book by that same author whose prose left me snoring, and discover that actually I kind of like him, in fact, he’s pretty darn good. That’s what happened to me this weekend with Alexander McCall Smith.

I was wandering through the discount heaven, Home Goods, and found a copy of his tenth book, marked down to $2. Since it retails for $14 – I mean what could I do but buy it?

I liked it….I really liked it. And I immediately read the most recent book in the series and really liked it too. So now I’m starting the series from the beginning.

So what happened?

Did he become a better writer? Sure, to some extent, the more you write, the better your skills. But I don’t think that’s the answer.

Did I become a more sophisticated reader? I sure hope so, but that’s probably not the answer either.

OR, did watching the six-part series of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency make the characters leap off the page when I finally started reading the books? Did I need the visual landscape to enjoy the virtual one?

Most mystery writers I know play the casting game. They fantasize about the actors who would be perfect as their lead character. Rhonda and I agree that James Garner, circa The Rockford Files of 35 years ago, would be the ideal Mac Sullivan. We can’t agree on who would be best to play Rachel Brenner. Bravo to the casting agent who found Jill Scott to play Precious Ramotswe in the mini-series of Mr. McCall Smith’s books. Here’s an article by the director, the late Anthony Minghella, on the process of finding the right Precious, and the filming of the mini-series.

Years ago, my husband and I consulted an educational psychologist about one of our son’s reading habits – or lack thereof. He was about to enter high school and rarely, if ever, read for pleasure, and frankly, was barely reading the assigned school books. She recommended patience and permitting him to “preview” a book through a movie, if one were available. I thought it was “cheating” to watch the movie instead of the book, but her point was he should do both. It might make it easier for him to get into a book if he had some visual cues to the story. Long story short, pun intended, the psychologist was absolutely right. First, he matured which helped immensely. But through time, movies, and his own curiosity, he discovered the magic of books. I think that’s what happened to me and Mr. McCall Smith’s Botswana books. The beauty of the miniseries allowed me to understand and enjoy the beauty of the author’s words.

So I ask, Stiletto Faithful, have you ever discovered a literary gem, one you had previously discarded? What made the difference?

Marian aka the Northern half of Evelyn David

Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David
Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Drops the Ball by Evelyn David, Spring 2011

Are You Kidding Me?

There are some books that are sacred. I’m not talking about the Bible or the Koran. I’m referring to those classic mysteries that I believe it’s damn near sacrilege to change so much as a comma, let alone the storyline. But that’s exactly what happened a few days ago. There I was, comfortably ensconced on the sofa, Diet Coke in hand, popcorn at the ready, all set to watch one of my favorites: Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library.

Of course, I’d read the book. Of course, I’d seen Joan Hickson’s 1984 version. So I was psyched to see a remake, this time with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. But suddenly Ms. Marple, who has been transformed into a 21st century feminist sleuth, appears to have been dropped into a very dumb episode of All My Children, except in this version Susan Lucci has a British accent. I mean the tele-movie used all the names of Christie’s characters, but somebody, and I’m looking at you screenwriter Kevin Elyot, had the gall to change everything else. Somehow Ms. Marple found herself in the midst of a lesbian triangle. Hell, even the murderer had been changed.

Have you no shame Mr. Elyot? What’s next? You’ve decided to rewrite Gone With the Wind? Scarlett O’Hara undergoes a sex-change operation and become Sam O’Hara, owner of Tara, a tranny bar in Greenwich Village?

J. W. Eagan, and try as I might I can’t find out who this pundit is, once said: Never judge a book by its movie. More power to the screenwriter who succeeds in preserving the essence of a beloved book while transforming it to the big (or small) screen. All hail Horton Foote who took Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and wrote a screenplay worthy of that powerful novel.

I confess. Both halves of Evelyn David regularly play the casting game for Murder Off the Books. I’m envisioning a 30-years younger James Garner as Mac, and maybe Karen Allen for Rachel. My Irish Terrier Clio thinks she has the style and wit to play Whiskey and no one will notice that she’s 80 pounds lighter and five feet shorter. Dreams were made of lesser things. The Southern half has her own casting choices. Should we ever be lucky enough to sell the book (we’re looking at you Hallmark Channel) – well, I hope that our literary integrity would withstand any financial incentives (but I’m not putting all my money on it).

But Dame Agatha? Maybe the executors of her estate are laughing all the way to the bank and aren’t offended at all by the changes in her immortal plots and words. But this fan is “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” You don’t mess with my Aggie.

Evelyn David