Know that theme (now science fiction, perhaps to be a fact someday) of finding a worm-hole in spacetime, and using it to squirt yourself to some other distant part of the universe? (Or, to another universe?) Well, I experience something along these lines — if not quite as exotic — in reading, when I get a pointer to some other writer. And if I am fond of the original author, the chances are rather good that I will find what is pointed to, to be of interest.
Recent example: I was immersing myself in Sue Grafton’s latest “alphabet” detective novel, entitled (surprisingly), X. (Yes, just X. Not “X is for something”, as has been her pattern for the previous 23 letters of the alphabet.) I came across this:
You’ll see the Donald Westlake reference. (Highlighting by me, not by Ms. Grafton!) To be sure, I had dimly heard of Westlake, but had so far never ventured into his crime novels. Once done with the Grafton (which was grand, as usual), I decided to do a bit of research on Donald Westlake’s writings. As often, I went to a Wikipedia article. The general Westlake entry gave just as much information as I wanted … without any of those terrible “spoilers” which would blithely give away the plot:
I have hightlighted the reference to Westlake’s God Save the Mark. I decided on this one, both because it garnered that Edgar award, and because it’s a relatively early work. When possible, I like to go through a writer in (more or less) chronological order. In case there are any recurring characters or themes in an author’s work, this obviously will help avoid confusion.
Upon starting God Save the Mark, I confess that I was a bit put off by the rather comic tone. However, I managed to override my perhaps stuffy attitude — being buoyed perhaps by Kinsey Millhone’s interest in Westlake’s output. (Millhone is, for you benighted non-detective readers, Sue Grafton’s female private eye.) I am glad that I stayed with the Westlake work! Beneath its jokey exterior can be found the sturdy framework of a well-plotted crime novel. I am looking forward to reading more of his books down the road. And who knows … perhaps there too will be lurking a literary worm-hole, which will shoot me into yet another reading universe.