Thanks, all, for inviting me to be part of the blog. And Josh, thanks for sharing that embarrassing story with the world!
I wonder, how do most people start reading mysteries? I’m guessing they start as kids, the way I did: reading something that wasn’t meant for kids at all. I was probably about ten, because that’s when that magical thing happens where you have the ability to read pretty much anything, whether you are emotionally ready for it or not. So I started reading a book my mom brought home from the library, a title from Lawrence Block’s “burglar” series, in which Bernie Rhodenbarr, a full-time bookseller and part-time burglar, solves mysteries.
(Maybe you saw the 1987 movie version of one of these books, Burglar, starring Whoopi Goldberg? Let’s not talk about that, though. Because it sucked. Well, Bobcat Goldthwait is funny in it, in the same screamy annoying way that Gilbert Gottfried is funny when he reads Fifty Shades of Grey.)
If I try to pin down exactly what I like about these books, I think it’s the voice, the relationships, and the humor – the mystery itself isn’t all that important. And that has stayed true for my mystery-reading tendencies my whole life, come to think of it. Janet Evanovich’s books have the same kind of appeal, as do the Spellman and Spenser series. I couldn’t tell you the details of any of the mysteries in any of those books, but I could tell you all kinds of things about the personal lives of the main characters.
Bernie Rhodenbarr is funny and likable and a fount of information about rare books and bookselling. For almost forty years he’s had the same friends (in particular Carolyn, with whom he eats lunch every day) and the same pet (Raffles, an apparently very long-lived cat). He’s burgled from folks who almost always somehow deserve to be burgled. I don’t know what Lawrence Block is like in person – Erin or Jeff might be able to illuminate us on that – but in my mind, he is a lot like Bernie, and we would be pals if we got to know each other.
Now, I know my fellow bloggers, being from the commercial side of things, are going to be like SHUT UP, but I have to recommend getting the burglar books not from a bookstore or from Amazon but from your local library, and you can find them (and others) using Open WorldCat. Here’s the first Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery, if you want to go in order: Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, first published in 1977: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/30476851. Just put in your zip code and WorldCat will find a copy in a library near you.