Being the son of an Iowa farmboy, there are two mystery series I’ve really enjoyed over the years. One were the Donald Harstad books, set in contemporary times to when they were written and the other is the Sam McCain series by Ed Gorman.
I found “The Day the Music Died”, the first in the Sam McCain series on some bookshelf during some deployment somewhere and I was hooked. With both series, it’s fun to think of crime and indecency happening in Iowa, the same type of bad stuff that happens in New York or LA, in the sleepy little farming communities. The McCain series is set in the 50s however, and the protagonist is a young guy trying to find his way in the world. The mysteries are sometimes a little weak, and the stories begin to follow a certain formula but the characterizations are generally great and that’s what kept me coming back for more.
What I loved about the early books in the series was the Betty-Veronica-Archie triangle he had going on. Sam pines away after Pamela, who is pining away after someone else altogether while Mary pines away after Sam. Sue me, I’m a sucker for angst, especially when it’s well written. To me, well-written = relatable.
I had read through the books in my reading list and was looking for something this weekend, when Amazon told me that with my Kindle Unlimited subscription I could read “The Day the Music Died” for free. I hadn’t read it in years, so figured why not? I’ve been frustrated that more books I want aren’t available through KU so the opportunity to exercise my membership seemed great.
Sometimes when I read, I skim a little. Or sometimes a passage will hit me once when it doesn’t another time. For some reason this one hit me this weekend, it’s a spot where he’s establishing the characters so he’s “remembering” a time in high shool:
I didn’t say anything. She started to cry and I didn’t know what to do and I sort of slid my arm around her and while I was doing it I could see down the front of her formal. She had small breasts but they were very sweet. I mean there’s all kinds of breasts when you think about it, noisy breasts and quiet breasts and angry breasts and melancholy breasts and sincere breasts and superficial breasts and arrogant breasts and shy breasts and probably lots of other kinds too; her breasts were just very sweet, like Mary herself. I guess that was the first time I wanted to love her. I mean I couldn’t love her, not in the way she wanted me too, because I loved Pamela that way. But right then, if God had given me a choice, I would’ve said reach in my brain and take Pamela out and put Mary in. Because it would’ve made her so happy if I could have loved her that way. Pamela didn’t care if I loved her at all. But Mary would have been all shiny and new and fine with it, just a few stupid words that you h ear on the juke-box all the time, and she would’ve been so happy. So I held her and I kissed her and then we really started kissing and then we started rolling around on the grass and then it got real serious and while we didn’t use the Trojan, we came damned close, damned close, and then we were in my older brother’s 1946 Plymouth and headed out on the highway to where there was supposed to be a beer party at the old quarry and the radio was blasting Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins and the prairie night air was so cool and fresh and s he sat so close to me and I was so almost in love with her that I didn’t have a single though of Pamela for at least an entire hour.