Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Reading Matters

Every month or two, I take a trip south to the border of NSW and make purchases in reading material at the Coolangatta Bookshop. The bookstore purchases 2nd hand books from the US and imports them several times a year, stocking their shelves with hard to get authors at very reasonable prices. All their books are either remainders, new or near-new and the prices are between $8-9 Aus so its very tempting to drive down in the morning, haunt the 3 or 4 bookstores down there and come home with 10-15 books for the the same cost I'd pay to buy 4 here in Brisbane (excluding petrol of course, but we never include that into the financial reckoning, us artistic types!).

Which brings me to recent purchases and items left on the shelf that have needed reading. Last week I worked through two Robert B Parkers and the second effort was one of the Jesse Stone books, "Stranger in Paradise". In 1997 Parker introduced a new series character, Jesse Stone. Stone has left the LAPD in disgrace over a drinking problem in the wake of his failed marriage, and in an attempt to get his life back together, he’s taken a job as a small-town police chief in Paradise. Struggling with alcoholism and his emotionally tangled relationship with his ex-wife, the actress Jennifer Stone, Stone tries to make a new life for himself. 

I've commented before on the Jesse Stone TV series with Tom Selleck and although the first few were taken from the books, the series has now run on with the character and obviously will continue down that path as a result of Parker's recent death. "Stranger in Paradise" is the 7th outing for Jesse Stone (9 all together - the last published just after Parker's death in 2010) and sees Police Chief Stone cross paths with a previous adversary, an Apache hit man sent to the coastal town of Paradise to track down a missing fourteen year old. His conscience won't allow him to kill her ("I like women too much") and when he doesn't make the hit, the Florida connections send others to finish the job off and him as well.  Jesse Stone is left trying to second guess their moves and protect both the runaway girl and the hitman.

An easy read (I finished it in a day), I marvelled at how Parker can tell the story succinctly and without excess verbage. Both his characters of Stone and Crow speak in short sentences - as the quote on the back of the book says: "Stone and Crow talk the guy talk that is music to our ears." A different take on the detective novel than Spenser, the humour has the same dryness and to some degree, when read back to back, you recognise similarities in the characters with lovers, helpers, shrinks, reappearing in slightly different guises.

So a thumbs up for a quick, light entertaining read - it'll bring a smile but it won't stretch you and there's not much new here. You don't need to have read the previous books to learn about the alcoholism, previous liasons, antagonistic council etc. But the Jesse Stone books, like all of Parker's works, are well structured, funny and polished pieces of writing. Robert B Parker - you will be missed.
Burn brightly, Pete

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