WALKER MARTIN on Rereading Day Keene:            

   I’m glad you did your recent post on Ross Macdonald because this reminded me that it was important for me to reread some of his outstanding novels.

DAY KEENE Home Is the Sailor

   Speaking of rereading, I know you have run across novels like I have where you know that you have read the book a few years ago, or sometimes only a few months ago, but cannot recall anything at all about it.

   Usually this means there was nothing outstanding about the story, just a mediocre reading experience that you eventually forget. To prevent myself from rereading these type of bland novels, I put a note in the book or magazine listing the date, my comments and a grade.

   But yesterday I was reading a Day Keene novelet of about 15 pages in the June 1946 issue of Detective Tales, titled “If a Body Meets a Body.” I recognized every character and plot turn in the story but there was no note indicating that I had read it.

DAY KEENE Home Is the Sailor

   Needless to say, this was a mystery I had to solve because I never forget to rate and comment on a story. Digging through my Day Keene books I stumbled across a Hard Case Crime paperback titled, Home Is the Sailor.

   Mystery solved. I’d read the novel in October 2006 and now realize that the June 1946 novelet was expanded into the original 1952 Gold Medal novel. Both stories using the basic same plot but I had found the full length novel to be ok but nothing special.

   However, the novelet was outstanding at 15 pages. Just another example of how expanding a story sometimes is not a good idea. But I guess Keene got the usual couple thousand dollars advance for the full length expansion.

   Despite my opinion of the novel as being mediocre, I somehow managed to remember the plot two years later. Maybe there is hope for our memories after all!

DAY KEENE Home Is the Sailor

   By the way, the above might generate some discussion among your readers about rereading, memory, Day Keene, rating novels, etc. Feel free to post it to Mystery*File if you wish.

[EDITORIAL COMMENT]   For more on Day Keene, including a complete bibliography of both his novels and all of his known pulp fiction, check out this page on the main Mystery*File website, beginning with the Gold Medal column about Keene that Bill Crider did for M*F back when it was a print zine.

   As for rereading mystery novels, I do try, but I own so many of them, it’s tough to put reading one a second time before reading others for the first time. In cases like Ross Macdonald, Rex Stout, John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, I do make exceptions!

   I’ve written reviews of almost everything I’ve read since the mid-1970s, although some of the early ones are only short notes to myself, like Walker’s, and you won’t ever see them posted on here on the blog. The primary reason I’ve done this, I think, so that I do remember the story lines. I’ve discovered that if I don’t write a review of a book or a movie, I forget almost everything about it.

   I admire people who can describe in detail either a book or a movie they’re read or seen many years before. Not me. If I don’t write a review right away, forget it. Or at least I do! They’re gone.

   This “lack of memory” property does help when rereading a detective novel, though. I almost never remember who did it. (Except for that Roger Ackroyd novel….)

— Steve