Archive for Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reading for fun

January 7, 2010

While I enjoy doing a variety of activities, I especially like reading, particularly mystery, history and sports novels. I have been able to combine these through reading a variety of period-piece mystery novels. These books give readers a great view of history while taking an exciting journey through crime investigation.

I have a number of “favorite” authors, however, one that I discovered a decade ago is Troy Soos. In real life, he is a 52-year-old Florida resident who has produced nearly a dozen novels that take a gritty look at life in the United States a century ago. His first six novels were a series featuring the adventures of Mickey Rawlings, a utility major league baseball player, in the early decades of the 20th century. While never being an “everyday” player, Rawlings was always involved in baffling mysteries, many of which dealt with the social issues of the time.

I first “met” Rawlings when I purchased a paperback novel to read while I was on vacation. The book was “Murder At Ebbets Field” and detailed Rawlings’ adventures while playing for the New York Giants. A few years later, I decided to find other books written by Soos and I went to the local library. There the staff was able, using the Internet, to locate Web sites and listings of other books. Since that time, I have read all of his baseball series and a couple of his other novels. Thanks to the inter-library loan program almost any book is available. This program allows patrons throughout the area to find and check out a book from other area libraries.

What I enjoy most about his work is the historic accuracy and detail. These aren’t just baseball stories, these books are a picture of what life was like at the turn of the century. Readers follow Rawlings through his playing time in New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. He provides meticulous details about the cities and about social conditions and issues of the time. These range from union battles and organized crime to the segregated society that existed at that time. In addition, the Rawlings character was a combat veteran of World War I, which is a theme that is intertwined in the later novels.

The Rawlings character is a real liberal. He quietly fights social evils while at the same time battling to hang on to his spot on the roster.

After apparently ending the Rawlings series, Soos continued his historic novels following the career of a New York journalist, Marshall Webb and a social activist, Rebecca Davis. These novels also paint a drab picture of social conditions in New York City in the 1890s. The novels are very PG-13 and tell a story without excessive violence and only with implied sex.

Another of my favorite historical novelists is Anne Perry, a British writer, whose books span more than 75 years. Her early novels deal with several London detectives dating from the 1850s to the turn of the 20th century. Her heroes are honorable, dedicated detectives who often run afoul of the system.

Perry paints a graphic word picture of life in London in the Victorian age. Her words show the difference in the world of the wealthy and privileged to the grinding poverty of the less fortunate. She deals with topics ranging from European revolutions to the sale of arms by British companies to the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War.

Her latest series of books deals with the horror of World War I. She traces two brothers and a sister who are serving in the English military during the war. She depicts the savagery of trench warfare and the huge loss borne by England in the often forgotten “war to end all wars.”

These books combine education with adventure and enjoyable reading.

My suggestion is to turn off the TV and enjoy a good book. Reading is truly fun, and you can find a great book simply by visiting the library.


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