Last week, someone loaned me a new book.
It was the newest Richard Jury mystery by Martha Grimes. Grimes has been writing Jury mysteries since the 1980s; I believe this is something like the 24th book featuring the Scotland Yard superintendent and his aristocratic friend, Melrose Plant.
I also believe I’ve read them all; I started on the series while I was still in junior high. My mom reared me on a diet of Agatha Christie, and I’m still a sucker for a classic British whodunit.
What struck me as I read this book was how comforting it really is to be a fan of a long-running book series. When I pick up the book, there is the cast of characters, huddled around their pub table exactly as I left them.
Unlike me and the real people around me, they have not aged. Unlike following a longtime TV show, or worse, tuning in for a reunion episode, no one is missing or replaced with a cheap substitute, and everyone looks just the way they should.
Daily life, of course, has changed over the last 25 years, and references have to be updated – Jury now spends a great deal of time conferring with people via cell phone, which, of course, didn’t happen early in the series.
And he is forced to make fewer references to “the war” – at the time the series began, Jury was a 40-something man who had dim childhood recollections of World War II. If Grimes kept strictly to that timeline, he would now be in his 70s, should probably have retired from the Yard and would not be nearly as convincing when he uses his dashing good looks to convice a witness to talk to him. The author doesn’t disregard Jury’s history; it’s just glossed over a bit. There are no references to anyone’s age or how long ago historic events took place.
I suppose if I weren’t such a fan I could nitpick that apart and find fault with it. But if you actually want to enjoy good fiction – and I do – I think it’s important to enter into it with a certain suspension of disbelief and just let the story carry you. When you’re trying to work out the clues to the murder, really, there are more important details to get hung up on than the age of the detective.
And I don’t want to picture Jury in his 70s. I want him to remain exactly as he always has been. These are the few friends who do not have to yield to the laws of time.
My mom and I used to play a game where we would cast imaginary movies based on our favorite books. If they were to make a movie of this book or that one, who would you want to see play the lead? Then we would argue with one another over how this actor is too good looking or that actress isn’t old enough.
I love movies, too, and it doesn’t (usually) make me sad when my favorite books are put on the silver screen, though it is no substitute. There’s never enough time in a movie, even an epic like “Lord of the Rings,” to include everything that was in the book; it’s like seeing the tip of an iceberg and thinking you’ve seen the whole thing.
But I’m glad some old friends from fiction remain untouched by Hollywood, forever young and unchanging.
Enjoy your MidWeek.