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Book #8

Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff

Here is the remarkable story of how Helene Hanff came to write 84, Charing Cross Road, and of all the things its success has brought her. Hanff recalls her serendipitous discovery of a volume of lectures by a Cambridge don, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. She devoured Q’s book, and, wanting to read all the books he recommended, began to order them from a small store in London, at 84, Charing Cross Road. Thus began a correspondence that became an enormously popular book, play, and television production, and that finally led to the trip to England – and a visit to Q’s study – that she recounts here. In this exuberant memoir, Hanff pays her dept to her mentor and shares her joyous adventures with her many fans. (via Goodreads)

Of all of Helene Hanff’s books, I’ve probably reread Q’s Legacy the least. 84 Charing Cross Road is, of course, her touchstone work. Underfoot in Show Business is the “young writer” book. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is her England book, and Apple of My Eye is her New York book. And Q’s Legacy? I misremembered it as being about Hanff’s early life, which is well covered in Underfoot. It isn’t. Instead, it’s about what happened *after*.

Hanff writes:

What fortune teller would have had the nerve to predict that the best years of my life would turn out to be my old age?

As a part of my failed Blogging from A to Z attempt, I posted about how important Helene Hanff has been to me. I’ve always loved the fact her fame didn’t come about as she intended, and she always seems befuddled by that. Since Q’s Legancy is about this sideways fame, you’d think it would be my favorite book of hers! But there’s a bittersweet tinge to Q’s that was maybe a little too bitter for an optimistic 22 year-old writer. (Fine. Optimistic is a strong word to be used in relation to me. Let’s say: Glass was only 45% empty.)

At 36, I’m nowhere near old age, though my joints might claim otherwise. I have more years of writing ahead of me than behind me, but I have a different appreciation for Q’s Legacy. Helene looks back and asks, “What do [I] have to show for it?” and I’m closer to knowing what she means. I suppose that’s the interesting thing about rereading books. Sometimes, they work better for you the second (or third…) time.

Book #4 & Short Story #4

Book #4: Descent into the Depths of the Earth by Paul Kidd

From the back of the book:

The ranger and the faerie are back!Fresh from their encounter at White Plume Mountain, the Justicar and Escalla are on the way to Hommlet. But life around a pixie is never exactly . . . stable. Escalla is drawn into the intrigues of the faerie court. Before he knows it, to save her life the Justicar is on his way into the depts of the earth to fight hobgoblins, drow, and the queen of the demonweb pits.

For an adventurer, it’s all in a day’s work.

To me, Paul Kidd’s Greyhawk novels and short stories personify the sheer fun of tabletop RPGs. Using classic modules as a backdrop, Kidd presents us with a fun, slightly munchkin, party. At its core, there’s the Justicar, a dour ranger; Cinders, his sentient hell hound pelt; Escalla, a slightly naughty faerie; and Polk the plain-old human teamster. The characters are eccentric and, occasionally, Kidd’s jokes go on just a little too long, but that’s how it sometimes goes in gaming.

I haven’t been a big fan of novels based on fantasy RPGs. Usually, they boil down to being fantasy novels and not much else. Kidd’s tales read a little more like a campaign journal. That’s both good and bad. On the one hand, if you’re familiar with the game, you can see how the game mechanics get translated into narrative. That sort of wink-and-nudge is a nice touch. On the other hand, sometimes that battles are too blow-by-blow and get a dry.

My favorite bits though are when Kidd describes parts of the world. Despite the zany antics of the ranger and the faerie, Kidd treats war-torn Keoland with respect and poetry.

This is part of the Read Me, Baby, One More Time challenge. I decided to re-read it because we’re playing the module, and I needed some levity.

Short Story #4: “By the Job” by Paul Kidd

“Keoland Blues” (Dragon Magazine, December 2000 – Issue #278) prompted me to buy Kidd’s Greyhawk novels, but I hadn’t realized that that was his second story for Dragon. “By the Job” (Dragon Magazine, May 2000 – Issue #271) is the first and the origin story of Jus and Cinders.