I have a colleague I've already told you about. He's the one with the booming voice and voracious reading appetite; the one who insisted I read Defending Jacob. I have no idea why, in the past, I haven't had more faith in his ability to pick out a really thumping good read. It could be because he has a particular penchant for legal thrillers (John Grisham, Scott Turow, Steve Martini - you know the type) and I would rather bang my head against a wall than read about lawyers working hard at being thrilling. However, doubt is sinking in on the validity of my initial assessment. I may have to begin referring to him as "He Whose Taste Shall Not Be Questioned," because I must admit he has put me onto something. About a month ago he handed me Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva and I started it with some trepidation, which quickly flew out the window. Apparently, for years Silva has been writing thrillers centered around an Israeli spy/assassin-turned-Master Art Restorer named Gabriel Allon, and Mr. Allon has been on some pretty darn exciting adventures without me, until recently that is. Suddenly, I love spy novels! Who knew? Thank you, oh great and powerful "He Whose Taste Shall Not Be Questioned."
As a veteran of The Big Book Sale at the library (I recently attended my fifth), I now approach the madness with a Three Point Plan.
First: I go with one and only one canvas bag that will hold approximately 10 books. I could bring two or three or more bags, but in the heat of the chase one never considers how difficult it will be to carry 60 lbs. of books to the car and then into the house, especially when confronted by so many possibilities, each of which costs only $1. At that price there is a tendency to over-indulge and then, as with any over-indulgence, suffer the consequences of bad judgment.
Second: No aimless wandering. No being pushed along with the tide. Exhibiting determination, my first stop will be under the sign that says "Cookbooks." After that it's on to "Fiction." My "one bag rule" served me well this last go-round since the cookbook I jumped on was a Cooks Illustrated Best Cookbook that weighed in at over 1000 pages and was larger than a lectern-sized copy of the St. James Bible would have been, leaving little room in the canvas bag for much else. But since I was equipped with the third part of my plan, I was unperturbed.
The third was "look for books by a specific author," which on this expedition was Daniel Silva, specifically the series starring Gabriel Allon. I was able to find one, The Messenger, which was in excellent shape. A copy of Moscow Rules was also there, but was in terrible shape, so it got left behind. I was still able to satisfactorily top off the bag with other authors, but those two books were my great "finds." Several days later, The Defector - which I have yet to read - and The Rembrandt Affair - which was spectacular - were on the super bargain table at Barnes & Noble. Bliss! I am convinced I've gone mad. It's a bit like being 12 years old again and discovering Nancy Drew, but with more chases through snow-bound birch forests and things blowing up.
This whole phenomena fits in with my recently stated desire to read out of my comfort zone. Which, come to think of it, is a rather ridiculous notion since spy novels have now become part of that comfort zone. Most of us have to do a certain amount of professional reading that can border on the tedious and turgid...nothing so exciting as exposing a billionaire art collector and noted philanthropist who is covertly selling nuclear warheads to Iran. If that doesn't give one shivers, what could? An added benefit: I've learned a few things about Rembrandt van Rijn and Titian and Caravaggio I didn't know before. I admit, it doesn't hurt that Allon has deep green eyes and is very handsome...a little like a non-womanizing James Bond. Former President Bill Clinton has said that Gabriel Allon was his "favorite character in literature." Not too surprising, I guess. Well, I'm afraid I can't go that far, but I'll hitch along for the ride.
Portrait Of A Spy is on the menu for my commute this week, and although it may look as though I am a middle-aged woman with dry skin and sensible shoes driving to and from work, in actuality I am Grad The Avenger, who is working hand-in-hand with Gabriel Allon to foil a global terrorist mastermind before he can follow through with his plot to leave a "trail of innocent blood." Gives me positive shivers, but I think we'll win in the end. I'm sure I can also be of immeasurable help while Allon The Master Art Restorer restores a Titian or two. "Hey, Gabe, you missed a spot..right there on Actaeon's left thumb." Oh, I know, I know. It all sounds a little Walter Middy-like, doesn't it? It's just the kind of stuff one gets sucked into, and then...before you know it....Tapokita, tapokita, tapokita...