A recent temporary lapse in the demands of my time, due to sending a first draft off to my editor and having to wait for a reply, drove me to my shelves. Not to read, but to see if I could do something about the double waist-high stack of books waiting to be shelved, about a third of which came in for the Best First Edgar award I judged last year.
So I ruthlessly culled, ending up with eight or ten grocery bags ready for the library, and a richness of virgin space on the shelves. Which soon was filled but never mind, I have my floor back.
In the process of filing, however, I amused myself in noticing patterns (these are, I should mention, shelves devoted exclusively to crime fiction.) Why, for example, are the Cs so action-filled? Lee Child and Liza Cody are followed by Michael Connelly and John Connolly, them come Patricia Cornwell and Robert Crais’e2’80’94one embraces Edmund Crispin as a calm and academic cuckoo in a nest built of razor wire.
Mostly, though, what struck me was the occasional odd juxtaposition of neighbors the alphabet makes for. Some are nicely placed, such as Anna Quindlen’e2’80’99s BLACK AND BLUE next to Ian Rankin’e2’80’99s BLACK AND BLUE (this one is, I admit, cheating, since they first came together accidentally and should have been separated when I organized their books chronologically, but I couldn’e2’80’99t bear to pull them apart.) Andrew Taylor is surely very comfortable next to Josephine Tey, the two of them leaning together and murmuring dry and witty English jokes, and I imagine that, after an initial bristling mistrust, Sara Paretsky and Robert Parker would eventually find a certain pleasure in trading pithy remarks, as might Dashiell Hammett and Joseph Hansen, Margery Allingham and Margaret Atwood. Hill and Hillerman would quickly become Reg and Tony, two old men with different accents but a similar abiding interest in the workings of the human heart.
Then there are the unlikely clans: the Burkes, Alafair, James and Jan, surpassed only by the Smiths: April, Ian, Julie, Martin Cruz, and Sarah–imagine the family reunions.
Michael Dibdin and Peter Dickinson might even find something in common, for all their differences, but at some pairings, the mind can only boggle. James McClure’e2’80’99s SONG DOG next to Sharon McCrumb’e2’80’99s ballad series? And Nevada Barr with’e2’80’a6Dave Barry?
Probably a good thing my editor works so fast, and I can get back to what I should be doing.