Friday, June 19, 2015

Been there, done that, so what?

How many thrillers can you reread? They are disposable, open and shut, throwaway, leave-on-a-train books. To stand up to years of repeated readings, there has to be more than blood and thunder, especially as, once you know what happens next, you lose the element of surprise.
Susan Hill, Howards End Is on the Landing

That, anyway, is how most of us feel about thrillers, and about murder mysteries, too. If you've read them once, you might be interested in seeing the movie, especially if it's something like Gone Girl, but you never want to open the book again. My wife will often pick up a John Grisham or David Baldacci novel and ask me if she has read it, as if I can remember what books she has read. I usually tell her, "If you can't remember reading it, there's no harm in reading it again," but she doesn't feel that way. If she's already read it, she doesn't want to read it again whether she remembers anything about it or not.

Yet Susan Hill goes on to explain why she enjoys rereading James Bond novels. She loves revisiting the villains, the settings, characters like Miss Moneypenny and the exciting chases and escapes. The stories, she says, give pleasure whether you know what's going to happen or not.

Wait long enough and you almost certainly won't remember what happens in a thriller or who the murderer is in a mystery. Recently I read James Grady's Six Days of the Condor for the first time in 40 years and it was like reading it for the first time. Last year I again watched the movie, 3 Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, and it was that that was in my mind as I read. But after the initial scenes, the movie, as the change in title suggests, is totally different from the novel, so I was in for a lot of surprises. It made be glad I had kept that paperback all these years.

To open up more shelf space, I removed several fat Robert Ludlum thrillers with the intention of donating them to the Friends of the Library for their book sale. That was a year ago. The books still sit on the floor of my library, along with other books I can't quite decide whether I really want to part with or not. I was never a big Ludlum fan. I have so many of his books because I was sent them for review. Yet I keep thinking I may want to return to them someday. As with Six Days of the Condor, I've seen the film version of The Bourne Identity and may want to see how they compare.

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