Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Settings
Time once again for Top Ten Tuesday, the fun meme hosted by the gals over at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Every week we're handed a new T.T.T. theme to write about - this week it's Top Ten Book Settings. Sounds good to me.
1) The Pacific Northwest.
A book set in either Washington state or Oregon is bound to get my attention. Not that there are all that many of them. I live on the East Coast and have never even visited the Pacific Northwest but I've always thought of it as a gorgeous and unbearably romantic place - albeit damp and rainy. I have a good friend who lives near Seattle and through her I've learned that maybe it's not all THAT rainy way out and up there. But I still have my doubts. Either/or, I just like the whole idea of that particular neck of the woods. Some books with this setting are: the Thomas Black and/or Mac Fontana mysteries by Earl Emerson (a retired Seattle fire fighter.) The Leo Waterman or Frank Corso books by G.M. Ford. Also the Venus Diamond series by Ford's wife, Skye Kathleen Moody. The Miss Zukas mysteries by Jo Dereske. Author Aaron Elkins who lives in the Pacific Northwest will, on occasion, set his books there as well.
2) 221-B Baker Street. London.
Okay, confession time: Years ago when I visited London, I stayed at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street. (Okay, make fun. I don't care. I will rise above the hoots and hollers!) I am a devoted fan of Holmes and I can't imagine anywhere I'd rather be when the call comes to do battle with evil - than in the flat on Baker Street.: "The game is afoot!"
3) 506 West 35th Street, NYC.
If I can't be on Baker Street, I'll take up residence in the brownstone near the river with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Even if genius is hard to take and even harder to live with, I admit I've been in love with Wolfe since I was a teenager. What is this strange spell Wolfe has over me? I don't know. I just know I can't get enough of Rex Stout's books and will continue to re-read them forever. In reality, I grew up in Manhattan, on second avenue and thirty something street until around the 5th grade when we moved to the lower east side. If the Wolfe brownstone had existed I'd probably have roller-skated over there and taken a good look. Ha!
The country estate of Lord Caterham in one of my favorite Agatha Christie books, THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS (1925). This is, I think, the book upon which all country-house screwball mysteries are based. For me, it is the original. Although I'm sure there was one or two written before.Ah, for a weekend at Chimneys solving a murder while sipping champagne, looking for secret rooms all the while cahooting with a young, fresh-faced, muscular government type.
The Victorian era Egypt of Amanda Peabody. Shepherd's Hotel in Cairo - on the veranda overlooking all the hubbub - everyone who is anyone will eventually show up at Shepherd's. The Philae - Peabody's dahabeeyah - a houseboat to travel in, leisurely, up and down the Nile. Stopping once in a while to excavate a tomb and/or solve a mystery, of course. Then later, the Emerson compound where Amelia and her hubby and their family will establish their winter base - time spent happily digging for lost tombs and foiling the plots of any evil-doers who dare affront The Father of Curses.
6) The English Countryside.
How I became an Anglophile while still a young, impressionable girl: By reading all the Agatha Christie (and other assorted Golden Age mystery writers) books set in the beautifully green English countryside. Villages with charming, insensible names filled with eccentric villagers usually up to no good. The stuff of life.
Especially Venice and/or Rome and occasionally, Tuscany as well. For Tuscany, nothing can touch the non-fiction of Frances Mayes: UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, BELLA TUSCANY, and the like. I also love the non-fiction of Marlena De Blasi, author of, among other wonderful books set in Italy - A THOUSAND DAYS IN TUSCANY and A THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE. The Commissario Brunetti mysteries by Donna Leon are set in Venice, I'm lining them up to read over the summer as we speak. .I also love the Jonathan Argyll art mysteries by Iain Pears set mostly in Rome. Carabinieri. Carabinieri.
Though the humans will invariably disappoint you in Evelyn Waugh's brilliant novel BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, the house never will. How this aristocratic pile can simply be called 'a house' is beyond me. It's all about the setting; Brideshead - a magnificent house - a character in a book filled with unforgettables. (In the Brideshead Revisited series filmed in the 80's, Castle Howard in York, stands in for the fictional Brideshead - an equally magnificent home made more daunting by its reality.)
9) Boston, Massachusetts.
Especially in the Spenser books by Robert Parker and the Fred Taylor art mysteries by Nicholas Kilmer. Now I ask you - who wouldn't want to live in Clayton Reed's Beacon Hill townhouse?
10) Trenton, New Jersey.
The make-believe Trenton of Janet Evanovich's invention in her Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, books. Family, friends, Joe Morelli, Ranger, Lula, Vinny and his duck, dinner every week at the Plum household with Grandma Mazur wearing spandex and sparkle sneakers on her way to the funeral parlor to pick up the latest gossip and view the latest deceased. Good times.