James Knight. Master mystery reader and collector.
This is a story about passion. My dad’s and his books. The library that housed his collection vibrated with intrigue, drama, murder, beautiful women and titles like “Dead as a Dummy,” “Stiffs Don’t Vote,” “No Tears for the Dead,” “’The Case of the Terrified Typist,” and “ Bones of Contention.”
When my mom’s house sold, I took on the task of systematically boxing up these treasures. Little did I realize that I was about to be baptized into the world of mystery writers. These crime scene authors are now my friends as I categorize the over 1,000 books my dad collected over a span of 50 years. Names like Geoffrey Holmes, Nicolas Freeling, Rae Foley, Manning Coles and George Coxe are now etched in my mind; my dad’s favorite authors.
My mom, Carolyn, blowing dust from Dad’s antiquities.
As I pull each book, many of them cloth-covered, from the shelf, page markers denote an event at the time of the reading. An airplane ticket to Mexico, a card or note from me, a receipt telling where the book was purchased, giving us a clue to its value. My dad’s presence was heavy in the air, guiding me, teaching me, sharing his love and the art of reading for leisure. I learned to show interest in someone else’s passion even if you don’t think it’s your thing. I wish I had asked him about this collection, when he started it and how he knew which books would be valuable someday. I wondered if he read and re-read the books of the 40’s and 50’s because it reminded him of a time he was familiar with and it brought back fond memories.
A library awaiting its fate and new homes in boxes. How I wish a collector would adopt them!
Curiosity got the better of me and I opened up a 1946 Geoffrey Homes, my eyes now trained to see dates and First Editions and the first line had me hooked. I sat down and read page after page, enjoying the writing and how the author created the setting. This 15 minute respite gave me that “aha” moment where I finally realized how my dad felt when he opened one of these books – like time traveling, letting your mind escape for the moment. I gratefully added this book to the stack that would join my library. This mystery lure runs also through my blood. As a child I read every Nancy Drew I could get my hands on, often trading them out at our used bookstore. My dad and I shared a love of Agatha Christie and later still Tony Hillerman both of us reading literally every one of these author’s books. Life is a mystery. The plot continuously unfolding, revealing what we chose to see, hiding clues for our future along the way. I now embrace a different part of my dad, this shadow of him, his true passion. I appreciate this gift. It’s become personal. Thank you Dad for sharing…..
Sending love and good mysterious happenings your way,