When I was a kid, my parents had a strict rule about books. The rule was: no books are off limits. I couldn’t watch much TV, I wasn’t allowed to watch movies that were obviously “for grownups”, but I could grab any book off any of the shelves in our house. It was a great rule, which led me to discover all kinds of amazing authors who made a big impact on me, even though I was probably too young to fully appreciate them.

I loved the fact that my parents felt that books couldn’t be harmful, but by the time I reached my teen years and started reading the trashy YA fiction that my peers were into (remember all those V.C. Andrews books that all girls were obsessed with? In retrospect, those stories were pretty effed up), I discovered that my mom didn’t really mean that no books could be harmful. She meant “books that might be a bit too mature for you but are still good books can’t be harmful, but don’t read junk.” Hah.

That’s all well and good, but the unfortunate side effect was that I internalized the idea that the pulpier side of fiction, including most “genre” paperbacks, were the reading equivalent of a Big Mac combo. As a result missed out on some awesome stuff – crime, sci-fi, and other genres that, as it turns out, I  really like. I’ve never read any Philip K. Dick or Elmore Leonard. I’m catching up slowly. Last summer, I read my first Jim Thompson novel (The Killer Inside Me, which chilled me To. The. Bone.) and loved it.

Anyway, I’m taking the long route to a simple point, which is: this year’s cottage reading list!

Important literary works are fine, but when a lady’s at the cottage, sipping long drinks in a hammock, it’s a bit of a drag to try to concentrate on the classics. It feels like eating a heavy red-meat-and-root-vegetable stew on a summer night. It might be delicious but there’s no denying the fact that it’s more of a winter meal. I just want some corn on the cob or a bowl of cherries, y’know?

This summer, I’m taking the relaxed approach to cottage reading. No stigma, no worries. Much murder mystery.

"Meet Tres Navarre, tequila drinker, tai chi master, unlicensed P.I., with a penchant for Texas-size trouble"

“Meet Tres Navarre, tequila drinker, tai chi master, unlicensed P.I., with a penchant for Texas-size trouble”

First up on the agenda is this crime/mystery novel I bought at a yard sale for $0.50 because the tag line on the back cover sounded hilarious. Joke’s on me, because it turns out to be a totally fun read. I might even seek out the next Tres Navarre book in the series (apparently there are seven) when I’m done.

Sideswipe

Next up, Sideswipe, Charles Willeford’s third Hoke Moseley novel. Hoke’s a fantastic and totally depressing detective character, portrayed once on screen by Fred Ward in Miami Blues (based on the first Hoke Moseley book). I can only ever picture the character as early-’90s Fred Ward, but that seems perfect.

Still Life with Woodpecker

Not particularly pulpy, but I’m looking forward to revisiting an old fave that I read when I was in my mid-20s and LOVED, but barely remember any of the actual details of now. It’s always fun to give yourself  a refresher in “stuff I thought was great a decade ago”.

If I get through all three in the next week, I’ll be pretty impressed with myself. And there’s no shortage of choices for #4. I think there’s a stack of about a dozen contenders next to the cottage couch.