Just after reading book seventeen, The Empty Copper Sea, I stopped reading the Travis McGee series. Not because I wasn't enjoying them. I was enjoying them too much. In fact, I was devouring them like I used to devour candy in my sugar eating lifetime. Just as in those days, I pulled myself up short, like the old me eating a super large size bag of M&Ms, thinking, "Whoa, there are only four of these books left. I've got to make them last."
So, I forced Travis out of my mind, like wadding up those last four M&Ms in the worn, once super-large size M&M bag and cramming it into my left rear jeans pockets, the one I never use for anything.
To keep my mind off those last four books, I reread Nevil Shute's twenty-four novels, and, I have to confess, I read Round the Bend twice, bringing the total number of readings of it to at least fifty, since I discovered it and Nevil gathering dust on a high shelf in the Laurel Mississippi Public Library, forty years ago.
So, why am I sitting here on a warm, wet, very early spring afternoon, telling you about John D. MacDonald, Nevil Shute, Free Fall In Crimson and Round the Bend? Because I love books. I've loved them as long as I can remember, and that is a long, long time. I caress and fondle them when no one is watching and sometimes when they are watching. I read books and I write them. But I'm telling you all of this to tell you that sometimes books are treasure chests you don't expect. To get to those treasure chests, you have to follow the trails, the bread crumb trails left by authors. Some are dead ends. Others lead to treasure. The one I found last night lead to treasure.
I began A Free Fall In Crimson, reading slowly, in order to drag it out as long as possible. Naturally, I read the two quotes at the beginning of the book, just after the title page. The first I had read before, it was taken from The Night of the New Moon, by Laurens Van Der Post.
It was the second quote that grabbed me by the throat, this one:
He will wonder whether he should have told these young, handsome and clever people the few truths that sing in his bones. These are:
(1) Nobody can ever get too much approval.
(2) No matter how much you want or need, they, whoever they are, don’t want to let you get away with it, whatever it is.
(3) Sometimes you get away with it.
Private Lives in the Imperial City by John Leonard
I didn't know John Leonard, so I decided to search for him, with a two-fold motive. First motive, information and second motive, further delay in beginning A Free Fall In Crimson.
My search took me first to AbeBooks.com, where I found a copy of Private Lives In The Imperial City. I only stayed there long enough to purchase a "near fine, first edition" of the book for less than $5.00 (I've loved AbeBooks for as long as there has been an AbeBooks).
My next search stop was Wikipedia, where I found this tribute, the words of a Master, about a Master, left out for me by yet a third Master, John D. MacDonald, who knew that one day I would come wandering down the road, the one that forked to the right, and when I did I would ultimately find this:
“When I read anything by my longtime friend John Leonard, his voice is that of a total stranger. He is too polite in ordinary conversations, with me at least, to set off the fireworks of all he knows and feels after reading and comparing and responding to, in the course of his long career as a literary critic, a thousand times more books than I have even heard of. Only in print does he light the night sky of my ignorance and intellectual lassitude with sizzles and bangs, and gorgeous blooms of fire. He is a TEACHER! When I start to read John Leonard, it is as though I, while simply looking for the men’s room, blundered into a lecture by the smartest man who ever lived.” Kurt Vonnegut
As read, reread, and read yet one more time, Vonnegut's words, the same thought keeps churning through my mind, Thank you gentlemen.