When the poor sap stumbled into my office, I could see he was desperate. “You’ve gotta help me,” he rasped. “You’re the only one who knows.”
I eyeballed his lanky form and decided he was more sinned against than sinner. “Have a seat,” I said, and gestured to the battered computer chair where all my clients tell me their troubles. “What’s your pitch?”
“I need…” He gulped, then glanced nervously behind him, as if he expected the reading police to show up at any moment. “I need a good mystery.”
A good mystery to idle away a summer afternoon? I should have known. Thoughtfully I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs, inhaling deeply on my cigarette. I could try to brush him off with something simple, like a premade booklist, but something in his haunted, blood-shot, baby blues told me it wouldn’t work. Not that booklists aren’t swell. But there was more going on here than met the eye, and if I wanted the mystery man to trust me as a professional librarian, I was going to have to give him a personalized list…and it was going to have to be a good one.
I sighed heavily, sat up straight, and fixed the stranger with my steely gaze. His face brightened as I pushed a piece of paper and a pencil across the desk. “Here,” I said, “listen up good, and write this down.”
The Book: The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, ed. Otto Penzler.
Check this out if you like: Short stories, pulp fiction, men’s adventure magazines, danger, suspense, dark alleys, dames both classy and treacherous, gumshoes, shysters, shamuses, double-crosses, or any of the other noir-y tropes common in Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.
The Book: Big Boned, Meg Cabot.
Check this out if you like: Wrongly-accused protagonists, celebrity/fashion namedropping, stories set on college campuses, love triangles, heroines of realistic size, loyal friends, cute shoes, or other chick-lit elements.
The Book: Casanegra, Blair Underwood et. al.
Check this out if you like: Hollywood highs and lows, street lit drama, heroes with troubled pasts, father-son conflicts, tales of redemption, celebrity authors, African American film history, the seamy underbelly of the rap business, or erotic fiction.
The Book: Death of a Cozy Writer, G.M. Malliet.
Check this out if you like: Cozy mysteries, English country houses, family feuds, dry humor, a hint of self-conscious parody, drawing room scandal, secrets and lies, or stories reminiscent of Agatha Christie.
The mystery man, visibly relieved, tucked the booklist into the breast pocket of his jacket and beamed at me from under the brim of his shabby fedora. “Thanks to you, miss, I’m feeling a lot more literate and entertained. How can I ever thank you?”
I smiled. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I could tell. “For starters,” I said, “how about you open up that briefcase you’re carrying and show me what kind of McGuffin you’ve got there?”
Cue the saxophones! And don’t forget to tune in next time for Shelf Examination!