Greetings friends. Gerry Boyle here after a week away from Maine. I spent a few days in London–South Kensington, Mayfair, even some time in the Old Bailey, that venerable court where so many murderers have met their fate.
Okay, I wasn’t actually in London. I was on a beach on Florida’s east coast, just south of St. Augustine. We spent some time there with friends, and the four of us swam, biked, ate good food, went for long walks. And read books. A lot.
Mine was A Certain Justice by P.D. James. It’s a classic whodunit, set in London’s legal world, with barristers, solicitors (I had to look up the difference), a killing in “Chambers,” and a fine portrayal of a sociopathic murderer. The writing was precise and graceful, the plot unwrapped with that elegant confidence that marks James’s books. This was an Adam Dalgliesh mystery, though it was interesting to me as a mystery writer that the inspector didn’t appear until Chapter 12. (I’d never try that delayed entrance with Jack McMorrow or Brandon Blake).
But the other thing that I found fascinating about my engrossing visit to London–and the reason you’re reading this here– was the phenomenon of beach books, and the way we can lose ourselves in a book when the rest of life’s distractions and obligations are removed.
There were no televisions, laptops, iPads, or iPhones on the beach. No talk about work or the to-do list for coming days. Our distractions were sparkling green ocean, the rumble of the surf, and passing squadrons of gliding pelicans, whose shadows flickered across the page—momentary interruptions from our enjoyment of the work of Ms. James, Carl Hiassen and Clive Cussler, among others.
For me, this was a welcome and needed reminder of the power of the written word. Sometimes it seems books are getting lost in the din, and I find myself worrying that books have lost their power to hold readers and transport them to other worlds.
I came home tanned, refreshed, and optimistic. I just hope people remember that “beach reading” can happen anywhere. Just shut off the stuff and let the book take you away.