I feel like I’m walking to Botswana: Sequels for January

I was a bit off colour over New Years’ and my specialist has said “You need to exercise” so I’ve been walking 5 kilometers a night on my treadmill and listening to audiobooks.

Weirdly, PG Wodehouse books don’t seem funny in exercise audio. Maybe the read is bad? Maybe my idea of jaunty is different to the reader’s?  Maybe the steady monotone of my feet pounding at 5.2 kilometers an hour throws off the comic timing?  I can’t tell, but I am very disappointed that it is the case.

Anyhow, I’ve finished off Morality for beautiful girls and The Kalahari Typing School for Men which are in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. They are cozy mysteries, lacking even the murders considered necessary by some proponents of the form, but they have a gentle pace and a subtle humour which works really well while trying to not concentrate on the treadmill clock. I’ve decided to listen to the whole series as I walk, and in the summer heat of my un-airconditioned room, it kind of feels like I’m walking to Botswana.

I’ve also started on some Nero Wolfes through Overdrive.  I’m hoist on my own petard here, because if I hadn’t kept banging on about Rex Stout, I’d now be listening to Some buried Caesar, but someone else has it out.  8)  As I recall, it’s an excellent book, has a great scene at a country fete, and introduces Lily Rowan, the love interest who flits non-commitally through the rest of the series. I have it on hold, so I’ll be marching steadily through it soon, toward the twist ending which I, sadly, already know.

Instead I’m through Over my dead body, which is good for fans of the series because it gives you Wolfe’s background and hints as to why he became obese and a detective.  It would be a bit better if I’d not seen it done by for television, which means I know who did it, why, how, and what the twist is, but I wanted to listen to it because it’s as close as we get to an origin story for Wolfe, and I wanted to be up to speed.

Now I’m pacing through the first half of Black orchidsBlack orchids is I believe, structurally, two novellas stuck together, if I understand the first few paragraphs correctly, which is interesting. The novella form, in the hands of a master, is an excellent one for mysteries, because it means you get the puzzle, some snappy lines and some characterisation, but not all the padding and herring necessary to get it up to modern novel length. This one’s a good one: the lovestruck Archie gets in some cracking quips, and we get to see Wolfe indulge in ingratiation, then blackmail, with one of his rival orchid growers. The second story isn’t, IMO, as much fun as the first, so far, but it may end well.  I’m hoping for a deathtrap: we’ll see if I get one.

The other big bit of reading I’m doing is On war by Carl von Clausewitz.  I’ll post about it separately, because I’m reading it out loud, and podcasting it for Librivox.  My plan for 2010 is to record at least one chapter of Clausewitz a week.  By 2011 I will, therefore, be the library’s undisputed master of Napoleonic warfare, and will be able to guide us right if we try to open a Mobile Library stop in the middle of a Russian winter.