By Barbara Bettis
Some of my best friends have been books. Lest that sound too sad, let me say I’ve always been blessed with wonderful friends and I value them beyond price.
But throughout my life, I’ve also had a few books that have meant a good deal, for one reason or another—writing style or characters. Those books have traveled through the years with me. A few are holdovers from childhood. I keep them because each is significant in its own way. There’s a frayed book of Greek and Roman myths, a collection of fables, a couple of children’s books from my grandparents.
I have an ancient Western from a box give me by my uncle when he married. I was in grade school. That event triggered my “Western phase,” when I devoured books by writers whose works could be found in used book stores. Luke Short became my favorite Western author of that era. He had an economical way of phrasing that I admired. He could deliver a vivid image in few words, unlike others of his contemporaries. No, I haven’t revisited any of Short’s works in ages, but his style was one I recalled years later when, in journalism, we were advised to “write tight and make it sing.”
My uncle’s gift box launched my mystery phase, too, although none of those made the ‘save’ list. It also ushered in the sci-fi phase, with older authors such as Asimov, Heinlein, Clark, Bradbury. I preferred them to some of the popular sci-fi of my era—with the exception of Le Guinn. And they were a step away from Orwell, Huxley, Vonnegut (1984, Brave New World, Slaughterhouse Five.) But I digress. Back to my best friend books, which are much more comforting!
For most of my favorites, characters are what set them apart. Here are two such. Many of you will recognize them because I’ve mentioned them before. They are Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger and Lord Johnnie by Leslie Turner Wright. I haven’t reread them in forever, but I recall them fondly. I did pick up Prince of Foxes this summer and was reminded that it was written in omniscient narrator point of view. Rather jarring because we work so hard on individual and deep point of view. But I still enjoy the characters—and the large helping of Renaissance history.
One that I’ve lost over the years was an early Paula Allerdyce paperback the name of which I can’t recall. The plot, however, dealt with the daughter or other young female relative of an English fort commander who saves the life of an escaped Highland prisoner after Culloden. Again, the characters have remained in my memory, just not the title. Does anyone remember that work?
These few I’ve mentioned are books from my past that I recall with fondness, enough fondness to keep copies, even though I don’t reread them.
But I have shelves of current authors and titles that are new book friends I hope to reread soon. They, however, are a story for the future!
What book friend do you remember fondly from your past?