Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Binge by Andy Scheer

My name is Andy, and I'm a binge book buyer.

I hadn't meant to binge this past Wednesday. It had been a rough few days, and my wife suggested we visit the Goodwill thrift store. Since it was Wednesday, I'd get a fifteen percent senior discount. Besides, the book department offers free freshly brewed coffee.

I'd made it through the hardcovers—more than half the book section—when my eyes caught a rarity among the spine-out trade paperbacks: a novel by Douglas Reeman!

Who? Perhaps you're not deep into the subgenre of British Naval fiction. You're in good company. I don't know anyone else who is, especially as far inland as Colorado Springs.

Many people are aware of C.S. Forester, author of the Horatio Hornblower series, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. He was followed by Patrick O'Brian with a twenty-book series tracking Captain Jack Aubrey and surgeon Patrick Maturin during the same era. Thanks to the film Master and Commander, some people are aware of O'Brian's books, which were published in the U.S. in hardcover and trade paper editions by Norton.

But that's where most people's awareness of British Naval fiction stops. I've yet to encounter anyone who admits owning or reading stories by Philip McCutchan, Dewey Lambdin, Alexander Kent, or Douglas Reeman.

You get double credit if you've read Kent or Reeman. They're the same person, the same way gothic writer Barbara Michaels is the same as detective story writer Elizabeth Peters. Writing about the Navy in the age of sail, he was Alexander Kent. Writing about the Navy in the age of steam, primarily during the Second World War, he used his own name of Douglas Reeman.

Though he had some three dozen novels under his own name, the books aren't quite as common in used bookstores as ones by Stephen King or Nora Roberts. I can't remember the last time I found one. As often as not (which isn't very often), they're editions printed in the U.K. I owned only two or three of them.

Until this past Wednesday. I spotted one—then another, then another. Someone's book collection must have just been donated. I smiled—and kept smiling. With my senior discount, they'd be eight-five cents each, for all twenty-one of them.

Springtime is coming. I'll put up the hammock, take a Douglas Reeman paperback, and for a few hours see if I can catch a hint of salt in the air.


Adam Blumer said...

Your post made me smile. Can't tell you how many great hardcovers of authors I love I've found at my local Goodwill. And for dirt cheap. I also have a Dewey Lambdin just waiting to be read. I've read several of the C.S. Forester's Hornblower series, but I've had difficulty getting into the O'Brian books. Is Master and Commander the best place to start? I love the movie and thought it would help me get into the book, but O'Brian's prose is a bit tougher to get into for me. Sounds like you hit pay dirt.

Anonymous said...

I binge at the library book sale. It’s an all you can eat lit buffet. I bring a big plate!

Davalyn Spencer said...

Here here! Great post.