I've worked a lot of nights. As a concert violinist for the past thirty-plus years, often the first time I have in the day to crack open a book is when I come home from a performance. At this moment, physically and emotionally spent, I am in no condition to read non-fiction, especially if the book is going to tell me why the world is going to hell in a hand basket and what I need to do on an individual level to prevent it from getting there. I know I should read about the melting glaciers. I should read about the history of political unrest in Africa. I should read about the systemic causes of the economic meltdown. But I don't. I leave those reading assignment to my wife, Cecily. She'll fill me in on the salient points.
Instead, I grab a Rolling Rock out of the refrigerator and seek ingredients for a ham and swiss sandwich on rye with mustard, and a pickle on the side. Maybe some kettle chips. Then, I pick up the latest mystery I'm reading, open to the page I signed off on the night before when I fell asleep and spend a few moments in frantic concentration, trying to remember what had happened up to that point in the story.
Then, it's heaven! Whether it's Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins sneaking me into seedy speakeasies of L.A.'s post-World War II African-American neighborhoods, or Dick Francis's Sid Halley galloping me around the race tracks of the English countryside, or Lawrence Sanders's Archie McNally escorting me to posh lawn parties of Florida's Gold Coast, I enter a far different world. It may be a complex world and it may be a brutal world, but somehow in the hands of a good mystery writer within moments I feel as if it is indeed my world. (The beer doesn't hurt, either.)
Devil's Trill, one's own life's stresses and worries can dissipate with the turn of a page. And, unlike the non-fiction books I should be reading, by the time I reach the last page of whatever mystery I'm reading, the problem has been solved! The world has rid itself of yet one more annoyance. We don't need to read another book to get a different perspective on the issue. Yet for some reason, we can't wait to pick up the next book in the series and do it all over again.
What's your favorite time of the day or night to read? Has a book ever kept you up all night long? Which ones?
Editor's Note: Gerald Elias is concert violinist. Devil's Trill, his first book, was published in August.
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