Right now, many parts of the world are on self-imposed isolation due to the COVID-19 virus. Obvious, but if someone stumbles across this blog years from now, they may not remember.
That means plenty of time to read! I’m a voracious reader under normal circumstances, but I’m now getting through a book every day or two, depending on the book.
There is one type of mystery I’m especially drawn to right now, and those are the books written around World War II–both before and during. The authors include Rex Stout, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, and Agatha Christie. There are others, but these are my go-tos, especially Ngaio. Why this particular time period?
Everyone understood who the enemy was.
It was Natzis, Communism, and his little brother Socialism. The characters reflect a time when human beings found the best in themselves, whether it be courage, strength or simply hope. The ordinary citizen could become a hero simply by knowing what was right and acting on it. There was a joining together that surpassed class, race and religion, because they understood the cost of losing. Freedom.
People Had Manners
This may be why I was drawn to write my Harlow Brothers mysteries, which are somewhat satirical. We may tee-hee over a man standing when a woman enters the room, but that simple act elevates everyone involved. The woman feels respected; the man feels gallant. It’s a win-win.
I’ve heard people say, “If you force me to say thank you, I won’t mean it.”
In the words of Roderick Alleyn, “Sucks to you.”
You’ve heard it said that you should dress for the job you want? Well, the same goes for virtues and character. Say “thank you” enough times and you’ll begin to feel grateful.
The character’s trials aren’t limited to murder
It’s interesting to see what people can take in their stride when necessary. Clothes and food rationing in Agatha Christie’s “A Murder is Announced” for example.
We’re pretty spoiled these days, and, like fasting, having to give up strengthens character.
Simpler times means better character experiences.
When I read, the characters matter most. When there aren’t cell phones, and even telephone calls (remember trunk calls?) aren’t all that easy to make, the sleuth is forced to get his hands dirty. To meet people face-to-face.
Entertainment provided great ways to see someone’s character in action because it was based on games, such as charades, or putting on plays at home, or singing songs and playing piano, or even hosting cocktail parties where people talked to each other. Forced to interact rather than line up in a row to watch a movie, character traits are revealed.
With anonymity on the internet and photoshopped pictures on Instagram, we have little chance of getting to observe the real person.
Books written in this era are an homage to the human spirit, and I think we can find that same spirit today.