Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Guest Blogger: John R. Lindermuth (author of SOONER THAN GOLD)

I'm vacating the chair today and turning the desk over to John R. Lindermuth.
You've seen John's name here before. I did an interview with him way back and when and I have also mentioned/reviewed a number of his books here. He is perhaps best known for his contemporary "Sticks" Hetrick mysteries, but he has done several other novels and stories, often with an historical setting. This is fitting inasmuch as, since his retirement from newspaper editing, John has served as librarian for his local historical society and is vastly knowledgeable about the coal-mining region of central Pennsylvania where he lives and writes.

John's latest novel is SOONER THAN GOLD, a turn-of-the-century mystery set in this area. It is the second of his books to feature Sylvester Tilghman, sheriff of fictional Araphot, PA. As usual, it is well written, richly detailed in period history, and presents a cast of colorful characters caught up in a finally crafted plot. You won't want to miss it.
And now here's John:

National Library Week is coming up—April 14-20.

Okay, I hear some muttering. So what? And, who cares? Some would have you believe the Internet has made the public library irrelevant. I beg to differ.

My hometown didn’t have a library until 1953. Fortunately, my Dad had a good supply of books at home and the several independent bookstores which existed in the town at the time got a good share of my spending money over the years. When it did arrive, the library expanded the range of books and information available to me and contributed to my desire to write.

Libraries are another of those good ideas we owe to the Greeks, and they may have borrowed the idea from the Chinese.

Benjamin Franklin was responsible for the opening of the first in my home state of Pennsylvania in 1731—one of his best ideas, in my opinion. The Quebec Library, the first publicly funded in Canada, opened in 1779. But Mexico pre-dates both in claiming the first public library in the New World. Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, bishop of Puebla and Viceroy of New Spain, opened the Palafoxian library in 1646 when he expelled the Jesuits and confiscated their books. This library still exists and holds some of the oldest books in North and South America.

Now I appreciate the Internet and agree it’s a damned good source of information. But, as good as it is, it’s just a glorified robot and lacks the warmth and personality to be found in your average library. Aside from books and other resources (including access to the Internet), the library has some other assets that make it attractive to us scribblers.

For example, I defy you to spend an hour observing other patrons and not come away with a character sketch or a story idea or two.

Or, suppose you’re devoid of said idea germs, here’s a little trick I’ve found useful. Go down to the library and avoid the new book shelves and your usual haunts. Instead, head into one of those stacks you’ve never or rarely entered. Pluck a book (any book) off the nearest shelf, open to a random page and read a paragraph or two. If that doesn’t work, try another. Soon, stimulated by what you’ve read, your mind will start producing seeds for you to nurture. You’ll be surprised. Guarantee it.

I’m eternally grateful for the library and those who maintain it. I believe the world would be a bleaker place without the public library. Truthfully I’ve probably spent more indoor time in libraries and book shops than anywhere else. And, if I have to be indoors, I can think of few places I’d rather be.


Annette Snyder said...

Oh John! Right up my historical alley! great cover and now I want to visit a library in Mexico...thanks for adding to my already too long and way expensive traveling list

jrlindermuth said...

Thanks, Annette. Sorry if I've added expense to your travel fund. Just think of all the other fun things to do in Mexico in addition to the library.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi John,
I absolutely agree with you. Where would be without libraries. There is an atmosphere there, a smell even, that I find soothing. Can't get that with the internet.



jrlindermuth said...

Right, Margaret. The Internet is great. But it lacks humanity.

Roxe Anne Peacock said...

John, I always enjoy your posts and the subject matter is right up my alley. Good luck in the future.

jrlindermuth said...

Thanks, Roxe Anne.

Ron Scheer said...

Well said, John. I marvel at librarians who live to help you find just what you are looking for. Only yesterday, a librarian from across the continent kindly sent me a PDF of a rare book I'd been unable to locate anywhere.

jrlindermuth said...

Librarians rock, Ron.

marta chausée said...

I haven't been in a library in a while, though I used to frequently haunt the Dennison Library in Scripps College, in the enchanted wee college town of Claremont, where I most recently lived.

Now that you mention it, I probably miss the smell most of all, and the hush of concentration and respect for others' need for quiet.

I see so many beautiful new libraries in L.A. when I'm riding around on my bike, but do I ever dismount and enter one? Shame on me-- the answer is NO, and irony of ironies, I have a Los Angeles Public Library card.

Next chance I get, I'm walking into a library. Thanks for the nudge, John.

Eileen Obser said...

I love libraries, John, and worked as an editorial librarian for awhile. I've taught writing workshops in some 25-plus libraries in our county during the past 20 years, and revisit them when I'm in the 'hood. This should come in handy when I start lining up book signings for Only You, my memoir. I'm a friend of The New York Public Library, which I visit a few times a year and, when traveling, I always hit the libraries! Thanks for this blog on libraries. I'll be in Pittsburgh in a few weeks and, while there, I'll be in one of the Carnegie libraries.

jrlindermuth said...

Marta, I'm glad to offer the nudge. Eileen, the Carnegie libraries are great and the New York is a fit place to spend a vacation. Thanks to both of you for commenting.

Cora said...

It was interesting to learn about the library in Mexico--didn't know that.
Next library visit I will try your idea for inspiration by pulling a book at random--love that idea. A bit like pulling a Tarot card from the deck for inspiration.
Another use for the library: I meet my critique group there--they have small meeting rooms that can be reserved for such purpose at our newest branch.