Saturday, May 23, 2009

Literary characters you just can't quit

My mother was a young and overwhelmed mother of four when I was a kid, so I often felt her attention was elsewhere. (Don't cry for me, Argentina; I think many middle kids can relate.) But I do have a few very clear, specific memories of expressions of her love for me and of attention she paid me.

One memory is of being in Lawrence, Kansas, where we had to go for the day for some reason having to do with my father and the University of Kansas, where he was a grad student. It was an extremely hot day, crayons were melting tragically in the car, and she and I (and presumably, my siblings) were killing time in a bookstore. And it was there that she bought me what may have been my first Nancy Drew book.

You have to understand that my daughter had in her room, by age four, more possessions than I accumulated in my life until about age 18. So this was a significant gift.

More importantly, that was the start of (and the continuation of, ancestrally speaking) a lifelong love of the Nancy Drew character and, in fact, of all sleuths. Others I've loved include author Jonathan Kellerman's psychologist/protagonist Alex Delaware; Sue Grafton's adorable minimalist, Kinsey Millhone; and, more recently, the various and sundry characters in the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child series of books.

Especially Agent Pendergast (sigh...). On the one hand, he's James Bond. On the other, he's kind of a freaky dude who has silvery-blue eyes, super-pale skin and descends from a wealthy New Orleans family with a very checkered past. But if you were ever trapped in the Museum of Natural History in New York with a bizarre creature from the rainforest chasing you through the vast underground storage areas, Agent Aloysius Pendergast is the one you'd want running alongside you.

Trust me.

So it's always with a mixture of thrill and despair that I greet the publication of the latest in these two authors' series. This past week, I got my copy of "Cemetery Dance" in the mail and now I'm writing this blog post so that I won't have to finish the last 1/6 of it and shut the covers, knowing I have to wait another 18 months or so for the next one to appear.

Isn't that the greatest thing about reading? Discovering characters who come to permanently inhabit the mind?

Post a comment if you've had a similar experience. Come on...share! Maybe we'll all fall in love with a new fictional character, and you can be the matchmaker.

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