Rediscoveries: Finding Hidden Gems

One of the great joys of any library is discovering older books that you may have missed when they were first released. No, I am not talking about the classics or the books your English teacher made you read (though your English teacher was probably right about them). I am instead talking about popular fiction, enjoyable reads that deserve a life beyond a short residency on the best seller list. Here are three writers that deserve another look. No, the Dillsburg Area Public Library does not have the three complete series described here, but we do have a good sample and there are many other volumes throughout the York County Libraries.

Dorothy Gilman (June 25, 1923 – February 2, 2012). Gilman created one of the more unique spies in fiction, Emily Pollifax. Mrs Pollifax is a grandmother in her 60s who, out of boredom and desperation decides to look in on the CIA to see if they have any meaningful work. Through a number of mix-ups, both comical and thrilling, Mrs. Pollifax does indeed become a spy and a very good one. You can follow her adventures through 14 volumes (starting with The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax) that manage to be both funny and exciting.

Ed McBain (October 15, 1926 – July 6, 2005). McBain more or less created the police procedural genre. He certainly perfected it. Whenever you see one of the many television versions of CSI or Law & Order or any similar depiction of an entire team of crime fighters at work, you are seeing the legacy of McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. The first one, Cop Hater, appeared all the way back in 1956. Fifty more were published through the early 2000s. There are also several volumes of short stories. That might sound like a lot of reading but McBain is a master craftsman and the pages simply fly.

Jaspar FForde. (born 11 January 1961) If you like British humor, you will love Jaspar FForde. Similar writers are Douglass Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) and Terry Pratchet (the Discworld series). Starting with The Eyre Affair, FForde has written a series of seven novels featuring his heroine, the wonderfully named Thursday Next. Next is a sort of librarian who also happens to be a sort of James Bond and a sort of Doctor Who. She time travels, she visits parallel dimensions, and she is able to interpose herself inside the plots of famous books. Sounds a little odd, yes? Trust me, FForde creates his offbeat world in a way that makes sense even while giving us a good laugh.