Young Bill Young here, stealing a piece of Kitty’s online real estate one more time.
I’m not a librarian, but I play one in real life for my friend Ralph. Ralph is in the third age of life, and he’s embarked on a mission to re-read many of his favorite books and authors. Since I work in a library, guess who gets to do some of his Interlibrary Loan requests?
During the past year, I’ve borrowed books by George V. Higgins, Henry Kuttner, Lewis Padgett (the co-author pseudonym for Kuttner and his wife C. L. Moore), and illustrator/author Karen Wehrstein to help him in his quest. Most recently, he’s been rereading British novelist and mystery writer Nicolas Freeling.
Freeling was a popular, award-winning writer best known for his Van der Valk series, which was adapted for British television. His Henri Castang mysteries were not as celebrated, even though some critics believed them superior to the Van der Valk works. Freeling enraged his fans when he killed off Van Der Valk in 1972′s A Long Silence. The outrage over the loss of their favorite crime detective proved too much for his fans in Sweden and France, and both countries stopped publishing him.
But enough about Freeling. This post is really about how hard it is to find some of his books. I’m working down the list of Freeling’s two detective series so Ralph can read them in order, and so far I’ve struck out on finding two of the Castang novels: A Dressing of Diamonds and The Night Lords. They’re simply not out there on WorldCat to borrow through Interlibrary Loan.
Now I know that there is limited space on library shelves, that books are weeded due to disuse or bad condition, and that some books can’t be replaced because they are out of print. And, yes, the public is fickle and ever-changing. What’s popular today may be tomorrow’s cast-off. Still, it’s disappointing to find the works of a such a celebrated author disappearing from our library shelves and from publishers’ print schedules. Even a visit to amazon.co.uk reveals that many of Freeling’s works can only be purchased in used condition since they’re officially out of print in England.
A library colleague tells me it used to be hard to find books by Oklahoma’s own Jim Thompson. There wasn’t much demand for his dark pulp fiction, and his books were out of print. When a new appreciation for him emerged, some of his works were adapted to the screen (notably The Grifters, and After Dark, My Sweet), and he became even more popular than he was during his lifetime.
“We talk about immortal literature, but the vast majority of books are as mortal as we are.”
I wonder… will future generations come up with “no results” when they search for a John Grisham novel on WorldCat? Will they ponder the work of a forgotten author named Dan Brown? Will children still be reading Captain Underpants?
All is vanity.