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.