Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blood on my hands

© Berkley Prime Crime
I bought nearly half the books in my collection by pure chance. That is to say, I stumbled upon them while running an errand or looking for something else or returning from work. Over the past three years, I bought just three new books from a proper bookstore. The rest all came from used and secondhand bookshops. 

For instance, I recently picked up all the books by Tom Sharpe, including his Wilt series, each in excellent condition.

Another prize catch was a hardbound edition of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by eminent author and lecturer Francine Prose, for Rs.100 or $2.

The reason I seldom buy new books is because I see no point in spending good money on books that I can get for one-tenth of the price. I am not particular about new releases and current bestsellers. There is enough to read, as it is.

The other day I was on my way to a Nokia outlet to have the charger port in my mobile phone repaired when my eyes popped at the sight of dozens of books strewn carelessly on the footpath. The novels were on sale for Rs.20 each (less than 50 cents). I glanced at the titles but since I was in a hurry I decided to have a closer look on my way back. Which I did and I was disappointed with what I saw – most of the books were romance, a genre I have never read.

A couple of promising titles peeped out from underneath a pile of paperbacks with dazzling covers of bare-chested men and scantily-clad women entwined in passion. While I skipped the first, a Star Trek novel, the second, an anthology of mystery stories, caught my eye. I wasted no time in reaching for my wallet.

For, peering at me from ground zero was Blood On Their Hands, a collection of 19 all-new stories edited by the Master of Mystery Stories, Lawrence Block. Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, this 2003 anthology “reveals what people will do when they are pushed to the limit – and see no way out. Get ready to meet ordinary men and women who have…blood on their hands.

Now, you don’t think twice before buying a book with a tagline like that, do you?

Except for Lawrence Block I hadn’t heard of any of the nineteen writers that included Tom Savage, Stefanie Matteson, Rhys Bowen, G. Miki Hayden, Elizabeth Foxwell, Elaine Viets, and Charlotte Hinger. Back in office, I keyed in the names of most of the authors on the internet and, well, what can I say – I was shaken, excited, and raring to read the suspenseful short stories by some of the most versatile mystery writers.

Block has written a brief but brilliant introduction titled It all started with Poe. I wish I could tell you more but it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

Since Blood On Their Hands is an anthology, I also read and enjoyed Lawrence Block’s description of anthologies on his website and was tempted to quote him here but, as I said, it wouldn't be the right thing to do.

I don’t want blood on my hands…


  1. I used to buy most of my books in such stores too, but lately I've gotten more lazy and have been getting a lot at online stores.

  2. Charles, I haven't tried online stores yet though I have been planning to familiarise myself with online retail purchases for a while now. This afternoon I bought MURDER UNDER BLUE SKIES by Willard Scott with Bill Crider from the guy who sold me BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS.

  3. I also tend to really enjoy when i do get to browse and buy in an actually bookstore as I;'m afraid a lot of my purchases are online. Haven;t read an anthology of new authors like that in a long while - you make it sound like a very enticing prospect Prashan - Cheers

  4. Sergio, I have had decent luck with used and secondhand books that I love to browse through. I am hoping to read some of the stories in BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS soon and maybe post a few reviews too.

  5. I pick many books on impulse in our local library, but as someone (me or the seller, and ultimatively the environment) has to pay for the shipping, I choose my English reading material more carefully. But of course it is difficult to resist a book like this :)

  6. Dorte, one of the things I like about browsing through secondhand bookshops is rare encounters with early editions of books with classic covers. For example, I bought a used hardbound editon of THE MAPMAKER by Frank G. Slaughter — "a novel of a great navigator who sailed fifty years before Columbus." This is a Book Club Edition which isn't the same as a First Edition. But the jacket has a painting of Andrea Bianco (El Hakim), the brilliant Venetian mapmaker and navigator, by Harry Scharre, a well-known artist who has designed book covers for various publishers. The back jacket has a black-and-white photograph of the author in his Florida home.