Sunday, September 14, 2008

On The Nightstand

by Ian Rankin

I've been buried under work for the last few weeks, but I've still found some time to do a fair amount of reading. Having been on a bit of a mystery kick lately, I decided to read the first few John Rebus mysteries by Scottish author Ian Rankin.

My parents are both voracious mystery readers and love the Rankin books. Come to think of it, I suspect I've bought them a few as presents over the years.

The best part of having readers for parents is that they'll often loan you the books you gave them after they've finished with them, which is how I came to read some of the later books in the Rebus series. But I've never read the first one, KNOTS & CROSSES.

Rankin's mysteries are always interesting and complex, driven more by the characters than the twists and turns of the plot. And I've always enjoyed the descriptions of Rebus' crumbling home turf, Edinburgh. But while KNOTS & CROSSES has plenty of atmosphere, Rankin is obviously just starting to master his craft.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, with a lot of great characterization and atmosphere, but it doesn't have the same polished prose as the later books in the series. Still, John Rebus is a fascinating character, and he appears here nearly fully formed. My only complaint is that Rankin's technique gets far smoother over time, which really isn't much of a complaint at all.

I've already set the next two books in the Rebus series on my nightstand. Deadlines permitting, I'm hoping to dip into them very soon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Last Days

When I Left Los Angeles in the fall of 2000, the first thing I did was go and find myself a day job. I'd been working in comics for 6 or 7 years by then, and while projects popped up from time to time, they never came regularly enough for comfort. So I went looking for something that I could do at the same time as my comic book work and not steal too much of my creative energy. Being a voracious reader, I of course applied to every bookstore in the area, and ended up as a bookseller at Borders.

I've worked for them off and on ever since, with some time off in the middle for my stint at Crossgen Comics in Florida. Eight years, more or less, which has always amused me since one of the other bookstores I applied to didn't hire me because they thought I wouldn't hang around for very long.

Now, with the new project DC/Wildstorm under way, and the novel still in progress, I had to finally give up my position behind the information desk. Today was my last day. It's a strange feeling, knowing I won't be coming back, at least not as an employee. And I'm not sure how I will handle not having a day job to get me out of the house and interacting with people on a regular basis.

Working out of your house seems like a great thing, but you soon learn that it's far too tempting to work all the time and forget to go outdoors and spend some time away from the art table or the computer. Working at a bookstore was the perfect excuse to get away from deadlines for a little while and meet interesting people.

I could tell horror stories about difficult customers, but I can also tell you about helping someone find a new author or a book they've been trying to find for years, but couldn't remember the title. I've often said that my head is filled with useless information. It's a useful thing, especially when you work at a bookstore. You'd be surprised how often something you remember from a documentary on Post-Modern composers helps you find a piece of music for a customer.

But today is also the last day for the Borders I started at, eight years ago -- Borders #35 on Wolf Road in Albany, NY. I didn't plan it that way, but that's how it worked out. I haven't worked in that store for years, but I have fond memories of it and the people I worked with there.

So to all my friends at Borders #35 and #389, thank you for your kindness over the years, and the hours of interesting conversations about books and movies and music, not to mention your help keeping a roof over my head in between projects. But I think what I'll miss most of all is coming into work and seeing all the new books waiting to be shelved. There's nothing like putting away a stack of books and finding something interesting buried between all the romance titles and the Stephen Kings.