A Tactile Tey

So, what’s a book to you? Electronic ink on a screen? Or paper, black ink, and the texture of the cover against your fingers? The words are the same, right? Sure—but the experience isn’t.Tey1

For just under 70 years, the Folio Society has made “editions of the world’s great literature, in a format worthy of the contents, at a price within the reach of everyman.” A Folio Society book is the ultimate reading experience: the tactile pleasure of crisp print on quality paper, with illustrations that lead the reader further in and words that engage the mind.

Proof that we can still do things right in a modern age.Tey2

I was thrilled to be asked to write an introduction to the Folio Society edition of Josephine Tey’s A Shilling for Candles. I’ve long loved Josephine Tey. This subtlest of writers crafts slim stories with complicated people moving through the most diabolically clever of plots. A murder mystery without a murder. A policeman who spends a whole book on his back in a hospital bed, investigating two victims five centuries dead. Or in the case of A Shilling for Candles, an actress in the spotlight who craves the quiet life.

We expect a crime writer to be clever. We open a mystery anticipating a turn of plot that takes us by surprise, characters with unexpected layers, a solution that makes perfect sense—in retrospect.

What we don’t expect is sly.

Josephine Tey is sly—sly in its meaning of sleight-of-hand, those deft turns of phrase and character that cause one afterwards to look back, frowning slightly over a thing glimpsed at the corner of the eye…

This is a gorgeous book.  I particularly love the way Mark Smith’s illustrations don’t so much illustrate as they evoke. Such as this one, where you can feel the way the reporters are crowding in…

Tey image

If you love your bookshelves, you should consider treating yourself to a copy of this, to pet it and preen…and to read, again and again.

The Folio Society’s page is here.

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  1. Merrily Taylor on May 26, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    It looks like a beautiful book!

  2. Frances Kern on May 27, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    A couple of years ago, I gave in to the urging of two daughters and bought a Kindle. (Save money, save trying to find space on my crowded bookshelves.) I actually even downloaded a few books. I have never read one of them.

    I spent my childhood and youth in a library, carting home the maximum allowed number of books every two weeks, reading all of them, then reading my sisters choices, and eventually, when I was old enough, my mother’s choices. And we lived in Placerville where my mother taught music in the high school, and we did not own a car, so we walked to and from the library, in the blazing summer heat and in the winter snow. That is a LOT of books to read in two weeks, but of course, by the time I was old enough to read my mother’s books, I had outgrown my sister’s. I love the look of books, the smell of books, and the feel of a book in my hands. I like turning the pages, and being able to search back to re-read something that was rather mysterious or vague, and only made clear later in the story. An “aha!” moment, if you will, to go back, re-read that passage, and know what it meant. It might help explain this if I say that I am 78. My best friend, another book addict and my age, feels the same way I do, that is, she likes a book in her hand. (Actually, this friend is responsible for me reading my first L.R. King book , which was Folly. I was hooked from page one.)

    I might succumb to the wonders of my Kindle one day, but I would not advise anyone to wager money on it. I have long since over-run my bookshelves and have had to go through the almost physical pain of donating many of them to the library in the retirement community where I live in Santa Rosa, CA. They appreciate the gift, and I have the space free and can buy more books! Hopeless case, obviously. YOUR books, however, I will keep forever and very likely read again. You are one of my three favorite authors, the other two being Dorothy Dunnett and Diana Gabaldon, and all books by all three of you have been read more than twice already. Books I love become like friends, and books by my three favorite authors are my very best friends.

    Thank you for your brilliant story-telling, your incredible ability to correctly use our English language (sadly, becoming almost a lost art these days), your wit and wisdom, and for bringing Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell to life. To me, they are real people.

  3. Laurie King on May 28, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Hi Frances, your childhood sounds like mine, when the theory was my father moved us around so often because he’d read his way through the library and needed a new one. E-readers are a great blessing for the traveler, for people suffering eye problems, and for a writer with something short to put out into the world, but other than these special needs, a book is a book. Enjoy yours.

  4. Janis Kiehl Harrison on May 28, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    My favorite sort of book is the tactile one, for all of the reasons Ms Kern so beautifully expressed. But my mobility is less than excellent and I have arthritic hands. The ease with which I can access and borrow electronic “books” from my library (via my home desktop computer), the ease of holding a Kindle, and the portability of the Kindle often outweigh (metaphorically) the delight of a physical book. There are exceptions: anything with graphics or illustrations are lost to me in a Kindle; I must have a REAL book. Which impels me to strum on my favorite harp: I really, really want a physical book of the Russell companion…

  5. Ruth Ann Parish on May 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I just finished your great new book, The Murder of Mary Russell, and my first reaction was, ” Oh my goodness, Laurie King is BACK!” The plot is most intriguing, the inventive story and characterizations are wonderful, and it has the pace of the earliest of the Mary Russell books. I have read all of your books, and this is the best in years. Congratulations on a superb success!

    PS. I don’t like Kindles either. An article in Scientific American from about 3 years ago, “Why the Brain Prefers Paper” explains why.

    • Laurie King on May 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      I agree, books rule. And I’m glad you adore Mrs Hudson’s tale!

  6. Ruth Ann Parish on May 29, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I just read your autobiographical essay with great pleasure. Since you have an interest in the “Holy Fool”, may I inquire, have you read the Fools Guild series by Alan Gordon? I just discovered those and am half-way through the series. Most enjoyable! (I was blessed to live in Carcassonne, France for 3 months on a sabbatical, and I wrote to Mr. Gordon suggesting that Theo, the main character of his novels, should be present for the Albighensian Crusades of the early 13th Century in Southwest France, then the separate country of “Occitain”).

    • Laurie King on May 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      I love Alan’s series, indeed!

  7. Ann Romme on June 8, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I just finished reading The Murder of Mary Russell and one of my first thoughts was to thank you for preserving words that are or have disappeared from everyday English. My father smoked a pipe so I do know what the word “dottle” means. He, also, was a collector of words. As far as Kindle goes, my great niece had an hour and a half commute to work so a Kindle worked very well for her. Among my library memories was one in the servant’s quarters of a seeding summer place where we visited when I was young. It was round and carved under the curved back stairs from the kitchen. Musty smelling books published in the 19th century about girls with big bows in their hair who hated getting dressed up, but were very good and kind ….

    • Laurie King on June 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Amazing how evocative words can be…
      Glad you enjoyed the book!

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