Saturday, May 19, 2012

Books for a rainy day

May is a cruel month for Indians with average summer temperatures raging between 35ºC (95ºF) and 45ºC (113ºF). It will continue like this till the rains arrive in the south later this month and slowly move up to other parts of the country in June. The annual monsoon is supposed to hit Bombay, where I live, around June 15, the official date set by the Met department. The rains care two hoots for the Met — they come and go as they please, till September, only to make a brief appearance or two in October with a fairly deafening light-and-sound display.

Curiously, if the rains arrive in Bombay several days before the stipulated date, it's called opening showers and if they suddenly reappear, say, in October-November, it's known as closing showers. To me, a shower is a shower and not something like the opening or closing balance in your bank account.

I like the monsoon as long as it doesn’t flood the city, shut down the suburban rail network — the lifeline of over 12 million people — and bring the city to a complete halt.

What I don’t like about the rains is the restriction it imposes on browsing and buying books from pavement vendors and makeshift stalls. When the footpaths are under water, the books go under ground. It’s no fun.

With rains not far away, I have been making quick rounds of my favourite used and secondhand book haunts, braving 35 ºC (95 ºF) temperature and 66% humidity which is a lot of heat and sweat. The last two days were most productive: I walked away with a dozen paperbacks by various authors, all from one bookstore whose proprietor I know well having raided his godown many times in the past. The pile cost me Rs.120 (a little over $2).

Here are some of the books I purchased. The blurbs are from the book jackets.

The Vengeance Man by Dan J. Marlowe (1966): Nobody laughs at me and gets away with it. Not even my cheating wife — a couple of bullets through the guts took care of her. Not even the crooked senator. Not even the blackmailing lesbian. Not even the extortionist who'd taken the incriminating pictures. But there were still some wise guys left who really believed they could kill me before I kill them. That's what damn fools are made of... 

The Summer Man by Jory Sherman (1967): The women of Cambrian Grove were restless and bored with small-town men... Johnny was an exciting stranger, a folk singer who played his guitar with sensuous vitality. 

The Case of the Gilded Lily by Erle Stanley Gardner (1971): Caught up in an elaborate blackmail plot, Stewart G. Bedford turns to Perry Mason when he is charged with the murder of one of the blackmailers. 

Ice Trap Terror by Nick Carter (Jeffrey Wallman, 1974): The cunning of the man called the Colonel was only exceeded by his bizarre scientific genius which he is using to fuel his lust for power by creating a new ice age.

Guns by Ed McBain (1976): The story of Colley Donato who holds up a liquor store and kills a policeman in the process. Being on the run he is helped by a few dubious friends but it is all down to him in order to survive.

To Catch a King by Harry Patterson (1979): In July, 1940, Hitler's terrifying war machine is headed toward England. In its wake, he plans to enthrone puppet monarchs under Nazi control, and a beautiful nightclub singer and a SS man turned British sympathizer are the only two who stand in his way. Patterson's most famous pseudonym is Jack Higgins, my favourite author in the popular fiction category. 

* Gun Man by Loren D. Estleman (1985): John "Killer" Miller: outlaw at 12, lawman at 23, gunfighter at 30, dead at 38. His violent story. 

Murder Under Blue Skies by Willard Scott with Bill Crider (1998): America's beloved TV personality forecasts foul weather—and foul play—in his breezy mystery debut.

There are a few more interesting books where these came from but I have kept them aside for Friday’s Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott’s blog. The Payoff by Don Smith and Beyond The Black Stump by Nevil Shute were part of a lot I picked up last month.

Note: For my previous posts on books and book haunts, got to Books and brickbats and Going, going…not yet gone

* Not my copy of the book


  1. I'd like to read the McBain and the estleman.

  2. Charles, I have read only two books by Ed McBain and both were page turners. This is the first time I'd be reading Estleman who I hadn't heard of before.

  3. What a wonderful mixture Prashant - something for almost every kind of mood! Of these, I only know the McBain and Patterson (aka Jack Higgins) and have not every read anything by Sherman or Marlowe. Looks like you got a real bargain mate.

  4. Thanks, Sergio. It's quite a mixture, isn't it, with a Nick Carter thrown in? I wonder if anyone reads the Killmaster series now. I enjoy an occasional Carter or Bolan paperback. You can read them inside of two hours, maybe less. As I mentioned, Patterson (Jack Higgins) has always been my favourite writer, in the popular fiction category. Sherman and Marlowe are new for me too.

  5. I need to read more books by Marlowe.

  6. Patti, Marlowe is a first for me. I hadn't heard of him before.

  7. Bombay is hotter than Manila. Great to see the pics of the old books

  8. Mel, I didn't know that. It's cloudy these days and I'm hoping the rains will be here soon. I picked up some more books soon after I wrote this post!

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