I was 10 or 11years old when a friend handed me a soft cover book. It was my first detective novel, an Agatha Christie story translated into Rumanian. I stayed up the whole night reading it and this is how my mystery novels addiction started and never waned.
But since that day mystery stories underwent countless changes. I was I think about 14 years old when Agatha’s books stopped being sophisticated enough and I preferred slightly more evolved fare, Edgar Wallace maybe, John Dickson Carr, Erle Stanley Gardner, which I still kept on reading in German or Rumanian translations..
Only many years later I went back to Agatha’s books that time because I started to enjoy her beautiful use of the English language, no less than her usual formula of telling about Hercule Poirot polishing his mustache, drinking his syrup and at the same time cunningly investigating family members until reaching the final show-down in the living room when Monsieur Poirot points an accusing finger at the unsuspected and unsuspecting villain..
The years passed and brought many changes, and my taste in crime stories changed accordingly. Tales of spies, like the work of admirable Mr. Fleming in literature and films, mostly involving America against Russia, the books still l translated from German and Rumanian, and becoming the great fashion, with similar writers milking the same subject to exhaustion. I kept on spending sleepless nights trying to outguess the more or less skillful authors a scope rarely achieved. I never allowed my husband to share my books because he knew “who’s done it” after the first few pages and immediately informed me accordingly.
And the writing style kept on changing. Often it became a bit better but more often a bit worse. My daughter often regarded my choice of literature with disdain, saying:
“How can you read this junk?”
I refrained from reminding her that it was I who taught her to enjoy the classics, the many evenings we spent reading Byron, Tennyson, Blake, and most of the Shakespeare plays.
I remember the evening I fell asleep over the “House of Usher’ written by the man who may have been the inventor of the mystery tale.
My taste in literature still remained of the most mundane kind and fashion and style continued to change. Stories became more subtle. A spy came in from the cold and started a new genre. Other spies followed but were not quite so plausible. Some books offered unexpected surprises and although long on verisimilitude, I just accepted what was written and enjoyed the ride.
Change continued. Stories became more violent, everyone was carrying a gun and its make became of greatest importance. It would never be a Smith Wesson, this was just too common. It would be a Walter PPK or something equally innovative. And then I learned about abbreviations and letters.. Of course I knew all about FBI, MP5, but I also learned new facts like WFO which meant counter terrorism, but what was ATF, NIC, TEC-9, BATS which I found out to mean bomb and arson tracking, but ,there was still so much to learn!
Now my latest book was all about one single bomb. It was laid in a park, exploded by mistake because somehow and luckily it missed the English Prime Minister for whom it was meant; the story starts to enfold, a crazy roller coaster ride, everybody suspecting everybody else, the bomb being analyzed and again re-analyzed showing some chemical ingredient with a strange name of which no one has heard before and no one knew where it came from, nor who exactly put it there. Questions arise who betrayed whom and I keep on turning pages fast like an idiot.
.. Can you imagine what dear departed Agatha would say to such a tale? Frankly, I don’t know, but what I do know is that by now I am qualified to apply for a job in intelligence or counter-intelligence in whatever country pays more because I finally know how things work. Or do I?