Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking for Lawrence

When I was five years old, my family transferred to another house with a room that was previously used by a man who may have been fond of reading. He left a cache of books on the shelf, maybe he felt that since he had already read them all anyway, there was no reason to bring them along and so he took only the objects he thought he really needed when he moved out, I guess he had too much to carry, so some of the load needed to be cast away. He may have decided the books should go. But I imagine if he really were a book-worm of some sort, the decision would have been a difficult one to make. Because if it were me, I would have a hard time parting with what I have, or at least those books that I really like, for deep sentimental reasons. Some of them I can read over and over a million times and still not get enough.

One particular book caught my attention, an old pocketbook with a potograph of what I thought then was a bloody hammer and a flower on the cover. At five, I couldn't read a single word and I was hoping there are at least some photographs I could tear-up and show-off to the other kids in the neighborhood. It was disappointing to find none. Somehow, I was so intrigued that I made a promise that when I grow up, I'm going to read this book and find out what secrets it held.

That pocketbook stayed untouched in the shelf for almost ten years gathering dust until one day, while searching for something, I had accidentally pulled it off the shelf and remembered a long-forgotten promise. I started reading a few pages and came to discover slowly and magically what could be the equivalent of first love - thanks to the late great Lawrence Sanders and his amazing cult-classic The First Deadly Sin. The suspense-thriller unravels the sick psychotic mind of random killer Daniel Blank, in masterful narration only an especially gifted author can weave. While I had read a few other books before this one by Sanders came along, it was really the one particular novel that led me to discover the joys of reading, and embrace the reading-habit for the rest of my life. After that, I started saving from my schooling allowance to buy the succeeding Sanders novels. Well, some of them were quite okay but in general they were simply disappointing. I guess The First Deadly Sin set the bar too high for the next Sanders novels that followed.

The First Deadly Sin became a best-seller and I imagine many fans of the book demanded a sequel, so quite predictably there came out a Second, a Third, and a Fourth Deadly Sin but none of them came even close to capturing the magic of the First. I understand that it was even made into a movie with a huge cast that included Frank Sinatra on the leading role of the private eye Edward X. Delaney, but again it was a disappointment, since the graying Sinatra was the last person I would expect to portray the brilliant, tough-as-nails detective. I do worship Sinatra, but only when he sings. The film adaptation also strayed from the book's finale but I can live with that since the technology of film-making at that time would not allow recreating the ending on top of Devil's cliff. Nothing Sanders ever did or failed to do after that could dent my respect for what he had accomplished with just one book.

I must have read The First Deadly Sin a second, a third, a fourth and a millionth time until the pages started to deteriorate to show its age. By then, it had paid me already a lot of favors, providing a cure to boredom and lots of inspiration to my youthful imagination - even to the point of improving my social life. By lending it to my friends, I felt that somehow having read the novel elevated our friendship to another level, creating a bond, a connection that would manifest itself in many conversations when we would almost inevitably drift towards Sanders. In fact, one of my friends must have gone crazy over the book that he never returned it to me. Unfortunately, I just cannot find a replacement copy today. I have been searching for some time in all bookstores and even at the dirt-cheap second hand bookshops at the U-belt with no luck. A few years ago, I also read that Lawrence Sanders had passed away. God bless this man. I still hope that someday, I am going to find even an old shopworn copy of the book that made me fulfill the promise of my childhood and rewarded me immensely with the joys of reading. Until then, I'll continue looking for Lawrence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You must be quite a bookworm yourself to like this. The novel is more than 40 years old. But I agree with everything you said. It was a hell of a novel. Your writing is marvelous and deeply nostalgic.