Yesterday I drove past Book Again, a small used bookstore in Redondo Beach that I haven’t been to in a while (constantly rushing with the little one, you see), and finally made it a point to go to before seeing my clients. Now I know why it was meant to be, for who else was waiting for me in the row of shelves outside the store with the sign 15 books for $3 but Baydr Al Fay, uber hot protagonist of Harold Robbins’ The Pirate, someone I’ve been on the hunt for since forever.
This was one book I didn’t want an ebook copy of (like I do for A Stone For Danny Fisher which I discovered doesn’t bring about the same feelings I’d felt then holding the paperback in my hand) and I’m so happy I’ve got my own copy finally. The smell and feel of an old book is downright amazing, and reading the words again feels even better than I expected. At first I thought I’d be disappointed like I read some people are when rereading a book they used to love, but not this one.
I’ve been reunited with Baydr Al Fay and Jordana and Leila – and it still feels damn good.
In this challenge, tell us how you fell in love with books and writing.
In my childhood bedroom, a shelf hung over my bed, and on this shelf were the classic titles such as Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and even a collection of limericks. My mother was a fan of Readers’ Digest books, and she may have bought every single one advertised in the mail. My bedroom served as the storage area for all these books that she kept buying, and there was even a locked wall cabinet where she stored all of them – encyclopedias, abridged story collections and more. Sometimes I’d sneak the key and open it, and read about supernatural hauntings from one book, and how to make fondant from another.
One day, either my mother ordered me to dust the shelf or I was grounded for something I’d done that I have no recollection of, but something made me reach for the top of that shelf. And at the top of it where only dust resided, one well-worn book had been tucked away, its corners bent, and without a cover to tell me what it was. I was ten or eleven years old then, and this book would shape the way I preferred my stories and even the way I write them now.
The epilogue of this cover-less book talked about a man people had long forgotten in a country called Corteguay (fictional, of course). His name was Diogenes Alejandro Xenos, a name which would be shortened to Dax as he gets older, and how, as the story opens and he is a child, bandits come upon their family home, kill his mother and sister, and he escapes into the jungle. He grows up to become an outlaw, a playboy and even a powerful generalismo of his country.
I devoured that book from the first page to the last, not really understanding some parts but comprehending enough. In an era before Facebook, YouTube and Google, I learned about sex, drugs, , death and power. The book, if you haven’t guess it yet, was called The Adventurers and it was written by Harold Robbins. I never knew who owned it, but after that first chapter, I did not care. I ended up hiding the book myself, so that whoever stashed it away up there, would not find it when they came back.
I would seek out all Robbins’ books after The Adventurers, though I had no problem doing so, for whoever had left that book on my shelf, had left a few more – The Pirate, Stiletto and A Stone for Danny Fisher. Who knows? It could have been my mother, who didn’t think Harold Robbins was a good fit for all her Readers’ Digest Selected Book collection.
By the time I was 14, while my friends were enamored with Harlequin and Mills & Boon romances, I was into more adult fare – James A. Michener, James Clavell, and Robert Ludlum. I also began writing – by hand on legal-sized sheets of paper that my grandfather still had long after he retired from his legal practice and then with a typewriter someone gave me (and probably regretted, since I typed till 3 am most days) for Christmas. In high school, my stories found their audience among my classmates and one of them almost got me suspended because of its adult content.
Sometimes I yearn to find a copy of that book again – with its cover this time – though I really am in no rush. I have the digital copy of it, and for now, should I ever lose that spark of writing, reading those first few pages should be enough to send me back in time, and back into my writing.